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Sunday, November 02, 2008
Big Ten Championships
Let's Run discussion
I took some of the kids on my team to see the meet as a pump-up to keep then running through the winter. All in all, it was a very good meet for them to go to.
The pre-meet women's national poll put Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois in the 7-10 rankings. Last year Minnesota won over Michigan State by a single point.
About halfway through the race, favorite Nicole Bush was leading Michigan's Nicole Edwards and Penn State's Bridget Franek. This would have been a logical prediction for their finish places.
But after this, Bush gapped the field, Franek dropped back, and Edwards cratered. At the finish, Minnesota appeared to have it over Wisconsin but no one new until it was posted: Minnesota 63, Wisconsin 67. Michigan finished fifth.
The men's race started off slow, with Ohio State's top five leading the way through the first mile. You didn't need a watch to know that meant a slow pace because the Buckeyes were not projected to finish in the top 2/3 of the field. The big question mark all season was about Wisconsin's stars Matt Withrow and Stuart Eagon (first and fifth in last year's meet) who had not raced all year. Would they be sharp and ready to go?
As it turned out, no. About halfway through, Wisconsin's Landon Peacock tried to draw away:but within a quarter mile Minnesota's Hassan Mead closed the gap and ran away. At that point Michigan was winning (or at least their fifth man was well ahead of anyone else's). Over the last half of the race, though, Wisconsin moved up strongly and won relatively easily, 40-57 over Michigan. Based on this race alone, I'd have to rate Wisconsin as a favorite to make the podium at the NCAA, as their stars didn't have a good day and they still won convincingly.
Rating the Meet
From a fan's perspective, how was the meet? I rate meets on certain categories...
Information: 100 meters
The sports fan's currency is information. Without it, you don't know what is going on, which makes for a boring event. Cross country is always a bit short on this because it's difficult to know who is winning during the race. The meet program was excellent: profiles of every team, their full rosters and race-day start lists, meet history, and course maps. Scores were posted in a prominent place as well. There was a PA announcer, but he was difficult to hear. The meet website was a bit lacking for a championship as big as this one.
Facility & amenities: 100 meters
For a cross country course, this was pretty good. Parking was free, easy to get to, and located very close to the course. While it cost to get into the meet, it was only $5 ($3 for students). The course was well laid out, with the start and finish right nect to each other and a loop that came by both multiple times. You could see the runners several times if you didn't want to run around, and more if you did. No concessions, only meet t-shirts and programs for sale.
Presentation: 50 meters
Feh. Better than most cross country meets, but that's not saying much. No introductions. PA hard to hear. A clock only at the finish; mile and kilometer markers not prominent. What they did do well was post the results on a decent-sized golf tournament style scoreboard, both full team scores and top twenty individuals. This was behind a stage on which the awards were presented.
Extras: 30 meters
What this meet did have was star power. Running around on the course were Kevin Sullivan, Brian Diemer, and Alan Webb. I'd bet Craig Virgin was somewhere too, but I didn't see him. Webb was wearing Michigan gear, and while not quite like RichRod going back to West Virginia in Mountaineer colors it did seem a bit out of place considering the conditions under which he left Ann Arbor.
Final total: 280 meters (out of a possible 400).