It was a young team, with a new coach, and listed only 22nd in a coach’s preseason poll. Yet the 2014 Michigan men’s cross country team achieved something unexpected.
It stayed competitive and made program history.
Alumnus and head coach Kevin Sullivan led his team to the program’s highest-ever finish (11th) at the NCAA Championships, a record previously held by the esteemed Michigan coach Ron Warhurst, who’s best team finished 12th.
Starting off with an impressive showing at a non-scoring event in Dexter, Michigan for the season opener, the Wolverines climbed in the polls week after week with very few hiccups.
Their road to success was highlighted with standout performances from then-redshirt juniors Mason Ferlic and August Pappas.
Ferlic, the multi-year captain, along with Pappas and then-sophomore Ben Flanagan, led the team to a third-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional Championships. Despite the strong finish, the Wolverines fell one place short of receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
Losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin had the Wolverines impatiently waiting for an anticipated at-large bid—which they eventually did receive.
Ferlic repeatedly led the Wolverines in various events and was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week three times. The rising fifth-year senior’s top performance was at the NCAA Championships themselves, where he was the top-scorer in the trio of Wolverines who ran the 10,000-meter race, placing 13th in a field of 250 runners. This earned him the program’s first back-to-back All-American honors in a decade.
The team’s best finish was at the Blue and Gold Invitational in South Bend, Indiana, where it earned a total of 97 points for first place, with the runner-up BYU coming in 15 points later. Ferlic led his team to victory yet again with a first-place finish by more than nine seconds.
Another important contributor in the 2014 season was the team’s only graduating senior, James Yau. He served as the team’s co-captain and was the only student-athlete ROTC cadet on campus. He continuously ran in the top tier of athletes and demonstrated a discipline that inspired the entire team.
It’s been nine months since the Michigan men’s cross country team finished the 2014 season, and in one month they will race their season-opener at the EMU Opener.
But now, they’ll be a slightly older team, with a seasoned coach, and a track record to back them up.