The Big Ten Women's Cross Country Championships are set for Sunday, October 31st, no costumes are required. The 6,000 meter event will take place at Iowa's Bill and Jim Ashton Cross Country Course. Four Big Ten programs finished the regular season in the FinishLynx National Top 30 poll and four of the top-10 finishers from last year's event are back this year, including defending champion Rebecca Walter. Her Michigan Wolverines will also look to defend their title for the third straight year. The top seven finishers will be named to the All-Conference first team and finishers eight through 14 will be designated with second team honors.
The Fighting Illini currently sits as the fourth and final Big Ten team to end the regular season ranked in the FinishLynx National Top 30. Currently 27th, the ranking is the first in the history of the Illinois program. The team is led by sophomore Cassie Hunt. Twice named Big Ten Runner of the Week in 2004, Hunt has finished in the top seven spots of all races in which she participated, including two first place showings and a seventh place spot in the Indiana State Pre-National Meet in Terre Haute, Indiana, an event in which Illinois finished 11th out of 37 teams. Hunt's 20:28.7 time at the Pre-Nationals was the third best 6K time in the Big Ten this year behind Michigan's Rebecca Walter and Michigan State's Danette Doetzel's performances in the same event. Along with Hunt, senior Jaime Turilli has fared well for the Fighting Illini. Turilli finished second overall behind Hunt at the Saluki Invitational and the Bradley Cross Country Classic. Freshman Maggie Carroll and Rachel Hernandez and sophomore Stephanie Simms have had steady seasons, but will need to have career best times if Illinois is to capitalize on their first-ever national ranking.
The Indiana squad is led by redshirt sophomore Jessica Gall, one of three runners that were twice honored as the Big Ten Female Runner of the Week in 2004. Gall placed fifteenth in her only 6K event of the season, the Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute. Indiana, the 21st ranked team in the country, is one of the few schools in the conference which has a majority of its top athletes who have been in the program for three years. Gall came to Indiana in the same class as Kelly Siefker, who finished behind only Gall on the Hoosier team in two races and finished first on the squad and overall at the Cream and Crimson Invitational. Siefker finished 27th at the Pre-Nationals. Senior Mindy Peterson has regularly contributed to the Indiana scoring. Peterson has twice finished behind only Gall and Siefker and once placed second on the squad. True sophomore Kristin Whitezell and third-year sophomore Lindsay Hattendorf will have to produce good times if Indiana is to close the gap at the top of the conference.
The Iowa cross country team has been led all year by a pair of sophomores. Nikki Chapple has been the lead runner for Iowa in three of the squads four races this fall, including a 21:39.7 showing at the Pre-Nationals, the team's only 6K run of the year, and she finished second in the team's first race of the year. In 2003, she finished one spot out of the All-Conference team at the Big Ten Championships, with a 15th place finish. She is flanked by classmate Shannon Stanley, who placed second in all of the Hawkeyes' races except for a dual meet with Eastern Illinois, where she led all runners. Behind their pair of lead sophomores, the Hawkeyes have a pair of freshmen, who have shown well thus far in 2004. Meghan Armstrong and Rachael Marchand, have comprised the third and fourth spots on the Iowa team respectively in three of the teams four races so far this season.
Wolverine junior co-captain Rebecca Walter comes to Iowa looking to defend her individual title, whileher team has plans on winning its third consecutive Big Ten Championship. Walter, who won the first 6K championship in conference history last year, was named Big Ten Female Runner of the Week for her performance at the Pre-Nationals in which she finished fourth with a time of 20:03.6, leading all conference harriers. The Wolverines secured the second overall finish at Pre-Nationals by having five runners finish in the top 35. Michigan senior Sarah Pizzo comes in looking to improve upon her seventh place finish at last year's Big Ten Championships. A member of the 2003 All-Big Ten team, Pizzo has run second on the team to Walter in three of the four races they have competed in this year, with her best finish coming at the Spartan Invitational where she took third to Walter's second. Fifth year senior Andrea Parker has been contributing consistently as well. With a team second and 18th place overall finish at the Pre-Nationals, Parker recorded her season-best 6K time with a mark of 21:05.8. The fourth ranked team in the country will need good scoring from freshman Alyson Kohlmeier and sophomore co-captain Katie Erdman if they are to make it three titles in a row.
The 11th-ranked Michigan State Spartans are bent on bucking the trend that has haunted them for the past two years. Finishing second behind Michigan in 2002 and 2003, the Spartans want to move past their arch-rivals this year. Michigan State is led this year by true freshman Danette Doetzel, a 2004 Big Ten Runner of the Week honoree. Michigan State's top finisher in all three races she has run, Doetzel recorded the conference's second best time at the Pre-Nationals with a time of 20:25.6, her best 6K performance of the season. The Spartans finished 5th at the 37-team event. Along with Doetzel, sophomore Katie Kelly has been scoring high for the Spartans, highlighted by her fourth place finish at the Spartan Invitational in East Lansing. Like Doetzel, Kelly recorded her best 6K time of the year at the Pre-Nationals, where she finished 13th. Junior Michelle Rafferty and freshman Nicole Bush have aided in the Michigan State cause this season, consistently scoring well, while splitting the team's third place finishes. Freshman Lisa Senakiewich will need to contribute if the Spartans are to prevent the Wolverines from winning their third straight conference title.
The Golden Gophers have been an upperclassman dominated team for the entire season. Led throughout the year by junior Lauren Williams, the Gophers and their top runner have shown marked improvement throughout the year. Minnesota has run four 6K races and the top four times have improved in each race as the season has progressed. Williams has improved her 6,000 meters' time by nearly an entire minute. After Williams, senior Zoe Nagell has paced Minnesota. Finishing second for the Gophers in every race she has run this year, Nagell had her best placing of the year at the Oz Memorial Run, where she crossed the finish line in the third position. Junior Harper McConnell and freshman Ladia Albertson-Junkans have split the team's third position this season, with McConnell taking the spot in the first two races and Albertson-Junkans the latter two. Junior Jen Hess has also consistently been one of the best scorers for the Gophers. Senior Annie Wells earned the season's last Big Ten Runner of the Week honor.
Throughout the 2004 season the Northwestern Cross Country team has been paced by three athletes, freshman Marie Grabinski and seniors Diana Hossfeld and Lesley Meade. Other than the first race of the year, in which the trio did not compete, they have made up the team's top three finishers in order. The veteran leadership of Hossfeld, Meade, and fellow senior Kyna Forkins has greatly impacted the young runners on the team. Grabinski has substantially decreased her 6K time from the start of the season, by erasing nearly 40 seconds. Hossfeld and Meade had their best 6K finishing position come in the Bradley Classic in Peoria, Illinois where the pair finished ninth and 10th respectively. Following the lead three on the Northwestern squad are Forkins and freshman Alison Coren.
The Ohio State Cross Country squad has had a battle at the top of its team throughout the season. In their four races thus far, the Buckeyes, which have only one junior and one senior on their roster, have had three different top finishers. Sophomore Melanie Price finished in the first position for Ohio State in their first and last races of the regular season, including a 17th place showing at the Lou Onesty Invitational in Charlottesville, Virginia. Junior Chelsea Poling led the team in their first 6,000 meter race of the season, the Roy Griak Invitational and Robyn Detty had the best Buckeye finish and fourth overall at the 39-team All-Ohio Meet in Delaware, Ohio. Behind these three there has been a number of Buckeyes competing for the next spots on the team. Freshman Laura Piper, sophomore Sarah Cass, and sophomore Brittany Zellner have consistently been among the team leaders for Ohio State.
Of the three women to secure two Big Ten Runner of the Week honors this season, Molly Landreth is the only upperclassman. The Penn State senior has led the Nittany Lion runners in every race thus far in 2004. Her best finish this year, in position and time, was the Spike Shoe Invitational, which the Lions won. The 6K event saw Landreth finish first with a time of 21:06.50. Along with Landreth, a platoon of runners have contributed to the success of the team. Seniors Kayla Matrunick and Chelsea Lange have led that group. Both have finished in the team's top three twice this season, including 20nd and 4th place finishes respectively at the Spike Shoe Invitational. Junior Tracey Brauksieck and freshman Nikki Bohnsack have provided consistent performances for the Lions all season, highlighted by strong contributions in a Penn State sixth place finish at the 41-team PSU National Invitational.
The Purdue Boilermakers have been led by upperclassmen throughout the 2004 season. First and foremost, senior Amber Ferner has been leading the way for the Boilers. She placed in the top 10 in the season's first three races and showed well at the larger races towards the end of the season. Her only 6K race of the year was the Indiana State University Pre-Nationals in which she finished third on the team with a time of 21:59.0. At the Pre-Nationals, redshirt junior Lindsay Zinn earned her second team-best time of the year. Her 21:30.6 showing was good for 47th overall in the 36-team event. Senior Kara Lahey has also taken advantage of her final season, finishing in Purdue's top four in each race she has run, including two second place team finishes. Her only 6,000 meter time was 21:53.5 at the Pre-Nationals. A pair of juniors, Kaleena Cappel and Corrie Whisner, have each earned a team top-three finish this fall and sophomore Rachel Kroll has also shown well for Purdue.
Two runners have led the young Badger squad this season. Sophomore Katrina Rundhaug has recorded team high finishes in every meet Wisconsin has run in this season. Her best finish was a first place spot at the Crusader Invitational in Valparaiso, Indiana. Rundhaug's performance at the PSU National Invitational was her best 6K showing of the season. She finished 21st clocking in with a time of 21:32. A'Havahla Haynes has finished in the team's second place spot in all of Wisconsin's meets this season. The junior finished second overall at the Crusader Invitational and 45th at the PSU National Invitational. Amanda Gasner has been the Badgers' next most consistent runner thus far. The sophomore has finished in the team's fourth position three times in 2004 and third, once. Her best finish was a 12 th place spot in Valparaiso. Megan Thomas, Heidi Lane, Emily Post, and Ann Detmer have shown well at times and will be looked to for increased performance in the Big Ten Championships.