It was a day of dynasties at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships from the newly dedicated Ashton Cross Country Course on the campus of the University of Iowa. Two-time defending Conference champion Michigan Wolverines looked to claim their third title in as many years as defending champion junior Rebecca Walter faced stiff competition from a field of talented runners. The 6K competition included four of the top 30 teams in the nation and three runners who had twice won Big Ten Runner of the Week honors in 2004.
Walter staked a claim to the lead as she set the pace early. As the lead pack passed the one-mile mark, the leaders were Walter, Michigan State freshman Danette Doetzel, sophomore Cassie Hunt of Illinois, and sophomore Nikki Chapple of Iowa. Walter, Doetzel, and Hunt distanced themselves from the chase pack by opening up a 100-meter lead just past the halfway point of the race. The three kept pace past the 4,000-meter mark as the lead group continued to distance itself from the rest of the competition. Around the 5,000-meter point, Indiana junior Jessica Gall moved into fourth place, joining the lead trio. As the leaders passed the three-mile mark, Walter continued to lead, but Doetzel began to close the gap between them. As Walter and Doetzel were running stride for stride, their teams continued to battle for the overall lead. With a little less than 1,000 meters remaining, Doetzel passed Walter and began to distance herself from the defending champion, eventually winning the 2004 Big Ten Cross Country Championship in a time of 20:33. Walter finished behind her with a time of 20:53 and Gall was next to cross the line in 21:02.
Despite Doetzel taking the individual championship, the Michigan Wolverines claimed their third Consecutive team championship by 40 points, the largest margin in their three year title run. Along with Walter, freshman Alyson Kohlmeier, senior Andrea Parker, and sophomore Katie Erdman placed in the top 14, earning them a spot on the All-Big Ten teams.
Behind Michigan's 45 points, two teams tied for the second place finish with 85 total points. Michigan State finished in the second position for the third time in as many years. While Doetzel led the Spartan attack, sophomore Katie Kelly finished eighth and freshman Lisa Senakiewich finished 20th.
The Fighting Illini, paced by fifth and sixth-place finishers Hunt and senior Jaime Turilli, jumped five spots from last year's finish. Freshman Maggie Carroll finished 10th for Illinois becoming their third 2004 All-Conference runner.
The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers finished in the fourth position with 133 points overall. Junior Lauren Williams rounded out the All-Big Ten selections with a 14th-place finish, just five seconds ahead of teammate Ladia Albertson-Junk, who finished 15th. Their fourth place finish was an increase of two spots from last year.
The Indiana Hoosiers dropped one spot from the 2003 Championships with a fifth place, 135 point finish. Gall's 21:02 led the Hoosiers while sophomore Kristin Whitezell finished in the race in 12th position.
Last year's third place finishers, the Penn State Nittany Lions finished sixth in 2004 with a final total of 142 points. The Penn State pace was set by senior Molly Landreth who finished fourth in the Big Ten Championships for the second consecutive year. Lion junior Tracey Brauksieck finished the meet in 25th place.
The host Iowa Hawkeyes improved four spots over the 11th place finish in 2003 by turning in a seventh place, 170 point showing. The Hawkeyes were paced by three runners who finished in the top 25, sophomore Nikki Chappel who finished 18th overall, freshman Racheal Marchand who came in 21st and fellow freshman Meghan Armstrong in the 24th position.
The eighth-place team was the Wisconsin Badgers who totaled 178 points. Sophomore A'Havahla Haynes had a 13th place showing, good enough for a second-team All-Big Ten selection and fellow sophomore Katrina Rundhaug finished the race in 17th place.
Finishing in the ninth position was the Purdue Boilermakers with a score of 190 points. Senior Amber Ferner led the Boilermakers with a 22nd place finish and classmate Kara Lahey turned in a 27th place time.
The 10th-place team in 2004 was Northwestern. The Wildcats finished with 258 total points and were led by freshman Marie Grabinski in 35th place and seniors Lesley Meade and Diana Hossfeld 42nd and 51st respectively.
The Ohio State Buckeyes round out the 2004 Championships with 276 points. The Buckeyes were led by sophomore Melanie Price, who finished 42nd and senior Robyn Detty who came in 44th.