U of M Women - Wolverines Aiming for Back-to-Back Big Ten Titles

U of M Women - Wolverines Aiming for Back-to-Back Big Ten Titles

Provided by U of M


Kyle Terwillegar



» The No. 10 University of Michigan women's cross country team is going for its first Big Ten repeat since winning five straight titles from 2002-06.


» Michigan will face significant competition from five other teams ranked top-30 nationally, including No. 9 Penn State.


» The duo of Jamie Morrissey and Gina Sereno will lead the way for the Wolverines, who are looking to bounce back after a disappointing showing at Pre-Nationals two weeks ago.


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THIS WEEK


Sunday, Oct. 29 -- Big Ten Championships (Bloomington, Ind.) 11:45 a.m.


Meet Home | Live Results | Course Map



The No. 10-ranked University of Michigan women's cross country team has its sights set on back-to-back Big Ten Championships team titles for the first time in more than a decade as it heads to Bloomington, Indiana, for the conference meet this Sunday (Oct. 29).



Michigan's path to the title is a challenging one, as the Wolverines will have to rebound from a subpar showing at the Pre-National Invitational two weeks ago to outrun five other teams ranked top 30 in the country according to the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Coaches' Poll.



When the gun goes off at 11:45 a.m. for the six-kilometer (3.73-mile) competition over the Indiana Championship Cross Country Course, head coach Mike McGuire and his Wolverines will contend with, among others, the nation's top-ranked Big Ten team in No. 9 Penn State, which claimed the conference crown in 2015.



Michigan will, as it has done all season long, key off of redshirt seniors Jamie Morrissey and Gina Sereno, who have both paced the Wolverines in two races apiece.



At stake for the Maize and Blue is a second consecutive Big Ten title, which would be the first repeat for Michigan since winning five straight from 2002-06.



"The Big Ten Championships are just so important to what we are here for as a team," McGuire said. "It's what we talk about the first day when we're up in Pelston at training camp, and this is the week of it so the energy level is just that much more."



Live results will be available for the meet at PTTiming.com, with updates throughout the weekend posted on the Wolverines' social media channels. Though the meet will not be broadcast live, the Big Ten Network will debut the tape-delayed airing of the meet on Monday (Oct. 30) at 8:30 p.m.



THE LINEUP



Ten Wolverines -- a nine-woman lineup and an alternate -- will travel to Bloomington in hopes of defending Michigan's Big Ten team title from a year ago. Morrissey and Sereno lead the way, along with fellow redshirt seniors Sophie Linn, Haley Meier, and Sarah Zieve; juniors Rachel Barrett, Claire Borchers, Avery Evenson and Ellie Leonard and sophomore Madeline Trevisan.



"We've had great preparation," McGuire said. "We've had people who have been tested at this level several times, and we have people who are truly engaged with what we are setting forth to do. I feel really good about where we are at."



Standard NCAA scoring rules are in effect for the Big Ten Championships, meaning a team's first five runners will comprise its team score. Each of those top-five runners will be assigned a point value equal to their finish positions (first is one point, second is two, and so on), with the sum of those five runners' point totals making up the team score.



The next two runners (six and seven) will serve as displacers in the team scoring. Though their point totals will not contribute to the team score, they will be key in pushing opposing teams' scoring runners who finish behind them back one spot each in the standings -- a vital advantage in a competition in which each and every point is important.



The final two runners will not factor into the team scoring.



The senior leadership of Morrissey and Sereno will be crucial in the Wolverines' title defense effort.



Morrissey is amidst a breakthrough cross country campaign, having improved from a mid-distance runner who finished 25th at this meet at year ago to a bona fide trail runner who will vie for a single-digit finish this weekend.



While Sereno has not yet found the groove that carried her to a 30th-place finish at nationals a year ago, it also was not until the postseason rolled around that she found it last year. Coming off a 49th-place finish at Pre-Nationals in 2016, she went on to finish fourth at Big Tens. This fall she enters the postseason off a 22nd-place effort at Pre-Nationals after winning two races early this season.



Borchers' 2017 season has been a revelation for Michigan as she has established herself as a strong scoring contributor to the lineup, most recently with a 33rd-place finish at Pre-Nats.



All-American Evenson and near All-American Trevisan will both be looking to reclaim their form from last year's postseason run, as well. Like Sereno a year ago, both Evenson and Trevisan only became stronger as the postseason went on in 2016.



The Wolverines will also be bolstered by the depth and experience provided by redshirt seniors Linn, Meier and Zieve, all of whom have competed in big-pressure situations on the track and the trails throughout their careers.



THE FIELD



In what will be one of the most competitive conference meets anywhere in the nation this weekend, the Wolverines will contend with five other teams ranked top 30 in the USTFCCCA National Coaches' Poll. In addition to No. 9 Penn State, Michigan will face No. 17 Wisconsin, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 20 Michigan State and No. 29 Indiana.



"There are six teams who can lay claim to having a shot at winning it, and I think legitimately there are three or four teams who are deep enough through five runners to be right there, us being one of them," McGuire said.



Of those, the Wolverines have only raced against the host Hoosiers, whom they defeated on this same IU Championship Course in late September.



The Nittany Lions have not yet debuted top runner Tessa Barrett, but have a strong group of runners at the front of their pack. Competing at its home invitational two weekends ago, Penn State put four runners in the top eight, but its fifth scorer finished in the mid-20s.



Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State all finished close to one another (ninth, 10th and 11th, respectively) at Wisconsin two weekends ago. The three teams all ran different styles of races in Madison: the Badgers were the deepest but most widely spread team with each runner separated by double-digit spots, the Gophers had three top-25 finishers, but a significant drop-off in the final two scoring slots and the Spartans had the tightest pack with three in the top 50 and a fourth not far behind.



In Michigan's most recent effort at Pre-Nationals, its spread most resembled Wisconsin's.



Time will tell which of those approaches plays out best in Bloomington, but McGuire says the Wolverines will stick to what has made them successful in the past.



"We'll just focus on all the things we've done up to this point," McGuire said. "Just get out and engage and be accountable to each other. If we do that, I think we'll like how we end up."



A LOOK AHEAD


Friday, Nov. 10 -- at NCAA Great Lakes Regional (Terre Haute, Ind.)


Saturday, Nov. 18 -- at NCAA Championships (Louisville, Ky.)



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