EAST LANSING, Mich. – Holding the event for the first time in two years, the Michigan State men’s and women’s cross country teams are set to host 21 collegiate programs and 122 high schools at the 40th annual Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational sponsored by Playmakers on Friday, Sept. 17.
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The day-long event, held at Forest Akers East Golf Course, will feature the collegiate women’s 6K race starting at 11 a.m., while the collegiate men’s 8K race is slated to begin at 11:40 a.m. All eight scholastic races will take place in the afternoon.
“Hosting the Spartan Invite again feels like one more step in the right direction,” said Director of Track & Field/Cross Country Lisa Breznau. “We have incredible support from so many members of our athletic department to host this event. We’re grateful to continue to host.”
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Just the second race of the campaign for MSU, the Spartan Invitational also marks the first race this season where the men will run a full 8K race and the women will run a longer 6K race, after the Jeff Drenth Memorial featured 5K races on both sides.
Michigan State men’s and women’s cross country began the 2021 season at the 34th annual Jeff Drenth Memorial in Mount Pleasant, Michigan on Sept. 3, with MSU sweeping both races. The men placed first with 19 points and the women took first with 21 points. Individually, senior John Petruno won the men’s race with a 15:08.9 time, while sophomore Emily Bardwell claimed the top spot for the women with a time of 17:52.6.
“We are looking for our athletes to kick off the cross-country season with the majority of both of teams racing in a team-focused way,” added Breznau. “While we competed at Central Michigan a few weeks ago, tomorrow we will be racing most of our rosters. It’s the beginning of an exciting journey ahead.”
The Spartan women remained at No. 5 in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Poll, as the team has three returning All-Americans in graduate student Lynsie Gram and senior Jenna Magness.
For the Spartan men, they dropped two spots in this week’s USTFCCCA poll to No. 18. All-American graduate student Morgan Beadlescomb will make his season debut in Friday’s race, hitting the trail for the first time since a 33rd-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last spring.
The team’s only home race of the fall, the Spartan Invitational is giving the runners an opportunity to run on the team’s home turf in front of family and friends in East Lansing.
“Tomorrow will be an exciting day for our runners to compete with their families and friends in attendance, especially given our circumstances last year,” said Breznau. “It’s always a great opportunity to compete at home, and our athletes look forward to it.”
Following Friday’s races, the Green and White compete again on Sept. 24 at the Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn.