MSU - Season Preview: Women's Incoming Class

MSU - Season Preview: Women's Incoming Class

Provided by MSU

EAST LANSING, MICH. - Coming off back-to-back Big Ten Championships in 2010 and 2011, the Women’s Cross Country team have secured several new additions to the program with the hope of building a new foundation for future championships.

“We are seeing the benefits of these championships more this year than we have any other year during recruiting,” said Head Coach Walt Drenth.  

Although the 2012 recruiting class is composed primarily of Michigan-based athletes, Drenth and his staff are now having conservations with athletes from around the country – something that hasn’t happened in the past.

“We are getting interest from kids out of state and in different parts of the country.  We recruit primarily for state and regional ties – but the fact that we’re receiving interest from kids from Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and a broad range of places is probably the first year it’s happened in earnest.”

With success comes reward, and as a result, the Spartans were able to sign two national-caliber recruits this year in Rachele Schulist and Alexis Wiersma

Schulist hails from Zeeland West High School and placed fourth last year at the Division 2 State Cross Country Meet.  On the track, she was third in the state in the 1600 meters and also placed fourth in the 800 meters, with personal bests of 10:57 (3200 meters), 2:17 (800 meters), and 4:56 (1600 meters).

“We are really excited that she decided to come here.  Her father, Martin Schulist, ran here at Michigan State and she had a really good cross country season and an even better outdoor track season.  She was a lower mileage runner in high school and I think she can have a really exciting career here,” said Assistant Coach Lisa Senakiewich

Schulist chose Michigan State over Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State.

The program is also pleased with the addition of five-time state champion Alexis Wiersma of Allendale High School.  Wiersma boasts a 10:23 two-mile time on the track, which is an all-time best on the west side of Michigan. 


Wiersma also finished third at the Division 2 State Cross Country Meet during her senior year and second in the 1600 meters during the track season with a personal best time of 4:49 in that event.

“Alexis is a special athlete and is probably one of the top ten runners in the country in the 3200 meters.  She comes from a strong running program at Allendale and she follows Devan John (former Allendale teammate and currently a redshirt sophomore for the Spartans) as a state champion,” said head coach Walt Drenth

The Spartans welcome another West Michigan athlete in Trinity Hulst of Byron Center, who earned Division 2 All State honors in track and field in the 1600 meters.

“Trinity is a really strong team fit and has a high passion for running,” added Senakiewich.  “She is a positive person and she could have chosen to go to a number of places but she decided to come here and become part of an elite college program.” 

Romeo High School’s Shelby Jackson will join the team after placing fourth at the Division 1 State Cross Country Meet and ninth in the state in the 3200 meter run (personal best time of 10:53). 

“She (Jackson) ran really well during her last cross country season and continued to make a lot of progress during the outdoor track season with not a lot of training during the indoor season.   We are really excited to see how good she can be with consistent training and coaching,” said Senakiewich.

Molly Jeakle will be a Spartan after competing on a 3200-relay team that placed fourth at the Division 4 State Meet.  Jeakle, who is from Drenth’s hometown of Charlevoix, Michigan, could be another athlete to see steady improvement once ingrained within a competitive program.

Said Drenth of Jeakle, “She’s a very good athlete who hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to compete at the highest level, but in time we feel that she could turn into an exceptional runner.”

Michigan State will bring in one athlete outside of the state in Iowa native and All-State nominee Caroline Knoblock.  Knoblock attended MSU’s Cross County Camp and impressed the staff with her fluid mechanics and her emotional maturity.

“Caroline came to our running camp with not an advanced running background,” Senakiewich said.  “She has the passion to improve and some potential because she moves really well.  She’s a great student with a 34 ACT and when you think about additions to the team and what a person can bring outside of athletics right away, she is someone that you want in your group no matter what.”

Hesperia’s Alexa Rumsey joins the program after a fourth place finish in the Division 4 State Cross Country Meet with All State laurels as a 1600-meter runner on the track. 

Like Knoblock, Senakiewich feels personality was a key factor in Rumsey’s recruitment. 

“Alexa is someone I really liked to begin with – but she’s someone who brings a lot to our program outside of running.  The thing that is cool about Alexa is that she has a job, she excels in the classroom, and has had success as an athlete.  She takes on responsibilities that most high school students don’t and we feel she’s just going to be a great person to have on this team.”

The 2012 squad will also welcome Allison McGinn of Hartland and Emily Pap of Dexter who come from two of the state’s top running programs.

McGinn was state qualifier in cross country and was part of Hartland’s 4x800 relay team, while Pap was also a qualifier in cross country in the Division 1 ranks. 

 “These two are very passionate about running and people that we wanted to have around based on the competitive running program experience they had in high school,” Senakiewich said.

Rounding out the freshman class is Natalie Smith of Clarkston High School.  Smith garnered All State honors in cross country and was state qualifier in the 3200 meters.   

Senakiewich describes Smith as a self-motivated runner that will flourish within a new system of training.  

“She has a lot of energy and she’s devoted to getting herself better.  She’s going to improve with consistency and being a part of the environment at Michigan State.”

Drenth added, “Having expectations will help her (Smith) as well.  We think she’ll become very good and that she can be an impact person for us in a couple years.”

“We take a lot of pride in finding kids who love to run and who are going to be great fits for our program,” Drenth continued.  A lot of our success has probably come less from our talent than what they commit to as athletes and how they commit to each other.”

“I feel this is reason why we’ve had success in the past two years with our women’s program.  They understand this formula.”