Led by Leah O’Connor in first place and three other top-10 finishers, the top-ranked Michigan State women’s cross country team captured their second-straight Big Ten Championship Nov. 2.
The Michigan State women’s team recorded 26 points, the third-lowest total in Big Ten history, to earn its fourth conference championship in the last five years (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014). O’Connor, the runner-up at last year’s Big Ten Championships, added another highlight to her outstanding career at MSU with a career-best and course-record time of 19:26.30.
“Leah’s really come a long way since her freshman year and that’s just a credit to how hard she’s worked,” added Drenth. “Coming into today, we thought she and Rachele [Schulist] both had a good chance to finish at or near the top. They were both outstanding leading the way for us today.”
Schulist (19:54.40) and Lindsay Clark (19:59.70) were next to cross the finish line for the Spartans in third and fourth place, respectively. Julia Otwell (20:04.10) followed in seventh place overall and Sara Kroll (20:18.90) finished 11th to round out the scorers for Michigan State. Alexis Wiersma (13th – 20:24.60), Katie Landwehr (17th – 20:37.20), Sara Stassen (19th – 20:38.10) and Melanie Brender (45th – 21:16.10) were also in the rotation for the Spartans.
The All-Big Ten team was announced following the race. O’Connor, Schulist, Clark and Otwell were first-team selections, while Kroll and Wiersma were each named to the second team.
“I can’t say enough about our women and the leadership of our fifth-years and the culture they have helped develop here by demanding the best out of everyone,” stated Drenth. “This has been such an awesome group. What they’ve accomplished to this point is truly a reflection of their work ethic and who they are as people.”
The Spartans will be idle for a week before competing in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships on Nov. 14 in Madison, Wisconsin.