SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – Despite abbreviated practice time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan State women’s cross country team opened the 2021 season, capturing its second-straight Big Ten title. With 48 points, the Spartans defended their title from the fall of 2019, Saturday at the Blue River XC Course in Shelbyville, Indiana.

“I knew we had a shot without a doubt. We have a great group of seniors right now with a ton of experience, and I knew we have some younger athletes that were racing with one another and racing for one another. So I knew they could do really well,” Interim Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Lisa Breznau said. “This weekend, the leadership from India Johnson, Jenna Magness, Lynsie Gram and Casey Mossholder has been really phenomenal. I think they have a huge part in what happened today. It was amazing to see Makayla Perez and Katie Osika run as well as they did and battle, really the entire race.”

The Michigan State men also had a strong showing, finishing fourth with 97 points. On the men’s side, Wisconsin took home the trophy with 40 points.

“I am so happy that both teams did well because I know that we are making Coach (Walt) Drenth proud. It is important to me that we carry on his legacy, and know that he is proud of us,” Breznau concluded.

The No. 9-ranked Spartans finished with 47 points in the women’s 6k, with Minnesota finishing second with 76 points and Illinois ending third with 79.

This is the eighth Big Ten title for the Spartans in program history and the third time that Michigan State has won back-to-back titles. MSU repeated in 2010-11 and 2013-14.

Three Spartans captured personal bests as Michigan State returned to the awards stand. Junior Jenna Magness was the top finisher for Michigan State, coming in third place with a time of 20.30.1. Senior India Johnson register a PR time of 20.34.9 to take fourth place. Both Magness and Johnson garnered first-team All-Big Ten honors for their efforts. Johnson had earned second-team honors last season.

Senior Lynsie Gram crossed the finish line with a time 20.48.4 to collect 11th. Sophomores Makayla Perez (21.01.02) and Katie Osika (21.03.3) both set personal bests to finish 14th and 16th, respectively. Gram and Perez nabbed second-team All-Big Ten honors for their efforts.

“Our women’s team had a meeting on their own on Sunday to set the tone for the week ahead. They set behavioral expectations to keep each other accountable. They have done a really good job of staying calm. Of course there were moments of intense nerves, so to speak, but they did an excellent job of managing themselves,” Breznau said.

The Spartan men improved on last season’s seventh-place finish to take fourth this season, all without last year’s third-place finisher Morgan Beadlescomb who was unable to compete Saturday. Sophomore James Uhlenberg had a fantastic start to the cross country season, finishing seventh with a time of 21.13.2. Freshman Brendan Favazza had a stellar debut for MSU, using a time of 24:24.4 to finish 14th.

Uhlenberg earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in his cross country debut, while Favazza was named to the second team.

Senior Joe Riordan (24:38.3), junior Steven Stine (24:45.8) and senior Brayden Law (24:45.8) turned in scores for the Spartans. Stine’s time was a personal best for the junior.

“Our men’s depth was incredible today. We had all 12 in the top 50 and a lot of our guys are really young, which is super exciting for the future,” Breznau added. “Our guys that are seniors did a great job of keeping things organized. It was a huge loss to not have Morgan here, but we know we are going to get him back soon. The men did a great job of managing themselves today. I am just really proud of both teams today. Coach (Aaron) Simoneau is doing a fantastic job with that group. I am hoping that both groups get a chance to race again at the NCAA Nationals in March.”

Spartan indoor track & field season will continue on Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Hoosier Hills in Bloomington, Indiana.

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