EAST LANSING, Mich. – Junior Sara Kroll led the Michigan State women's cross country team to a runner-up finish as she won the Big Ten Cross Country Championships at Forest Akers East Golf Course on Sunday, Oct. 28. The women finished second with 75 points in the 6,000-meter race and the men placed seventh overall in the 8,000-meter race with 183 points.
“I’ve worked so hard for this,” said Kroll. “I’ve had this goal in mind for over a year now. I came away from last year’s Big Tens wanting to win. I know that the team goal was more important. I know that I gave this race everything I had. To come away with a win today really makes me feel like I gave it my best effort. Being able to race with our girls on our home course is just a blessing.”
Kroll was first overall to cross the finish line with a personal-best time of 20:13 to earn first-team all-conference honors. Redshirt freshman Leah O’Connor also made the first-team all-conference, recording a time of 20:25 to place fourth overall.
“I think the whole team ran well,” said director of cross country/track and field Walt Drenth. “We thought Sara had a chance to win and she did a great job. It’s been something she’s been planning on and thinking about all summer. It’s hard to do and to pull it off; she’s quite an athlete.”
Redshirt senior Rachel McFarlane received second-team all-conference honors as she finished 14th overall in 20:45. Junior Julia Otwell placed 23rd overall with a time of 20:59.
“From the whole team standpoint, I thought we ran really well,” Drenth said. “Leah O’Connor has made enormous progress. Last year, she was our sixth or seventh person and to finish fourth in this meet is a huge step forward. I was really proud of Rachel making all-conference. That’s a hard thing in this conference to be in the top-14. As a team, we didn’t hold any cards back, we were all in and it turned out that we just got beat today.”
Rounding out the MSU women was senior Olivia Sydow (33rd-21:11), freshman Lindsey Clark (36th-21.13), freshman Emma Drenth (38th-21:16), junior Megan Rodgers (59th-21:36) and senior Veronica Wilson (72nd- 21:54).
Michigan took home the women’s team championship with 55 points.
Freshman Caleb Rhynard was the top MSU runner for the men, recording a time of 24:22 for 19th place. Less than a second behind Rhynard was sophomore Alex Wilson who finished 29th with a time of 24:33. Sophomore Ben Carruthers was next to cross the finish line for the Spartans in 24:35, good for 33rd overall.
“This was my first Big Ten Championship meet, so it’s great to be home,” said Rhynard. “It was loud with the fans the whole time, which is great. Overall, I think we went out a little faster than we had anticipated, but we adapted to it. I’m hoping this meet increases our confidence and boosts us to get through regionals.”
Sophomores David Madrigal (45th-24:51) and Drake Veitenheimer (57th-25:05) as well as seniors Isaiah Vandoorne (58th-25:06), Ben Miller (61st – 25:13), Josh McAlary (72nd-25:26) and Brian Hankins (85th-25:49) rounded out the MSU men.
“I thought up and down the team we had some bright spots,” said Drenth. “I think Caleb ran well. It’s been a long road for him with a frustrating injury over the summer. He and Alex Wilson and Ben Carruthers did a really nice job. I’m optimistic given the fact that we are pretty young and we had a freshman leading us.”
Wisconsin finished first for the men with 33 points to win the men’s team championship.
After a weekend off, the Spartans return to action on Friday, Nov. 9, when they travel back to Madison, Wis., for the 2012 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships hosted by University of Wisconsin.