DEXTER, Mich. — With the Big Ten Championships looming on Sunday, the top nine runners for the No. 5 Michigan men’s cross country team took the time to get some extra practice and rest in on Friday.
Other members of the team, however, received a taste of competition at the Eastern Michigan Fall Classic, a 5K race held at Hudson Mills Metro Park in Dexter.
The Wolverines brought eight uniformed athletes to the event, with several others running unattached. Out of 81 competitors, fifth-year senior transfer Jonathan Phillips (15:03.1) and redshirt freshman Kyle Kroon (15:10.1) finished second and third, respectively, though Phillips ran unattached.
The two leading men for Michigan finished behind only Justine Kiprotich (14:58.7), who was running unattached for Michigan State.
“Going into it, it was good to have a few races under me,” Kroon said. “It was the first time I was the top guy on our team going in, so it was a different mental game.”
Friday’s meet was the second time Kroon had run at Hudson Mills. His performance proved to be a 40-second improvement from his first outing there at the beginning of last season.
Phillips, who is not eligible for the Big Ten Championships, has been training with the Wolverines all season to prepare for indoor and outdoor track.
“I was a little bummed about getting second, getting out-kicked,” Phillips said. “But I put forth a real solid effort — (I) went out hard and kind of got in there right from the gun and just kept at it, kept grinding the whole race. I was pretty happy with that.”
Five other uniformed Wolverines finished in the top 15. Joining Kroon in the top 10 were redshirt freshmen Colin Martin (15:22.4) and Chase Barnett (15:23.7), who placed ninth and 10th, respectively.
They were followed by redshirt sophomore Cody Snavely (15:27.8), redshirt sophomore Will Burke (15:27.9) and senior Alex Moran (15:29.8), who finished 13th through 15th, respectively.
Freshman Keenan Rebera (15:17.5) joined Phillips as the other unattached runner from Michigan to place in the top 10, coming in at seventh.
“(This) was a chance for guys that didn’t make our Big Ten roster to get a competitive opportunity,” said Michigan coach Kevin Sullivan. “I need them to stay sharp in case we need to put them in for regionals or nationals, so part of it was making sure that we’re staying in a competitive mindset and staying focused on the full extent of the season.”
Though the Wolverines’ secondary lineup turned in a wholly impressive performance at Hudson Mills, Sullivan made it clear that Michigan is not only looking to win, but to dominate its opponents.
“I thought it was a little bit of a mixed bag,” Sullivan said. “We had a few guys running in jerseys that need to take another step up. We didn’t quite see what we were looking for today from some of those guys, but we’re going to keep plugging away and keep working at it.”
The EMU Fall Classic was the final race of the regular season for the Wolverines. Next up is the Big Ten Championships, which will take place in Chicago at the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course on Sunday.
“I think our guys are feeling good,” Sullivan said. “We’re in good shape going into Big Tens. We’re going to have to come with all nine guys running their best, but if we come in and put it all together, we’ll have a shot to win.
“We expect to be competing for a championship.”