2011 X-C Profile: The Big Ten Men

October 6th, 2011 in Articles by 0 Comments

For most distance runners, it is finally the most wonderful time of the year: cross country season – time for the men of the Big Ten to get down to doing what they do best. The teams of the Big Ten are showing tremendous potential to make noise not only on a regional level, but the national level as well. Every team in the league is ranked in the top 10 in their respective regions which goes to show how good these teams are.

According to many, including former U.S. Olympian and head Minnesota coach, Steve Plascencia, the Big Ten looks to be a showcase conference.

“Wisconsin and Indiana are very good teams and potentially we’ll be close behind,” says Plascencia.

Teams to Watch

Wisconsin– Wisconsin is the clear favorite in the conference. The Badgers have won the Big Ten Championship 12 straight years and were at the top of the chart in the pre-season rankings of both the league and the Great Lakes Region. Wisconsin also boasted the best pre-season ranking in the NCAA at #3 overall, just behind Oklahoma State (#1) and Stanford University (#2) – and their recent performance at the Dillenger Invitational moved the Badgers into the #2 spot while Stanford slipped a couple.

Returning to the Badgers for another season are sophomores Drew Shields and Michael Brice. Shields was last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year for cross country. Both sophomores are expected to be big contributors for Coach Mick Byrne’s squad. The Badgers will also have a new contributor: Ryan Collins. Collins, a senior, recently transferred from the University of Virginia and is looking to make a splash with his new team.

Indiana University – The Hoosiers, led by All-American Andrew Poore, are right on the heels of the Badgers, seeded second in the region. Coming into the season Indiana was tied with Florida State for eighth overall in the nation. Coach Ron Helmer is expecting big things from not only Poore, but also Andy Bayer and Zach Mayhew. Both of Bayer and Mayhew were named to the All-Big Ten Team last season. Indiana will have one of the toughest schedules around, having to face 22 of the top 30 teams from the pre-season National Rankings.

The University of Minnesota – The Big Ten conference spans regions, and in the Mid-West Region we find the University of Minnesota. Minnesota was ranked #3 in the region to open the season, chasing Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – and that’s where they still sit. They’ve moved from #27 to #17 nationally based on early-season performances. Minnesota is led by senior Hassan Mead, one of the top runners in all of the Big Ten. The team will be looking to improve on their third-place finish in the conference meet last year.

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Runners to Watch

Andy Bayer,  Indiana – Bayer, now a junior, is ready put up some great performances. Last year he finished second overall at the Big-Ten championship with a time of 23:42, just one second behind first place finisher Landon Peacock of Wisconsin.

Jake Edwards, Ohio State – A Senior out of Ohio State, Jake Edwards looks to continue to improve his times. He hopes to pick up where he left off last season where he ran a time of 24:18 on the 8K Big Ten Championship course. This was good enough for 22nd overall.

Drew Shields, Wisconsin – Drew Shields is expected to be the future of the cross country program at Wisconsin. He was able to contribute last season grabbing 26th place overall at the Big Ten Championship, not bad for a freshman. Shields was honored with the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award at the conclusion of last season. Look for him to mature and play a big role for the Badgers.

Bobby Aprill, Michigan – Michigan may not have the strongest team out there, but one definite bright spot for them is Bobby Aprill. Aprill, now a senior, was honored as a member of the All-Big Ten team last year after his 7th place performance at the Big Ten Championship. He’ll be in contention for one of the top spots in the conference this year.

Hassan Mead, Minnesota – It is no secret that Hassan Mead (pictured) is one of the top runners to watch. Mead is a three-time All-American in cross country and has won the Mid-Western Region twice. It should come as no surprise to anyone if Mead is near the top of the league once again this season, especially after a scorching third-place finish at the Griak Invitational in late September.

“Mead had a good 2009, running a 13:28 5K at Jordan Payton,” says Minnesota coach Plascencia,. “but then suffered a collapsed lung last fall.”

The runners of the Big Ten have shed their trainers and strapped on their spikes. Wisconsin has a target on its back as the league favorite. The competition will be nothing short of amazing. The Big Ten Championship is less than a month away (October 30th).

Our Prediction:

Wisconsin!

Connor Foley is a freshman at Bridgewater State University. In high school he raced every event from the 55m hurdles to the 5K. Connor will run indoor and outdoor track for BSU, and he hopes to become a teacher and a track coach after graduating from college. Rick Miller and Mike Atwood assisted with this story.

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