Nate Perry, CMUChippewas.com
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - After a showing at the MAC Championships that left both teams feeling as though they could have performed better, the Central Michigan cross country team went to Indiana State University on Friday for in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
In the women's race, junior Megan O'Neil, who was been a model of consistency for the Chippewas over the past three seasons, led the team with a 48th-place finish out of 223 entries.
The Stanwood, Mich. native ran the six-kilometer course in 21-minutes, 31.3 seconds, and broke the top 50 at the regional meet for the first time in her career.
O'Neil led the CMU women to an 18th-place finish in the 31-team field. The CMU men finished 16th of 26.
O'Neil improved 14 spots from her finish at last year's regional.
"She ran well and she's been a great leader for us, but I don't think she, or any of our women accomplished everything we wanted to today," CMU women's coach Jenny Swieton said. "I think our confidence isn't where it needs to be in order to take the step. It's definitely something we need to work on going forward."
Taylor Aguillon, a senior who, in her first year of collegiate cross country, emerged as a frontrunner, was the next Chippewa across the line, placing 70th in 21:58.7. Fellow senior Hannah Davis was 93rd, finishing in 22:20.6.
Freshman Alexis Grandys has come on strong for the Chippewas in the later stages of the season and taken on a top-five role on the team. She crossed the line as the team's No. 4 runner, completing the course in 23:08.2 to place 142nd. Grandys was fourth on the team at the MAC Championships as well, placing 30th in a career-best 22:02.9.
"(Grandys) went out and tried really hard and I think her result today is just her still adjusting to the fatigue of the longer season," Swieton said. "That said, I'm really excited about where she and the rest of our team goes from here."
Michigan won the women's regional for the second straight year, totaling 71 points. The Wolverines were followed by Michigan State (87), Wisconsin (93) and Eastern Michigan (146), the top Mid-American Conference finisher.
Katherine Receveur of Indiana won the women's race in 20:34.9.
Two weeks after earning his first career All-MAC distinction, Luke Anderson led the Chippewa men's team for the second straight race, finishing 59th in 32:16.6.
The sophomore from Palms improved by 21 places and more than 16 seconds on his placing in last year's regional.
Anderson's recent success appears to reflect a growth in his personal confidence, and with two years of eligibility remaining, it should act as a springboard for a leadership role next season, CMU men's coach Matt Kaczor said.
"Luke is just a very smart, methodical racer and he's starting to realize he can make that jump into the next group," Kaczor said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg for him and he will continue to blossom more and more. All the guys on our team kind of build off of one another and push each other and Luke is definitely benefitting from that."
Fellow sophomore Mark Beckmann has been Anderson's race partner all season and wasn't far behind him at the Regional, taking 70th in 32:29.2.
Promising redshirt freshman Logan Kleam, who was hampered by back spasms at the MAC Championships, was the team's No. 3 runner, claiming 82nd place with a time of 32:47.1. Kleam's back issue flared up again approximately six and a half kilometers into the Regional race, according to Kaczor.
"He came out a little too aggressive, and I think he was actually leading the race at one point," Kaczor said. "It probably wasn't the best idea considering his back, but he wanted to help the team out and did it as long as he could. I can't fault him and in fact, I commend him for that.
"He's just a tough guy who has been putting the team ahead of himself, and that's been lacking in our program the last few years. I'll take that type of effort every time out."
Freshman Conor Naughton and sophomore Bransen Stimpfel were the final two scorers for the men's team. Naughton placed 98th with a time of 33:05.8 and Stimpfel was 103rd in 33:09.3.
Senior Alec Omell finished 109th in 33:20.4 in his final collegiate race.
Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Eastern Michigan comprised the top four, respectively, in the men's race.
Ben Flanagan of Michigan claimed the individual men's championship and was the only runner to eclipse the 31-minute mark with a time of 30:54.0.
Overall, Kaczor said he was pleased and encouraged by how his team performed.
"On paper we thought we were right around 19th, so to be 16th was a nice little improvement," the fifth-year head coach said. "Marquette was 14th and Ohio State was 15th, and we were within 15 points of them - both really good programs. "
"Our spread was better today, which I was happy with, and if Logan's back isn't bothering him he probably finishes right around Luke, or maybe even above him. Then you're starting to talk about a top-12 finish. The best part is, we get our whole top five back and six of our top seven."