MSU - Spartan Men Earn Automatic Bid, Women Take Third

MSU - Spartan Men Earn Automatic Bid, Women Take Third

Provided by MSU

MADISON, Wis. - Michigan State’s men’s cross country program earned an automatic bid to the 2015 NCAA Championships with a second-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional on Friday at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Madison, Wisconsin. Seven different Spartans earned All-Regional honors, led by junior Alexis Wiersma’s third-place effort.

“They did a good job and managed themselves well,” said Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Walt Drenth. “They were far more involved in the competition from the start. Being engaged is critical for us, and we felt like we had good chance to be second. We made a lot of good choices today. Our best repsonse was when we were under a little bit of stress. Our strength is to run well together and find teammates.”

MSU’s men’s team came to the starting line ranked No. 4 in the region and receiving votes just outside of the USTFCCCA Poll. Junior Sherod Hardt paced the Spartans with a seventh-place finish and the second all-region accolades of his career. Hardt opened the race near the leaders, clocking a 6:06 in the first 2,000 meters. He continued to battle near the front throughout the race, finishing in 30:39.6, averaging 4:57 per mile. Redshirt senior Caleb Rhynard, making just his third appearance this season, rounded out the top 10 with a 30:52.0 to become the first Spartan in history to earn All-Great Lakes Regional honors four times.

“Sherod has had good practices and been consistent all year,” said Drenth. “He found some of his confidence and was even up in the top six at one point. It was great to see Caleb take steps forward. He’s fought through his injury and been remarkable. His honors have been well earned. He took a leap of faith and has been a catalyst to getting our program off the ground. It has been an honor to have him with us.”

Junior T.J. Carey and senior Andrew Cusmano took the first 2K out with Hardt and Rhynard. The two faded from the lead pack but kept a close margin to cross in 19th and 23rd, respectively, and earn all-region honors. Carey’s race ended in 31:13.1 as Cusmano finished with a time of 31:17.4

“Cusmano, I thought, had the race of the day,” Drenth said. “He was our seventh or eighth guy at Big Ten’s and came out today to earn all-region. He got into the run early and behaved like an upperclassmen.”

Junior Nick Soter was MSU’s fifth runner, taking 29th in 31:29.2. Junior Clark Ruiz was 41st with an effort of 31:42.1, as sophomore Max Benoit rounded out the Spartan harriers in 55th in a time of 32:07.0.

The men’s team finished second in back-to-back season after coming into the race predicted to finish outside of automatic qualifying position. The four all-region awardees matches last season’s total, which was the most since 2001.

Michigan won the men’s 10,000-meter competition with a score of 67. Easter Michigan rounded out the top three with 102 points.

Michigan State battled to a third-place finish in the women’s race, finishing behind Michigan and Notre Dame. Wiersma led a trio of Spartans to All-Great Lakes Region honors with a third place, 20:33.8. She opened the race with a close margin to the frontrunners, but was leading the chase pack by the 4K marker. Wiersma separated from the group over the final 2,000 to cross in 20:33.8. This was her second all-region honor.

“Alexis has been steady,” said Drenth. “She was calm and was good a influence on everyone else. She has found some confidence at a much higher level. She stayed within herself and ran well late. We knew we couldn’t advance without her.”

Junior Shelby Jackson rounded out the top 10 of the 215-runner field with a time of 20:51.1. Jackson averaged a 5:36 per mile on the way to her first all-region recognition. Senior Katie Landwehr continued to be the Spartans’ No. 3 runner, finishing just two back of Jackson with a time of 20:56.6.

“Shelby and Katie both ran well late and were poised,” Drenth said. “It is great for Shelby to run to all-region honors this year after not being in our varsity a year ago. Katie did well coming back from an injury to be all-region. This is just a tough group of kids that have been a blast to coach.”

Freshman Lynsie Gram just narrowly missed cracking into the top 25, finishing in 26th with a time of 21:07.4. Sophomores Aubrey Wilberding and Kelsie Schwartz finished in 37th and 44th, respectively, with efforts of 21:27.1 and 21:32.5. Freshman Amber Way turned in a 21:59.9 to finish 64th.

“We haven’t changed how we act,” said Drenth. “They really bought into that concept and that is a point of pride. They went out to see how good we could be, and the true freshmen were outstanding. Lynsie Gram ran her best race, just missing all-region. Lynsie kept responding and raced really well late. She moved through the field well.”

The No. 18-ranked women’s team awaits the at-large selection process to determine whether or not they will make an appearance in the 31-team field at the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, on Nov. 21. The at-large selections will be announced on Saturday, Nov. 14.