Anna Pasternak went into the EMU Fall Classic on Friday knowing that it would be the last race of her season.
As the 10th runner on the No. 7 Michigan women’s cross country team, Pasternak just missed the nine-person varsity lineup for next week’s Big Ten Championship. Instead, she represented the Wolverines at Friday’s non-scoring meet in Dexter, Mich. and put forth a Big Ten-worthy performance.
“(Michigan coach Mike McGuire) told me to treat this race like my Big Ten Championship,” Pasternak said.
With its top nine runners resting for next week, the Wolverines fielded their ‘B’ team to compete at the EMU Fall Classic, and Pasternak won her first collegiate event, finishing first in the 5,000-meter race with a personal-best time of 17:49.3.
“(McGuire) didn’t want me leading the race at the start, so I just stayed with the front runners in the beginning,” Pasternak said. “Then at the mile, the front pack split up and it was just me and my teammate and a few runners leading, and then at about the halfway point I broke away from them.”
Redshirt junior Kaitlyn Patterson finished second overall with a time of 18:04.2, and the Wolverines had two other top-10 finishers in redshirt junior Meg Bellino (18:17.5) and redshirt freshman Devon Hoppe (18:22.1). They crossed the line in sixth and eighth place, respectively.
Closing out the race for the Wolverines, redshirt junior Chloe Prince (19:00.2) beat teammate and redshirt sophomore Nicola Hallenborg (19:00.4) in the kick, and the two finished No. 19 and No. 20 overall.
Both the resting cross country runners and the Michigan women’s track and field team were in attendance and cheering on the participating Wolverines.
“The atmosphere of this meet was great,” Pasternak said. “This was a smaller meet compared to most of the other ones, and it was nice to run against local schools and people that I’ve ran against before in high school.”
McGuire said he was encouraged by Pasternak’s performance, and attributed her successful season finale to the fact that she became physically stronger as the season went on. He noted that Pasternak was a key member of the core group of top Wolverines this season and that her absence on the Big Ten Championship lineup is strictly due to the fact that he can only bring nine runners to the event.
“With the Big Ten meet on Sunday, we are obviously focusing our energy on performing well as a whole team,” McGuire said. “We’ll probably have a tough practice sometime this week, but mostly we’ll be mentally preparing and staying healthy and focused so we can capture this title.”