Updated: Jan 13
The Michigan State Spartans enter the 2019 season with a ranking to match their finish at NCAA's from last fall. Despite losing low-stick Erin McDonald to graduation, the team returns the other six members of their lineup from NCAA's and even add New Balance Indoor Champion Noelle Adriaens to that group. Led by All-American Annie Fuller, as well as rising talent Maggie Farrell, the Spartans will be looking to dethrone in-state rival Michigan for the BIG 10 title and crack the top 10 at NCAA's this fall after just missing out last year.
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The funny thing about Michigan State is that they seemed like two different squads when you compared their regular season to their postseason last year. The team's 8th place finish at the Nuttycombe Invite was a great result, but a scoring order of 33-34-44-61-96 didn't necessarily standout from a firepower or depth perspective. After being upset by the host team Nittany Lions at the Penn State National Open, Michigan State began to hit a perfectly timed peak right around at their conference, regional, and national meets.
Annie Fuller really found her stride in 2018. The then-junior was only the fourth Spartan across the line at BIG 10's, but bounced back at the regional meet to finish 5th overall and lead Michigan State back to NCAA's. After never qualifying for an NCAA National Championship, Fuller capitalized on her first opportunity by once again leading the team with a 21st place run to earn her first All-American honors.
The Spartan standout is coming off of a pair of strong track seasons where she set personal bests in distances between the 800 meters and 3000 meters. She looks ready to better her performances from last fall. Fuller (TSR #29) has the potential to finish inside the top 20 at NCAA's in 2019 and will be a major player in the Spartan's success this fall.
Not far behind Fuller, junior Maggie Farrell will come into this fall with a chip on her shoulder. Farrell was having a stellar sophomore campaign in 2018, highlighted by a 4th place run at BIG 10's to lead the Spartans to a 3rd place finish. However, over the last few weeks of the season, Farrell faded a bit, finishing 12th at the Great Lakes Regional Championships and 72nd at NCAA's.
Realistically, Farrell has All-American potential this fall (TSR #27), but will need to show a bit more consistency now that McDonald is gone. The Spartans will be relying on both Fuller and Farrell to provide low-cards up front, both of whom should be aiming for somewhere around 20th at NCAA's this fall.
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Behind Fuller and Farrell, Michigan State brings back a handful of women who could be on the cusp of All-American honors this fall. India Johnson and Jeralyn Poe finished 83rd and 88th at NCAA's last fall and should be aiming for something inside the top 50 this fall. Johnson and Poe were very consistent scorers for Michigan State throughout the 2018 season which should provide some security and reliability for the Spartans behind their two star front-runners.
Amber Way and Jenna Magness will also add to the Spartans depth this fall. Way and Magness typically finished in the final few varsity spots for Michigan State last year and will be looking to close the gap on Poe and Johnson this fall. All four of these women had similar seasons in 2018 which gives the Spartans great, reliable depth (maybe more so than a few teams ranked ahead of them) heading into 2019.
One other name to watch for this season will be Noelle Adriaens. The senior from Pinckney, Michigan is the top recruit for the Spartans and comes in with personal bests of 10:16 for 3200 meters and 16:35 for 5000 meters. Although Adriaens has never won a state title in cross country, the incoming freshman qualified for her first national meet this past winter where she won the national title in the 5k. Running 16:35 while in high school puts Adriaens in elite company and she could be looking to push for a scoring spot within this Michigan State lineup this fall.
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Michigan State has all the right pieces to make a push for a top 10 finish at NCAA's. They have two strong leaders in Fuller and Farrell, along with plenty of women to round out their scoring group behind them. Admittedly, losing McDonald will hurt the team quite a bit from a scoring perspective. Her loss - paired with the fact that conference rivals such as Michigan and Wisconsin will have legitimate aspirations of winning the BIG 10 title - leaves the ladies in green and white with numerous obstacles and challenges.
Still, the Spartans are not a team to count out. Keep an eye on Michigan State this fall as they look to show that they are one of the best teams that the NCAA has to offer.