Michigan wins Big Ten title
Confidence is the ability to stand on the starting line knowing your team could win. It’s the ability for nine Michigan men to race, ready to give it their all.
It’s the feeling of winning the Big Ten title.
“We started the season with this goal in mind — we were focused,” said fifth-year senior Mason Ferlic. “I saw everyone training with a purpose and everybody showing up to practice with a purpose. These nine guys did something special. Other teams can talk all they want, but it’s the team that gets it done that wins. That feels good.”
This weekend, the No. 5 men’s cross country team traveled to Chicago for the Big Ten Championships. They came back as champions for just the 10th time in program history and the first time since 1998.
“My job is to give my athletes the tools to line up and compete at championships,” said Michigan coach Kevin Sullivan. “When the gun goes off, the race is on them. It’s up to my runners to decide how they want to place. This is about them doing something for themselves and Michigan.”
To date, Ferlic has led the Wolverines in 17 consecutive races and seven postseason competitions. He is the highest-scoring Michigan individual since 2001 and was made an All-Big Ten First Team honoree.
At 1,000 meters after the start of the race, Ferlic watched as a Wisconsin athlete ran ahead of the pack. At 4,000 meters, Ferlic knew the moment was coming up to make his move and close the gap between him and the leading athlete. At 5,000 meters, the course became a three-man race between Ferlic and runners from Purdue and Illinois.
And at the finish line, 8,000 meters from the start, Ferlic placed second with a personal best of 23:19.6.
“I’m proud that (Ferlic) put it all on the line,” Sullivan said. “That’s exactly what I ask the guys to do. I’ve been in this position (as a former Michigan athlete), so it was exciting to see the program get back to where we wanted to be for the last 15 years. It was surreal and exciting and interesting to be where we stood today.”
Added Ferlic: “My goal was to stay connected and be patient with the leading group. It was a hard race today. I don’t know what I would have done differently, McClintock (from Purdue) was the better man. I respect him, he’s a great athlete. We were both trying to win and trying to get that individual title. I knew that it was going to come down to me and him.”
Second of the Michigan scorers was junior co-captain Ben Flanagan, who placed eighth with a time of 23:42.6. Exactly one second later, senior Tony Smoragiewicz finished the course. Both of their times qualified them as second-team honorees. Rounding out the other Michigan scorers were junior Connor Mora in 19th and redshirt junior Nick Renberg in 25th. It was Renberg’s first time competing in the Big Ten Championships.
The remaining competing athletes included redshirt sophomore Micah Beller, his classmate Aaron Baumgarten, fifth-year senior Nick Posada and his classmate August Pappas.
Smoragiewicz, Mora, Renberg, Beller and Baumgarten all ran personal bests.
“I do my very best in my leadership role,” Flanagan said. “But even though I know I’m considered a co-captain, at the end of the day, I see nine captains on this team.”
It was a weekend of big numbers. All five Michigan scorers made it into the top 25. Three all-conference runners competed. Ferlic earned second.
But the number that counts the most is one. For the first time since 1998 Michigan is the Big Ten Champions. And that confidence will last forever.