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2019 XC Top 25 Teams (Women): #8 Michigan Wolverines


Graphic by Logan French

Last fall, Michigan quietly rolled through the season while staying relatively under-the-radar. Many acknowledged that they were a strong team, but few believed that they could compete with the likes of Boise State and Stanford. Relying heavily on a balance of senior leadership and talented freshmen, the Wolverines surprised many by finishing 4th at NCAA's, taking down teams such as Boise State, Stanford, and BYU in the process.


This season, they will (likely) once again come into the 2019 season underrated after losing three of their five scorers from 2018. Despite those losses, Michigan gains two strong freshmen who will add to their already young, but incredibly strong core.


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Losing three seniors is always tough and losing three scorers is even worse, but Michigan has a handful of young talents that can lead them to success this season. Super sophomore Anne Forsyth will be looked at to lead this team after an incredible freshman season in 2018.


As a true freshman, Forsyth made her official debut for the Wolverines at the BIG 10 Championships, finishing 8th overall and as the top freshman in the conference. Only two weeks later, she once again blew expectations out of the water when she crossed the line in 3rd at the Great Lakes Regional Championships to finish as Michigan’s top runner, only getting bested by All-Americans Anna Rohrer and Alicia Monson.


Forsyth’s worst performance of the season came at NCAA's where she finished 46th overall, which is incredible when you consider that as a true freshman, her worst performance was missing All-American honors by only six places. Coming into 2019, Forsyth is arguably a top 25 talent in the NCAA and will need to perform well if Michigan want to find similar success this season.


While Forsyth might have been one of Michigan’s best last fall, she wasn’t even the top freshman for her team at NCAA's. That honor belongs to then redshirt-freshman Camille Davre. After starting the season with strong performances at the Michigan Open and Woody Greeno Invitational, Davre really started to progress in the postseason by finishing 16th at the BIG 10 Championships. She improved two places at the regional meet and then blew expectations away at NCAA's where she finished 29th, earning her first All-American honors.


Similar to Forsyth, expectations will be high for Davre this fall. Both women will be looking to earn All-American honors this season and will be heavily relied upon to provide low-cards up front. Now that Davre is in her third year of collegiate running, she should have enough experience to replicate a similar year to 2018. Assuming that is the case, watch out for the Michigan duo this season.


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Another Wolverine who will be looking to get back to All-American status is senior Anna West. Although she was only 92nd at last year's national meet, West finished 40th in 2017 while competing for Baylor. Replicating a similar season this year would be huge for Michigan as they will be leaning on West to fill some of the holes left by the departures of Evenson and Meier.


Looking at where West is trending, there’s a lot to like heading into this season. She set cross country personal bests for the 5k and 6k last fall and set new bests in the mile, 3000, and 5000 meters during her 2019 track seasons. Based on that, West should be setup to thrive in 2019.


Michigan also brings back two more young runners who could help round out the scorers this season. Jessi Larson was consistently in Michigan's top-seven last fall and finished 99th overall at NCAA's as only a freshman. This season, Larson should solidify her role as a scorer for Michigan and, in the process, will likely finish as team's #4 or #5.


Alice Hill is another sophomore who could be interesting to watch this fall. While she competed sparsely for Michigan in 2018, she did win the "B" race at Pre-Nationals and finished 47th at a deep BIG 10 meet. During the track season, Hill found plenty of success as she helped Michigan place 6th at the Indoor National Championships in the DMR and was 3rd at BIG 10's in the steeplechase. Hill should be in the top seven this season and could be pressing for the #5 spot.


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One of the new faces in Ann Arbor this fall is Ericka VanderLende and her entry into this program is extremely important. The true freshman is one of the best young runners in the country, coming off of a win at the Brooks PR 2-mile this past spring.


VanderLende has been having success on the national level for awhile now, placing 8th at NXN and 5th at Footlocker in 2018. She also won Michigan’s state meet two years in a row (XC) and won both the 1600 and 3200 on the track this past spring. She owns personal best of 4:41 for 1600, 9:57 for 3200, and 16:20 for 5000 meters.


Based on the success that she has had in cross country, VanderLende could easily fit into Michigan’s top five this fall. If you compare her to Forysth and Davre, there is no reason to think that VanderLende doesn't have All-American potential this season. While it’s obviously too early to make anything of it, VanderLende will be a big name to watch over the next few months.


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Looking at Michigan’s roster, there are four women who come into the season with All-American potential. Forsyth and Davre should certainly be expected to finish inside the top 40 while West and VanderLende could both be pushing for that mark as well.


Last fall, the Wolverines placed 4th by having five runners finish between 29th and 79th. They certainly come into 2019 with the talent to do that again this season, but things don’t always play out like they do on paper.


Can Michigan repeat their breakout 2018 performance and finish in the top five at Nationals once again? It may be early, but my bold prediction is that they will pull it off...

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