40 in 40 - Women's Cross Country Rules The 80's
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, wmubroncos.com takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.
WMU Women's Cross Country Team
Team MAC Champions: 1984, 1985, 1986
Individual MAC Champions: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989
The first ever Mid-American Conference Championship meet in women's cross country took place in 1980. Western Michigan's women program, which started in 1975, finished in fourth place with Mary Ann Gedritis finishing in 12th place to become WMU's first ever All-MAC selection. A good start to what turned out to be the greatest decade in the history of WMU's women's cross country program.
From 1980-89 the Broncos earned 23 All-MAC selections. Western Michigan claimed three team MAC Championships in 1984, 1985 and 1986 and had six individual champions in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1989.
The decade brought about three of WMU's greatest runners in program history in Kayla Skelly, Maggie Lillie-Smith and Caroline Mullen, all of whom are member's of the Western Michigan Hall of Fame. While Gedritis became the first Bronco to be named All-MAC, it was Skelly that first helped put the program on the map.
In 1982 Skelly finished second overall and, along with All-MAC honorees Chris Sharp and Melanie Decker, helped WMU take second overall. In fact the Broncos finished just one point shy of a MAC Championship that season, just being edged out by Bowling Green. WMU would finish as runners up once again in 1983 but Skelly was crowned the individual champion after a blazing 5k time of 17:13. Teammate Sally Slocum finished just behind her in second place and Kelly Shumate took third overall. Sharp also placed for the Broncos, taking 10th overall to make the All-MAC squad for the second-straight year.
After coming so close for two straight seasons the Broncos finally captured a MAC Championship in 1984. The Brown & Gold were not denied as they finished ahead of second-place Bowling Green by 30 points. WMU earned a program record five student-athletes on the All-MAC list with Lille-Smith winning the Individual Championship. For the third straight year Skelly also earned All-MAC after finishing in second place, while Sharp, Shumate and Kim Adent also earned All-MAC. The squad also went on to place third in the NCAA District IV Championship, with Lille-Smith placing sixth overall.
The run continued for two more years with the Broncos winning both the team and individual MAC Championships in 1985 and 1986. In her final season with WMU, Skelly finished first overall in 1985, as the team finished 30 points clear of Eastern Michigan. Skelly also helped the Broncos to a third place finish at the District IV Championships by taking third overall with a time of 17:59.7. She later finished 28th at the NCAA Championships to become the program's first All-American.
With Skelly gone it was Mullen's time to shine. As a sophomore she led the Broncos to the MAC title in 1986, while also claiming the individual title for herself. Lille-Smith finished just behind her in second place, while Shumate took seventh overall. Mullen went on to finish third at the NCAA Championship in Tuscon, Ariz., finishing just 12 seconds out of first place, becoming WMU's second All-American.
Said then head coach Deb Hunt on Mullen's performance, "Caroline just muscled her way through the course. The course was very challenging. There were a lot of hills and sand, so the course was more suited for the powerful runner."
She went on to win two more individual MAC titles in 1988 and 1989.
Mullen, Skelly, Sharp, and Shumate all each earned All-MAC three times during the decade. Lille-Smith earned it twice along with Kim Adent, while Stacey Kilburn earned All-MAC in 1989 and went on to earn it twice more in 1990 and 1991.
The decade of tremendous success has been hard to duplicate for the Broncos and other programs in the MAC. The 1980's accounted for 70 percent of WMU cross country's All-MAC selections and three of the program's four MAC Championships.