The Big Ten recently saw four of its own recognized by U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Association as this season's Division I Cross Country Coaches and Athletes of the Year were announced Wednesday. llinois' Angela Bizzarri was named Midwest Region Cross Country Runner of the Year after being crowned individual champion and leading the Illini to a runner-up finish at the regional competion last Saturday. Meanwhile, Minnesota head mentor Gary Wilson received the nod as Midwest Region Coach of the Year after guiding his team to its third-consecutive regional title. On the men 's side, two harriers earned regional distinction in Minnesota's Hassan Mead and Ohio State's Jeff See, who captured individual crowns to earn Midwest and Great Lakes Athlete of the Year laurels, respectively.
Eleven Big Ten squads will represent the conference at this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships. Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin will compete on the men's side and Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State will race on women's side. The conference will send four individuals to the national meet in Indiana's Andrew Poore, Penn State's Vince McNally, Purdue's Caden Shields and Wisconsin's Caitlin Comfort.
The event takes place on Monday, Nov. 23 with the men's 10,000 meters starting at 12:08 p.m. ET and the women's 6,000-meter race commencing at 12:58 p.m. Both competitions are set to run on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.
The latest version of the USTFCCCA women's top-30 poll highlighted six Big Ten teams, headlined by 2009 team champion Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped seven spots, voting in just outside the top-10 at No. 11. On their heels, Illinois checked in at No. 13 while Minnesota ranks third among conference schools at No. 17 in this week's rankings. Michigan garnered a spot at No. 23 while Michigan State and Iowa round out the conference contingent at No. 26 and No. 30, respectively.
In the regional polls, Michigan leads all Great Lakes teams, including five other Big Ten squads. Michigan State claimed the runner-up spot, followed by Indiana (No. 4), Ohio State (No. 5), Purdue (No. 8) and Wisconsin (No. 13). The Nittany Lions rank fourth among all Mid-Atlantic schools, while Illinois and Minnesota top the charts in the Midwest region at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, followed by Iowa in the fourth-place position.
Washington continues to lead all women's teams in the national poll, with Villanova and Florida rounding out the top three as they prepare for regional action.
Minnesota junior Hassan Mead and Penn State senior Bridget Franek have been named men's and women's Big Ten Cross Country Athletes of the Year, conference officials announced today. Wisconsin's Maverick Darling and Penn State's Nicole Lord earned the nod as Freshmen of the Year; while Badger coach Mick Byrne and Beth Alford-Sullivan of Penn State take home Coach of the Year honors.