EAST LANSING — Minutes after completing its race in the Big Ten Championship, the Michigan women’s cross country team huddled beyond the finish line, excitedly anticipating the posting of the team results. The team and the crowd filled with Wolverine fans erupted into cheers at the Forest Akers Golf Course at Michigan State as the projector flashed onto the giant screen and announced that the Wolverines had captured the Big 10 title.
Senior Rebecca Addison led the way for Michigan, finishing third overall and earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. By winning the team title, the Wolverines successfully completed their main goal of the season.
“Words can’t describe it,” said Michigan coach Mike McGuire. “It was our primary objective from the first day of camp. Really, it was our primary objective since we left Champaign last year a close second.”
In the past two conference championship meets, the Wolverines finished second to Michigan State, which finished second this year. This year, Michigan entered the conference championship as the favorite for the team title with the No. 7 ranking in the nation.
“We knew we had to come out here and do what we’ve been doing all year,” Addison said
After Addison, the Wolverines had three runners earn second-team All-Big Ten honors: fifth-year senior Amanda Eccleston, senior Jillian Smith and freshman Shannon Osika. The trio finished within four places of each other. Osika was also the first freshman in the conference to cross the finish line.
“It doesn’t matter what place on the team you’re in,” Eccleston said. “It just matters that we work together, work as a team and run together, and that’s what got us through this race.”
This team-first philosophy has yielded great dividends for McGuire, who earned his ninth Big Ten team title at Michigan with the win and first since 2006.
“You draw strength from each other,” McGuire said. “No one person has to shoulder the load. We did a good job of distributing the workload.”
At the start of the race, the Wolverine runners ran out to the front of the pack, almost too quickly for McGuire’s liking. But, as the race settled down, the Michigan runners stayed toward the front of the group, refusing to tire and fade back amongst the large group of runners farther back. For the majority of the race, Addison remained out front with Eccleston, Smith and Osika running together close behind, pacing each other throughout the race.
“We don’t get caught up on our order,“ said McGuire, alluding to the selfless mentality of the runners. “Once we get our first runner across, we’ve got to get going after that.”
The team effort showed for Michigan, exemplified by freshman Taylor Manett being a scoring runner for the first time this season, meaning she finished among Michigan’s top five runners. The five scoring runners for the Wolverines finished 31 seconds apart, putting them in line for the win.
After Michigan and Michigan State, Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin rounded out the top five in the team competition. Michigan State’s Sara Kroll won the individual championship, trailed by Iowa’s Mareike Schrulle, who finished second, and Addison, who finished nine seconds behind Kroll.
With their primary objective for the season completed, Michigan will go on to compete in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 9 in Madison.