MSU - Cross Country Gears Up For Big Ten Championships

MSU - Cross Country Gears Up For Big Ten Championships

Provided by MSU

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State men’s and women’s cross country teams will kick off their postseason schedule on Sunday morning at the Big Ten Championship meet. The No. 1-ranked Spartan women will be running for their fourth conference title in the last five years, while the 22nd-ranked MSU men will look to build on last year’s seventh place league finish. The women’s 6K race is set to start at 11:45 a.m. (ET), followed by the men’s 8K race at approximately 12:45 p.m. (ET). The two races will be held at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa.

“We’re very excited to go out and compete against some great teams from within the conference,” said MSU Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Walt Drenth. “This weekend is a little bit of a culmination of the hard work and practice everyone has put in this year. So, we’re excited to see how it turns out.”

The Spartan women’s squad enjoyed a phenomenal regular season, earning a trio of team wins on its way to the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking in the USTFCCCA National Coaches’ Poll back on Oct. 21. MSU began the year at No. 6 in the preseason poll, but quickly ascended through the rankings after winning the Bill Dellinger Invitational (Sept. 5), Roy Griak Invitational (Sept. 27) and the Wisconsin Invitational (Oct. 17).

The Spartans will lean on senior Leah O’Connor and sophomore Rachele Schulist as they have for much of the year. The duo has combined for eight top-10 finishes so far this season, including two individual victories. O’Connor, a two-time First Team All-Big Ten performer, won the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational for the second straight year on Sept. 12 and was also the runner-up behind Schulist at the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Oregon with a career-best 6K time of 19:53. Schulist, a Second Team All-Big Ten selection as a freshman in 2013, has enjoyed a stellar sophomore season that began with her winning the Bill Dellinger Invitational with a career-best 6K time of 19:37.80. Since then, she has posted a pair of runner-up finishes at the Spartan Invitational and Wisconsin Invitational and received Big Ten Women’s Athlete of the Week honors on two occasions (Sept. 9, Oct. 21). The Michigan State women’s rotation also features a great deal of championship experience in juniors Katie Landwehr (2013 First Team All-Big Ten) and Lindsay Clark (2013 Second Team All-Big Ten) and 2012 Big Ten Champion Sara Kroll.

The MSU men’s team has steadily gained momentum throughout the fall season as well, rising to No. 22 in the latest coaches’ poll (highest ranking since 2010). The Spartans were the runner-up behind No. 2-ranked Oregon at the Bill Dellinger Invitational and followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota. MSU also placed 15th among 36 teams, 19 of them ranked, at the Wisconsin Invitational. The Spartans are currently fourth behind Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Rankings heading into Sunday’s competition.

Junior Caleb Rhynard will look to improve on his fourth-place finish at last year’s Big Ten meet. As a sophomore in 2013, he earned First Team All-Big Ten honors on his way to becoming Michigan State’s first All-American since 1997. Thus far this season, Rhynard has finished third in three separate races: The Bill Dellinger Invitational (24:27.90), Spartan Invitational (24:40.00) and Roy Griak Invitational (24:48.50). He also finished 18th at the Wisconsin Invitational with a season-best 8K time of 24:06. Senior Ben Carruthers, who finished 34th at the 2013 Big Ten Championships, has also posted a pair of top-10 finishes this year at the Bill Dellinger Invitational (7th - 24:38.60) and the Spartan Invitational (6th - 24:42). Michigan State’s David Madrigal, Nick Soter, Clark Ruiz, Alex Wilson, Nathan Burnand, Ryan Konen, and Garret Zuk were among the competitors at last season’s conference race.