With the first two competitions of the season completed for the No. 13 Michigan women’s cross country team, senior Mary Grace Pellegrini has a feeling that her final season will be a great one.
“We have a great team dynamic,” Pellegrini said. “We have a good balance of representatives across the board, and as a team our level of maturity has increased. We have the potential to do very well.”
Less than two weeks ago, Michigan established its dominance in the Illinois Orange and Blue Preview, where the top six finishers were all Wolverines. Fifth-year senior Danielle Tauro won the event with a commanding lead, and Michigan continued its streak, with Pellegrini claiming fifth place claiming in the 6,000- meter race. The Wolverines claimed the overall victory with a perfect score.
“That was a good preview of what the Big Ten Championships will be like,” Pellegrini said.
Illinois and Wisconson also competed at the Illinois Orange and Blue Preview on Sept. 16 and are among some of the most competitive teams in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines have lost many valuable runners since Pellegrini’s freshman year, and have since been working to build back up their premier status. They hope to be in contention for the Big Ten Championship this year.
“Every senior wants to graduate with a Big Ten title,” Pelegrini said. “It has eluded me and Tauro in the past. While right now our overall goal is to get back to where we were in the early 2000s, we have the potential to be great this year.”
Pellegrini and the team will continue their journey this Saturday at the Greater Louisville Classic in Louisville, KY. The 6,000-meter race will take place in Pellegrini’s hometown, and it will be the first time that she gets to compete for Michigan near home.
After redshirting her freshman year, Pellegrini missed the opportunity to run in her hometown at the 2009 NCAA regionals. Although her family hosted dinners for the team, Pellegrini said she looks forward to being on the competition side of things this time around.
“It’s a really cool opportunity to go home and run maize and blue in front of my home crowd,” Pellegrini said. “While I have raced a lot of the other competitors that are from Kentucky when I was younger, I am still going to approach this as I would any other race.”
Pellegrini is familiar with the course and most of the competition, but it will be a new experience for the rest of the team. Vanderbilt will be among some of the ranked teams competing at this weekend’s classic, and it will be a chance to compete against some unfamiliar teams as well. Experience, she says, is something that correlates with maturity and is a key factor in success.
With Tauro and Pellegrini being among the more experienced runners, this Saturday’s competition should provide learning opportunities for up and coming key players, including Brooke Handler, and Ellen Junewick, as well as sophomores Meg Weschler and Taylor Pogue . This will be prime preparation for next year’s NCAA Championships, which will be held in Louisville.
– Correction Appended: A previous version of this article reported that Michigan won the 2009 NCAA National Championship. Geena Gall won an individual championship, but the team received no title.