NEW ORLEANS, La. -- The University of Michigan women's cross country team is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I National Cross Country Coaches' Preseason Poll, as announced Tuesday (Aug. 26).
Voters awarded U-M six of the 12 available first-place votes, with four other teams splitting the remaining half, and the result was Michigan's highest ranking since being ranked second in the first week of the 2007 season. The Wolverines have cracked the top spot for the first time in school history, having been ranked No. 2 four times since 1995, the first year of USTFCCCA rankings.
"This ranking is a byproduct of the improvement of the student-athletes that we have back from last year and the way we have trended in the last couple of seasons," said U-M head coach Mike McGuire, "However, it does not change our approach. Our focus is on getting better day to day and meet to meet."
U-M welcomes back all seven of its runners from last year's fourth-place NCAA Championships team. Led by senior captains Brook Handler (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester), Alexandra Leptich (Ann Arbor, Mich./Saline), Taylor Pogue (Goodrich, Mich./Goodrich) and Megan Weschler (Wyandotte, Mich./Roosevelt), the Maize and Blue returns nine runners with championship race experience overall.
Joining the senior captains on that list are sophomore Erin Finn (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield) and juniors Shannon Osika (Waterford, Mich./Mott) , Taylor Manett (Rockford, Mich./Rockford), Devon Hoppe (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona Del Mar) and Anna Pasternak (Brighton, Mich./Hartland).
The Wolverines are one of five Big Ten institutions ranked among the nation's top 30, including Michigan State (No. 6), Wisconsin (No. 16), Minnesota (t-25) and Penn State (No. 29).
Led by 23rd-year head coach McGuire, U-M is coming off its most successful season since 2006. The Maize and Blue captured its third consecutive Great Lakes Region title in 2013 and finished fourth at the NCAA Championships, while McGuire was named Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year for the eighth time.
"We have some people that are battle-tested, but there's a big difference between finishing in fourth at the NCAA Championships and finishing in first," said McGuire, "There is a degree of happiness with the ranking, but there is a lot of work to be put in to achieve that lofty status."
The Wolverines will open the 2014 season on Friday (Aug. 29), with the annual Michigan Open at 10 a.m. The 5,000-meter, non-scoring race will be held at Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter, Mich.
Contact: Chad Shepard