The Michigan men’s cross country team had an impressive showing Friday at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, finishing fourth in a field that featured 10 nationally-ranked teams out of a total of 21.
Leading the way for the Wolverines was fifth-year senior Ben Flanagan, who finished 14th out of 177, pacing the team with a 24:05.0 time on the five-mile course.
“The race was actually pretty similar to one of the resources we have just off of campus (in) Rogers Farms,” Flanagan said. “I think we came in kind of with a little bit of an advantage understanding what to do on this type of terrain and (I) think that ultimately helped quite a bit.”
The fourth-place finish for Michigan comes two weeks after a first-place finish in the Adidas XC Challenge at North Carolina State.
This weekend’s invitational served as an important outing for a team filled with freshmen and other inexperienced runners.
“The thing that was wonderful about NC State and the Michigan Open starting things off is it gave guys the opportunity to figure out where they stood relative to other teammates and taught them how to work together in a smaller field, and ultimately run for a very high placing,” Flanagan said. “Whereas today, it gave us a lot of an understanding of what races are like down the road at national championships and (the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational), where there are a lot of bodies around.”
The Wolverines also received top-50 finishes from fifth-year seniors Connor Mora and Billy Bund, redshirt freshman Isaac Harding and redshirt sophomores Keenan Rebera and Ben Hill, who finished 30th, 31st, 35th, 46th and 47th respectively.
“A lot of it has to do with just preparation that we put into this race,” Flanagan said. “Aside from the championship portion of the season, with the Big Ten (championship), regionals and nationals, we put a pretty good priority on this race and the Wisconsin invite in two weeks.”
With momentum building, the team is putting itself in position to accomplish its biggest goal this season: a Big Ten championship.
“That’s something we decided on very early, and we believe we’re very capable of doing (it),” Flanagan said. “Nationally is a bit of a harder discussion just because of how many teams there are and how chaotic the meets tend to be.”
With the regular season drawing to a close, the Wolverines will look for a similar performance in Madison on Oct. 13 when they face 34 other teams in the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, another marquee race for the upward-trending team.