by DANIELLE ARCAND
VERONA, Wis. - On Oct. 31 the highly competitive Big Ten Cross Country Championship, hosted by the University of Wisconsin at the Zimmer Champions Course in Verona, welcomed an unusually inexperienced group of Women's Cross Country runners that surprisingly broke records.
At 10:45 a.m, 99 women took off on the the 6-kilometer course at the Zimmer Champions Course. The Big Ten Cross Country Championship was hosted by the University of Wisconsin where the 11 Big Ten schools competed.
This race, unlike those of the recent past, was composed of a mostly inexperienced runners. This created a lot of nerves and energy on the course. "For a lot of our team, this was their first Big Ten meet and it comes as sort of a shock to them. They make it a bit more of a big deal than it is. Then they get in there and get done and go 'Oh yeah, I can do this'. So they learned a lot," said Gopher coach Gary Wilson.
"I was super nervous beforehand," said Minnesota Gopher Katie Moraczewski. "It was my first Big Ten. Our whole team was going through this together, though. So we pumped each other up." Moraczewski finished 45th overall with 21 minutes 28 seconds.
Only three of the players on the University of Minnesota Gophers team (Nikki Swensen, Stephanie Price, and Kayla Wagner) had ever competed in a Big Ten race and held five races between the three of them. Last Year Minnesota's group had 23 races under its belt.
Emily MacLeod of the Michigan State University Spartans placed first with 19 minutes 54 seconds, beating her career best by 21 seconds. She was a mere 2 seconds ahead of Gopher Stephanie Price.
Price crossed the finish line just 3 or 4 meters behind Macleod, at 19 minutes 55.5 seconds, holding the fastest time in Gopher history. Despite the neck-to-neck loss, Price had a great time. "It was kind of a blur and a fast race from the beginning. It was a lot of fun and I had a blast out there." said Price.
Fellow Gopher Missa Varpness, who placed 11th, also enjoyed her first Big Ten race and thanks the fans for keeping her going. "It was awesome. It was a lot of fun out there." said Varpness. "Every turn you went around there would be another gopher cheering, and that was great encouragement."
Nikki Swenson felt the energy of the fans. She placed 13th for Minnesota and was very happy with the end results. "You always wanna go out with a bang and this course was awesome." said Swenson.
The Gophers, composed of mostly new runners, put their nerves into action. Minnesota placed second overall, followed by Wisconsin in third.