There is only one word to describe Michigan head coach Mike McGuire’s 21-year tenure with the women’s cross country team: dominant.
With Saturday’s fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championship meet, the Wolverines now have 10 top-10 national finishes under McGuire’s tutelage, and he says he is proud to have had his team back in championship contention.
“I think we’ve re-established a benchmark for excellence with this race,” McGuire said. “I really have to thank my seniors for setting the tone for this meet and helping us remain in control of our emotions.”
Senior Jillian Smith led the Wolverines with a 52nd-place finish and a time of 20:24. After the race, Smith spoke on the team’s outlook going into the meet.
“As seniors, we had a ‘last one, best one’ mentality coming into this race, and I think we definitely accomplished our goal,” Smith said. “We really had an excellent race as a team overall. Our one-to-four split was 12 seconds, which we accomplished by doing a great job of packing up from the start.”
Senior Rebecca Addison finished close to Smith in 56th place with a time of 20:26.3, a career best finish at the NCAA meet. Fifth-year senior Amanda Eccleston participated in her first Division I NCAA Championship meet and placed 61st overall and third for the Wolverines with a time of 20:28.6. The final scoring runners for Michigan were sophomore Brook Handler (20:36.7) and senior Lindsey Hilton (20:46.3), who finished 75th and 94th, respectively.
“Coming into this race, we were all just trying to stay relaxed and focused,” Addison said. “The course was great, the weather was perfect, and we all performed well and got a great result. We’ve really come so far as a team, and it’s nice for this program to be relevant nationally again.”
Rounding out the varsity squad were freshmen Shannon Osika (20:53.9) and Taylor Manett (21:15.2), who finished 119th and 169th, respectively, in their first NCAA Championship race.
McGuire said he was pleased with the result of the race and the season as a whole, and he said that he is optimistic about the future of his program in the coming years.
“We’re graduating heavy, and we’re losing some excellent athletes,” McGuire said. “But I feel that we have a great nucleus of talented runners and will continue to be highly successful as a team. For example, we just saw Brook Handler run her best collegiate race, and our freshmen, Shannon (Osika) and Taylor (Manett), are very promising.
“Obviously, it’s my job to go out there and continue to recruit great runners, but we definitely still have a solid foundation for the future.”