MADISON, Wis. – Michigan State women's cross country earned an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Championships next weekend after racing to a first-place finish with 49 points at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional on the Zimmer Championship Course Friday afternoon.
"They've been dialed in all year, but one of the things I've been really proud of with this group – and you've seen this in the past from us – is every time we race, we seem to be a little bit better," Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Walt Drenth said. "Thinking about the progress that they've made and their sense of purpose is really fun; they set some serious goals when we started the season."
The No. 6-ranked Spartan women advance to their 19th-consecutive NCAA Championship, as MSU captured the Great Lakes Region title for the first time since 2014.
"For us, being the best versions of themselves, what we mean is being all in; solving their problems, looking for someone to help – really just maximizing themselves on that day," Associate head coach Lisa Senakiewich said. "It doesn't mean comparing themselves to where they were at the previous race or where they were at last year at this time, it's just them being at their best, today."
Michigan State placed all five scoring runners in the top-19, tallying 49 points, navigating a muddy course in Madison. The No. 6 Spartans outran No. 11 Michigan and No. 7 Wisconsin, with the Wolverines placing second with 74 points and Wisconsin coming in third with 100 points, to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
The Spartans surged into the lead at the 4k split and never looked back. After being down at the 2k split, MSU then led by 12 points 2,000 meters later. MSU continued to gain momentum, placing all five of the scoring runners in the top-20, a feat no other team in the field accomplished.
The depth of the Spartan women's team, which has been evident all season, was once again on display in Madison. MSU was without junior India Johnson, who placed 14th at the Big Ten Championships, due to injury.
Senior Annie Fuller led the way for the Spartans, turning in a personal best time of 20:01.1 in the women's 6k to become the Great Lakes Region runner-up.
"While the depth is there, that's not necessarily everything," Senakiewich said. "You have to have everyone on the same page and that really shined today without having India (Johnson) in there. We had some women, in a sense just step up. They are always racing at their best but today was an even greater example of that."