Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #11- Michigan

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Head Coach: Mike McGuire (22nd Season)
2012 National Finish- 5th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Brook Handler (Jr., 4:22 1500m, 9:38 Open 3k, 10:26 3k Steeple)
  • Shannon Osika (So., 4:20 1500m, 9:21 Open 3k, 16:35 5k)
  • Taylor Manett (So., 4:28 1500m, 16:40 5k)
  • Taylor Pogue (Jr., 9:37 Open 3k, 16:22 5k, 34:48 10k)
  • Megan Weschler (Jr., 9:39 Open 3k, 16:48 5k, 10:26 3k Steeple)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Erin Finn (Fr., 4:45 1600m, 10:08 3200m, 16:17 5k, 2nd FL '11, 7th FL '10)
Season Preview

In 2012, Coach  Mike McGuire's squad was loaded with talented and experienced seniors that were ready to make the podium in Louisville. Although they barely missed the podium, the Wolverines had a great end to their season. With seniors Amanda Eccleston, Jillian Smith, Rebecca Addison and Lindsey Hilton (four of top five) graduated, this could be considered a "rebuilding year" for Michigan. 

The great news for Coach McGuire is that they have the pieces to still be a strong, contending team that will have a good shot to defend its Conference and Regional titles in 2013. Here's how:

Brook Handler had a huge race at NCAAs in 2012, which will give her the confidence that she needs to step into a leadership role and mix things up towards the front of the Wolverine pack. Handler came off her xc season and ran well outdoors, qualifying for the East Regional outdoors in the 1500m. 

Shannon Osika was a crucial part of the program last season. If she had not been out of action out NCAAs this past November, Michigan would have had a shot at the podium. A healthy Osika is going to be vital for the Wolverines because Osika is capable of All-American and is a contender for the no. 1 runner spot this season. She made the final at the East Regional for 1500m and knowing that she was unable to run at NCAAs for XC in 2012 will give her the motivation needed to step up in 2013. 

The two Taylor's (Manett and Pogue) will bring strong competitors and solid experience running at a high level. Pogue was not in the mix at the regional and national level in cross last season and will be needed to step up and be in their top five. Pogue had a good outdoor season running a nice 10k PR of 34:48 and open 3k PR indoors of 9:37. She can be a contributor if she can translate her track abilities to the xc course. 

Taylor Manett, although just coming off of her freshman campaign, is as experienced as any girl on the Michigan squad that is returning because of her big time racing abilities. Manett gets it done when it matters and proved that race in and race out in 2012. Because of this, Manett was selected to represent the USA at the Bupa XC Challenge this past December. Those kind of elite level competitions really open the eyes of athletes and will be a great benefit to her upcoming year. Taylor had a good outdoor season (4:28 and 16:40) and will be motivated to keep the Wolverines a contender in cross. 

A huge factor in 2013 will be the landing of one of the best high school distance runners of our time, Erin Finn. This local product has legitimate cross country and track credentials and is the epitome of the term "instant offense." Her track season in 2013 was off the charts good. Finn ran PRs of 16:17 for 5k and 10:08 for 3200m. There probably is not a single freshman in the country that is more motivated to perform in xc than Finn. 

After back to back top 10 finishes at Foot Locker Finals, including a second place performance in 2011, Finn failed to make the national finals in 2012. Finn is ready to roll for 2013 and could be an All-American in her first year (something similar to Laura Hollander, Allie McLaughlin-like freshman year is definitely achievable). 

With all this considered, there is so much parity on the women's side for this upcoming year. Michigan's ranking is mostly contingent on factors based "on paper." If Finn, Osika, and Manett have the kind of years they are capable of having, all three of them could be All-American. Throw in Handler, Pogue, Weschler, and anyone else who could be in the picture, the Wolverines are once again one of the best programs in the country in 2013. 

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