Oct. 28, 2005
The Big Ten Women's Cross Country Championships are set for Sunday, October 30th. The 6,000 meter event will be hosted by Minnesota at the Les Bolstad Course. Five Big Ten programs enter the event ranked in the FinishLynx National Top 30 poll and six of the top-10 finishers from last year's event are back this year. Rebecca Walter, the 2003 champion, returned from injury earlier this season and hopes to lead the Michigan Wolverines will also look to defend their title for the fourth 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.
Junior Cassie Hunt leads Illinios in search of its first Big Ten title. Illinois headed to last year's Big Ten Championships with its first national ranking in school history (27th) and finished tied for second at the conference championships. But despite leaping into the national spotlight and near the top of the league, the Illini aren't satisfied. In their 2005 campaign, the Illini catapulted into the top 10, and are currently ranked sixth nationally - the second highest among Big Ten squads and first in their region. The Illini are coming off a strong performance at the Pre-NCAA meet, where they finished fifth overall on the heels of Hunt's 11th-place time of 20:45. The 2004 Midwest Regional Runner of the Year, Hunt paced the Illini with a fifth-place finish in last year's championships and became the first Illinois runner to crack the top five individual standings. Not far behind her are junior Stephanie Simms and sophomore Katie Coppin, who both ran for career-best 6K times at the Pre-NCAA race. Illinois took second to defending Big Ten champion Michigan at the Notre Dame Invite by only five team points. A young team with no seniors on its roster, Illinois needs career days from veterans Hunt and Simms in order to lay claim to the conference's top spot.
Led by All-American Jessica Gall, the Hoosiers are looking for a big race to break into the national rankings and the top tier of the conference standings. Last season, the Hoosiers took fifth place, Gall, who finished third overall, earning first team All-Big Ten honors. Kristin Whitezell also claimed All-Big Ten honors with a 12th-place finish. Indiana has placed in the top four as a team in two of the last three seasons. Gall, a junior, returned from a minor, early-season injury to lead the Hoosiers in every race she has run. In her first race, Gall finished 35th overall at the Roy Griak Invitational with a time of 22:03. She also finished with a 21:09-time for 40th overall at the Pre-NCAA meet. All season, senior Lindsay Hattendorf has been the Hoosiers steady No. 2 runner, finishing with a time of 21:18 at the Pre-NCAA race. The trio of freshman Wendi Robinson and seniors Larra Overton and Kelly Siefker have taken turns filling out the top five. Overton closed in on Hattendorf with a career-best 6K time of 21:26 at the Pre-NCAA meet.
The Hawkeyes have been led all year by sophomore Meghan Armstrong, who has taken Iowa's top spot in every meet this season. After finishing seventh in 2004, Iowa is looking to close the gap on the conference elite. The Hawkeyes cracked the national rankings at No. 30 after their performance at the Pre-NCAA meet. Iowa took 15th place while Armstrong led the pack with a 20:49-finish for 22nd place individually. Armstrong claimed the first Big Ten Runner of the Week honors after breaking the 3K course record in the Hawkeye Invitational with a first-place time of 10:25. She is closely followed by a pair of veterans, senior Nikki Chapple and junior Shannon Stanley. Chapple paced the Hawkeyes at the 2004 championships, finishing 18th. Another sophomore, Rachael Marchland, rounds out the top of the Hawkeye squad.
The Wolverines are hoping to ride the wave of their dominant regular season performance to a fourth consecutive Big Ten title. Currently ranked third in the nation, Michigan has taken first place overall in every scoring meet this season. Sophomore Alyson Kohlmeier has finished first for the Wolverines in four-of-seven meets this year. She also claimed three Big Ten Runner of the Week honors. A seventh-place finisher in last year's championships, Kolhmeier is one of five Michigan runners who finished among the top 16 as the Wolverines won the team title by a 40-point margin. The Wolverines' No. 1 runner of 2004, Rebecca Walter, missed most of the season due to an offseason injury, but she returned for the Pre-NCAA meet where she finished 19th overall - second for the Wolverines - with a time of 21:08. Walter won the individual title in 2003 and took second at the 2004 championships, finishing at 20:53. Flanking Kohlmeier and Walter, are redshirt freshman Nicole Edwards, fifth-year senior Ana Gjesdal and junior Erin Webster, who all finished in the top 25 at the Pre-NCAA meet. If Kohlmeier can continue her dominance and Walter makes her comeback complete, the Wolverines' run for a fourth-straight title will be difficult to stop.
The No. 23 Spartans are coming off their second-straight top-10 finish at the Pre-NCAA meet, and hope that momentum will propel them to a conference title. The past three year's finishes have started to look uncomfortably familiar for the Spartans who have finished second behind Michigan for three straight years, despite claiming the 2004 individual championship with freshman Danette Doetzel's time of 20:33. While Doetzel did not return for her sophomore campaign, the Spartans boast an experienced and first-place-hungry group. Senior Michelle Rafferty has paced the squad in two meets this season and finished fourth for the Spartans at the Pre-NCAA meet. Sophomore Lisa Senakiewich finished first for the Spartans at the meet with a time of 21:21, improving almost a minute on her 2004 Pre-Nationals time for 31st place overall. Senior Britanny Ballard, junior Katie Kelly and freshman Michelle Mercer round out the Spartans' top five.
Hosting the Big Ten Championships for the third time, the 11th-ranked Gophers are hoping to claim Minnesota's first conference title. Climbing into the top 10 for the first time since 2000, the Gophers have been paced by three different runners. In the Pre-NCAA meet, all three topped the former school record for a 6K course, helping Minnesota to a sixth-place team finish. Junior Emily Brown snapped the record by more than 10 seconds, finishing 13th overall at 20:37.2. Sophomore Ladia Albertson-Junkans finished third for the Gophers and 17th overall at 20:38.6, while senior Lauren Williams - who led the Gophers through all of 2004 - notched a career best finish of 20:53.3 for the fourth-fastest time in Gopher history. Williams claimed the top spot for the Gophers in last years championships, finishing 14th overall for All-Big Ten Second Team honors. Albertson-Junkans barely missed All-Conference honors, finishing five seconds behind Williams at 15th.
The Wildcats' core group of runners is young but eager squad coming into the Big Ten Championships. Northwestern's top returning runner from the 2004 conference title race is sophomore Marie Grabinski, who finished 35th overall at 22:23. This season, Grabinski has shared the pace-setting role with three other runners - all freshmen. Carlie Brown, Allison King and Hilary Forman have teamed with Grabinski to claim the Wildcats' top spot in the squads four meets this season. Most recently, King turned in the top finish with a 22:33 run at the Pre-NCAA meet. Brown claimed the team's best finish at the Roy Griak Invitational with a 23:22 finish. Despite her team's inexperience, Northwestern coach Amy Tush said the Wildcats have nothing to hold them back from competing with the best in the conference. "We have nothing to lose and everything to gain," she said. "We want to surprise a few teams that have taken us for granted throughout the season. If we can all perform and reach our potential on the same day, we will surprise some teams."
After finishing 11th at last year's championships, Ohio State rebounded in 2005 for possibly the team's best start ever. After first-place finishes at the Xavier and Louisville Invitationals, and second-place at the Cedarville Invitational and All-Ohio Championships, the Buckeyes climbed into the top-10 regional rankings for the first time in 12 years. Their fifth-place team performance at the National Invitational on Oct. 15 earned them the No. 8 spot in the Great Lakes regional rankings. Junior Nicole Gliem has finished on top for the Buckeyes in all of her three races, including placing second overall in two meets and an eighth-place finish at the National Invite. Fellow junior Melanie Price raced to top-10 finishes in her first four races and clocked a 21:43 finish at the National Invite for 24th place. Comprising the rest of the Buckeyes' top five group, senior Melanie Grim, sophomore Laura Piper and freshman Rachel Stichter have all notched at least three top-20 finishes.
Penn State enters the Big Ten Championships with hopes of moving back into the top half of the conference standings. The Nittany Lions finished sixth in 2004 after finishing in the top five the two years prior. Senior Tracey Brauksiek returned from an injury in what started as a redshirt season to lead the Lions to a 15th-place finish in the Penn State National meet in her first meet of the year. Brauksieck, the leading Lions finisher from last year's championships, paced Penn State and finished with a time of 22:03 for 39th. Freshman Janelle Young, who led the Lions in one race this season, finished with a time of 22:46, while Sophomore Sonja Hinish finished at 22:58 and team captain, senior Kate Curran, notched a 23:07-finish. Sophomore Nikki Bohnsack, who paced the Lions in two meets this season, did not race. Bohnsack owns the second-best returning time from last year's championship race. She finished fifth for the Lions at 22:34.
The Boilermakers have been led all season by senior Lindsay Zinn, the Boilermakers top returning runner from the 2004 championships. Zinn, who posted a 22:21-finish last year for 33rd overall, finished first for Purdue in the Pre-NCAA meet with a time of 21:45.6. The No. 1 runner for the Boilermakers in all five meets this season, Zinn won individual titles in the team's first two races. Filling out the Boilermakers' core crew are seniors Corrie Whisner and Kaleena Cappell, sophomore Carrie Fett and freshman Elle Lammers. Whisner claimed second for the team in three of the Boilermakers races, including a 21:56-finish at the Pre-NCAA meet. Senior Laura Farley has added some depth to the group, finishing as high as second on the team in the squad's first two races.
The Badgers jumped into the national rankings for the first time this season after an eighth-place performance at the Notre Dame Invitational, earning the No. 27 spot, but have since slipped out of the top 30. Junior Katrina Rundhaug has led the Badgers all season, finishing 12th overall at the Roy Griak Invitational and 16th at the Notre Dame Invitational. Rundhaug also paced the squad to a team finish of 16th at the Pre-NCAA meet with an individual 14th-place finish of 20:38. A'Havahla Haynes will provide a boost for the Badgers when she returns for the championships after breaking her foot in August. The Badgers' top runner in 2004, Haynes earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors with a 13th-place finish at 21:40. Freshman Alicia Pabich, who has claimed the Badgers' second-best finish in each of the past three meets, and fifth-year senior Maggie Grabow have the potential to make Wisconsin a conference title contender. The Badgers will also get big contributions from freshman Christina Fiduccia and senior Linsey Smith in their quest to get back in the national rankings.