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Men’s cross country finishes with mixed results at Blue and Gold Invitational

By Claire Kintner, For the Daily
Published October 6, 2013

The bar was set high this past weekend when the Michigan men’s cross country team traveled to South Bend, Ind. for one of the nation’s oldest and largest intercollegiate cross country meets. The 8,000-meter Notre Dame Blue and Gold Invitational welcomes some of the most elite teams in the country in one of the last big meets before conference championships. The Wolverines struggled against the nation’s best.

No. 30 Columbia won the team title with 113 points, while Texas-El Paso’s Anthony Rotich took home the individual title with a time of 24:18.6. Michigan placed 25th out of 27 teams, scoring a total of 650 points thanks to its seven-man contingent. Junior Nick Posada, who became Michigan’s top runner for the first time in his career, led the Wolverines with a time of 25:49.6, finishing 104th in a field of 209 runners.

“(Posada) is definitely running far better than he was at this point last year,” Michigan coach Alex Gibby told MGoBlue.com. “He’s making assertive decisions. Now he just has to be more confident in the first seven or eight minutes of the race. If he’s fast, then he’s going to be a lot closer to contributing.”

After not competing at all during his first year as a redshirt freshman, Posada came onto Michigan’s running scene in the beginning of his sophomore year, when he opened the season with a sixth-place finish (16:35) at the 5,000-meter Michigan Open. Posada went on to place 36th (25:34.6) at the 8,000-meter Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational 276th (25:32) at the 8,000-meter Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, and 88th (25:51.1) at the 8,000-meter Big Ten Championships last fall.

This year, however, Posada managed to achieve a 14th-place finish (16:29.35) at the Michigan Open, a seventh-place finish (25:04.7) at the Purdue Invitational and a 44th-place finish (26:04.27) at the Cowboy Jamboree.

Gibby explained that the main goal this week was to improve the strength of the start of the race and to find a higher level of stamina as a whole. However, the execution of that goal seemed to be lacking.

“Our intent with the group we brought down here was to be aggressive for two miles, define the edge and follow through all the way to the finish,” Gibby said. “We wanted to run a more complete race but be more aggressive early, which certainly changes the dynamic and puts the competition in an uncomfortable position, and that was the step we were looking to take from a decision-making standpoint. We hit that in a mixed manner.

“As a whole, I thought we did some things really well, but we also had gaps. There were momentary flashes of brilliance, but they were followed up by three or four minutes of passiveness. It was a mixed results, and I think there are certainly things we can learn from it.”

Coming off of an 8,000-meter race just six days prior, the task was a tall order in terms of limited recovery time. Senior Nathan Karr occupied the Wolverines’ second spot, placing 123rd with a time of 26:04.5. Junior Scotty Albaugh also made the tough transition after competing at the Cowboy Jamboree to finish 128th in 26:07.4.

As for some of the younger runners, redshirt sophomore Jeff Sattler finished 152nd (26:23.3) as Michigan’s fourth man, while freshman George Kelly secured his fifth scoring position ever, placing 163rd at 26:29.6. Sophomores Alex Moran (26:48.3) and Jarred Bratley (27:17.2) wrapped up the Wolverines’ top seven, obtaining 173rd and 194th place respectively.

With the season well underway and Big Ten Championships not far off, Gibby also spoke about how maintaining a high-mileage training regime affects racing.

“Our volumes are still up, and they will be for a few more weeks,” Gibby said. “We’re still a little unresponsive from a relative standpoint to a lot of other teams in this meet. But what we were judging ourselves by is how we do within ourselves and how we’re able to maximize where we are. That’s why I come away mixed — we did have things go well, but I still think there is much more to be extracted from this group.”

The Wolverines will conclude the regular season at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Oct. 19 at Zimmer Championship Course, which will also be the site of the NCAA Great Lakes Regional the following month.