MOUNT PLEASANT – The women's cross country team will draw upon both its experience and youth to face strong competition and a slew of familiar Mid-American Conference opponents at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Meet in Toledo, Ohio, Saturday.
Coming off an impressive second-place showing at the MAC Championship Meet on Oct. 29, the women are ranked seventh in the region and second amongst MAC teams according to the most recent U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association polls – one spot higher than their eighth-place finish at the regional meet last season.
CMU will look to make that ranking a reality in its 6K race, which is set to begin at 1:15 p.m. at the Ottawa Park golf course in Toledo. The women's race will directly follow the 10K men's race, which starts at noon.
Chief among the four returning runners for the Chippewas from last season's team is senior Raeanne Lohner, who will look to improve upon her 15th place All-Region finish in 2010. She will be joined by sophomore Krista Parks (29th), senior Holly Anderson (59th) and junior Maddie Ribant (70th).
First-team All-MAC runner junior Charnele Lyons, fresh off a CMU-best sixth-place finish at the MAC Championships after running a career-best by nearly a minute, will look to keep her momentum rolling in Toledo. This will be her first Regionals appearance.
Also running in the regional meet for the first time is true freshman Breanne Lesnar, who has consistently finished among the top five CMU runners.
To make it to Terre Haute, Ind., for the NCAA National Championships, the Chippewas would need to finish in the top two as a team Saturday, or individuals can qualify by finishing among the top seven runners not on a qualifying team.
Doing so will not be an easy task, as the field is stacked with tough competitors.
Twelfth-ranked Big Ten champion Michigan State leads a field with four nationally-ranked teams. No. 15 Michigan, No. 24 Notre Dame and No. 28 Wisconsin are all in the top 30, and conference foe Toledo received 11 national votes in the most recent poll.
The Rockets are just one of the 10 MAC teams that will be represented at the meet. Only Buffalo and Northern Illinois will be competing in other regions from the MAC.
Ohio State, Indiana and Purdue will also represent the Big Ten.