Toeing the Line #6: U-M Women Set to Race at Big Ten Championships
Provided by U of M
Sunday, Nov. 2 -- at Big Ten Championships (Iowa City, Iowa), 10:45 a.m. CDT
After putting three runners in the top 10 at last weekend's EMU Fall Classic, the fourth-ranked University of Michigan women's cross country team will return to Iowa City, Iowa, on Sunday (Nov. 2) to begin the championship part of the season with the Big Ten Championships. The women's 6K race is slated to begin at 10:45 a.m. CDT at the Hawkeyes' Ashton Cross Country Course.
Athletes in Action: Corinne Florie, Brook Handler, Alexandra Leptich, Taylor Manett, Shannon Osika, Anna Pasternak, Jaimie Phelan, Gina Sereno and Megan Weschler
Top Returning Times
5,000-Meter Run 6,000-Meter Run
Erin Finn 16:51 Erin Finn 20:09.0
Shannon Osika 17:01.5 Shannon Osika 20:25.0
Erin Finn 17:01.5 Brook Handler 20:27.0
Shannon Osika 17:03 Erin Finn 20:33.00*
Taylor Pogue 17:04.38* Taylor Pogue 20:34.0*
*Indicates time run in 2011
In the past two years, the Wolverines have put together two of their best postseason performances in recent years, winning a pair of Great Lakes Regional titles to go along with a Big Ten championship in 2012. The team recorded a fifth- and fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2012 and 2013, respectively, the program's best finishes since a third-place showing in 2006.
Michigan's most-recent conference title that came in 2012 gave the program nine total Big Ten crowns (1992-94, 2002-06, 12). The Wolverines scored 55 points as all five of their scorers finished within the top 20.
Shannon Osika (13th in 2012; 11th in 2013), Taylor Manett (18th; 14th), Brook Handler (29th; 19th) and Megan Weschler (50th; 10th) were members of Michigan's Big Ten-winning squad in 2012 who improved their showing at the conference postseason event last season. Each of them will bring their championship race experience to this year's event.
Alexandra Leptich (23rd) and Anna Pasternak (32nd) ran at the 2013 conference championship event, leaving Corinne Florie, Jaimie Phelan and Gina Sereno as the only Wolverines who have not competed at Big Tens before.
Michigan's strength in recent years has been the tight splits between its top runners. U-M's top four runners posted just a 27-second split at the Great Lakes Regional last season and a 23-second split at the NCAA Championships.
The Big Ten Championships will mark Michigan's second time competing at Ashton Cross Country Course this season as the Wolverines went 1-2-3-4-6-8-10 to win the Big Ten Preview on Sept. 20.
Five Big Ten teams are ranked heading into this year's conference meet: No. 1 Michigan State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 19 Ohio State and No. 20 Minnesota. Four programs were ranked heading into this weekend in 2012, and six were ranked in 2013.
Michigan is led by 23rd-year head coach Mike McGuire, who earned his eighth Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year honor in 2013.
Michigan has never finished lower than fifth place at the Big Ten Championships during McGuire's tenure, earning first or second place in 18 of the 22 seasons, including a runner-up finish last year.
With its third-place performance at Pre-Nationals (Oct. 19), Michigan fell to No. 4 in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I National Cross Country Coaches' Poll, which was announced Oct. 21. U-M has remained in the top 30 for 106 straight polls dating back to the 2002 season -- U-M received votes in the preseason and first regular-season polls of 2002.
The Wolverines were tabbed No. 1 in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I National Cross Country Coaches' Preseason Poll for the first time in school history (Aug. 26). Under head coach Mike McGuire, U-M has been ranked in the preseason poll in each of the last 12 years.
Prior to being earning the No. 1 ranking this season, the highest rank the Wolverines had achieved was a No. 4 overall ranking, which came in the final week of the poll during the 1997 season, the first season the USTFCCCA poll was used.
The Wolverines return 19 total runners from last season with competitive experience representing U-M, including all seven from last year's fourth-place 2013 NCAA Championships team.
The Wolverines return eight total runners with championship race experience. Senior Megan Weschler and juniors Shannon Osika and Taylor Manett were All-Big Ten second teamers in 2013 and were joined by Finn and senior Brook Handler as part of the All-Great Lakes Region team.
On Sept. 2, Shannon Osika earned the Big Ten's first Athlete of the Week honor of the 2014 season after stretching her title defense to three consecutive runnings of the Michigan Open (Aug. 29) in a collegiate-best 5K time of 17:01.5. Osika showed an improvement of more than 43 seconds from her win at the event in 2013.
On Sept. 23, Erin Finn earned her first Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors, following an individual title at the 6K Big Ten Preview (Sept. 20) that helped U-M to a near-perfect 16 point total and a team victory at the event. Finn then repeated the feat on Sept. 30, earning her second conference athlete of the week honors after a second-place finish and a team victory at the 5K Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown (Sept. 26).
Sophomore/freshman Jaimie Phelan was Michigan's top finisher for the first time in her career at the EMU Fall Classic on Friday, Oct. 25, finishing seventh in 18:08.1. Phelan's performance brought her Co-Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors (Oct. 28), giving U-M three different winners of the award this season.
For the first time under McGuire, the Wolverines have four captains this season. Second-year captains Brook Handler and Taylor Pogue are joined by fellow seniors Alexandra Leptich and Megan Weschler in their leadership roles.
In each of the last three seasons, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year has worn the Maize and Blue, with Taylor Pogue being given the honor in 2011 and Shannon Osika collecting the award in 2012 before Erin Finn earned the title last year.
The Maize and Blue welcomed three transfer students to the 2014 roster: Olivia Brackett (Colgate University), Kassidy Clark (University of Wisconsin) and Sophie Linn (University of Mississippi).
HEAD COACH MIKE MCGUIRE
Under the tutelage of 23rd-year head coach Mike McGuire, the Maize and Blue entered the 2014 season coming off a third consecutive NCAA Great Lakes Regional Title and the highest finish at NCAA Championships (fourth) since 2006. McGuire's teams have improved their standing in both events each season since 2009.
During his tenure, the Wolverines have won nine Big Ten titles with as many NCAA Regional crowns. In 2013, McGuire was honored with his eighth Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year award. Michigan has accumulated 18 top-two finishes at the Big Ten Championships, 17 top-two finishes at NCAA Regionals and 11 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships over the past 22 seasons with McGuire at the helm.
Michigan's Recent Annual Results Under McGuire
Year Big Ten Regional NCAA
2009 4th 3rd 27th
2010 2nd 2nd 22nd
2011 2nd 1st 15th
2012 1st 1st 5th
2013 2nd 1st 4th
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Coach McGuire Mike McGuire
On where his team has made improvements from August to now ... "We're making great progress in training. We were a little off-form at Pre-Nationals but we feel it's correctable. The girls are extremely focused and we're excited about the opportunity being presented to us on Sunday."
On the confidence of this group, returning so many contributors ... "This weekend starts the championship part of the season and we have people that have run at a high level at this meet for the past several years and I think, having run the course earlier this year, we hope that will benefit us in our race execution plans."
On where they may see on-course differences from their last trip to Iowa City (Sept. 20) ... "The reason we go to the Big Ten Preview is because being familiar with the course lends itself to knowing how you are going to execute that race plan. After running the course earlier this year we felt it was tougher than what we had anticipated while we were warming up on it and that was a sentiment that Coach Sullivan and the men's team concurred with. With that said, we'll have to take appropriate race plans into account. When we were there it was a little bit wet, and I don't know what (weather) they've had; it could be dry, but Iowa can be pretty windy too, so we'll take some of those things into account. It wasn't very windy when we were out there in September, but you never know. There will be a lot of variables in the equation, but it still comes down to this: you have to lace them up and compete. We know we've got to do that, whatever the course and weather conditions are. We just have to adjust to it and know that every other team is doing the same thing. It isn't like one team is competing in a vacuum and everybody else is competing in the elements."
Friday, Nov. 14 -- at NCAA Great Lakes Regional (Madison, Wis.), Noon CST
Saturday, Nov. 22 -- at NCAA Championships (Terre Haute, Ind.), Noon
Communications Contact: Chad Shepard