Illinois' Hunt Named Big Ten Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year
Nov. 2, 2005
PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Wisconsin senior Simon Bairu and Illinois junior Cassie Hunt have been named the men's and women's Big Ten Cross Country Athletes of the Year, conference officials announced today. In addition to capturing the individual titles at this past Sunday's Big Ten Cross Country Championships held at the University of Minnesota, both individuals were also tabbed Athlete of the Championships. The individual postseason awards were determined by a vote of the league's cross country head coaches.
On the heels of his third-straight conference title, Bairu became the first Big Ten runner since Michigan's Kevin Sullivan to win three consecutive Athlete of the Year honors. Only Sullivan (1993-95, 97) and Indiana's Bob Kennedy (1988-90, 92) have won the annual award more than Bairu. The defending national champion shaved 14 seconds off his winning time from last year, as he crossed the finish line in an 8,000-meter time of 23:31.73, which was 25 seconds ahead of his followers.
Hunt, who was selected as the conference's Freshman of the Year in 2003, broke away from the pack Sunday to claim her first individual Big Ten title with a 6,000-meter time of 21:00.54. She is the first Illini runner in school history to be tabbed as the season's top runner in the conference. Led by Hunt's individual championship, the Illini took second in the league standings with 60 points, 18 behind Michigan's winning total of 42.
Wisconsin's Matt Withrow was tabbed Freshman of the Year after finishing third at the Big Ten Championships last Sunday with an 8K time of 24:06.58. He is the fifth Badger to ever be tabbed as the conference's top newcomer and the first since current teammate Chris Solinsky won the award in 2003. Withrow crossed the finish line just a half-second ahead of another Wisconsin freshman in Stuart Eagon, who completed the race in 24:07.08.
On the women's side, Illinois' Katie Engel was selected Freshman of the Year, marking just the second time in school history an Illini harrier earned the award as Hunt was selected in 2003. Engel was the third Illinois runner to cross the line Sunday, as she finished the race in 13th place overall with a time of 21:37.19.
Wisconsin's Jerry Schumacher earned his fifth consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year award, which marks his sixth honor in seven seasons. His sixth award ties the conference record for overall honors with former Wisconsin coach Martin Smith (1989-91-92-94-95-96). Wisconsin, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, claimed eight of the nine top spots overall, leading to a near-perfect and Big Ten-record score of 16 as well as a conference-best 85-point victory over Ohio State. The 16-point total is one better than the previous record of 17 set by Michigan State in 1959. The Badgers also bettered their previous Big Ten record for largest winning margin of 81 set last year. This year's team title was Wisconsin's 39th overall - a total that falls just one shy of the next four teams combined - Michigan State (14), Indiana (13), Michigan (9) and Minnesota (4).
This marks the first time since Wisconsin in 2003 and the fourth time in Big Ten history (1991-93-03-05) a school has swept all postseason honors.
Michigan's Mike McGuire earned his fourth-straight Coach of the Year selection and his seventh overall, which ranks second in the league behind the nine annual awards of former Wisconsin coach Peter Tegen. The Wolverines claimed their fourth straight team title on Sunday - a string that ranks third in Big Ten history for consecutive titles won. Michigan had previously won three-consecutive titles from 1992-94. In all, the Wolverines have now finished in the top two at the championships 13 times in 14 seasons under McGuire's tutelage.
The conference office also announced today honorees from each of the league's 21 cross country squads for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.
Honorees for men's and women's cross country are Illinois' Dan Stock and Hunt; Indiana's Stephen Haas and Lindsay Hattendorf; Iowa's Adam Roche and Racheal Marchand; Michigan's Rondell Ruff and Alyson Kohlmeier; Michigan State's Nick Oertel and Brittany Ballard; Minnesota's Trent Riter and Lauren Williams; Northwestern's Celia Franklin; Ohio State's Matt Penza and Sarah Cass; Penn State's Chris Nirschel and Kate Curran; Purdue's Justin Stadt and Kaleena Cappel and Wisconsin's Ben Gregory and Maggie Grabow.
These 21 student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the school year.