Mason Ferlic landed awkwardly in the final water pit of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Friday. All of his momentum had been lost, and the fifth-year senior distance runner knew that he would have to get it back quickly in order to keep his lead and win the national championship.

At least he thought that’s what was necessary.

“At that point the legs were very, very heavy,” Ferlic said. “I didn’t move as quickly as I wanted to the line, and I know that I had about ten seconds on the next guy coming into the bell lap, but I was thinking ‘Oh, come on. Just get to the line before somebody comes around me.’ ”

Despite the stumble, Ferlic finished the race 3.51 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher to win just the second national championship for Michigan in the 3,000-meter steeplechase — 33 years after the Wolverines’ first title in 1983.

Though the race ended in a way that, according to Ferlic, made him nervous, the hardest part of the day was before he even stepped on the track.

“The worst part is the eight hours in the hotel room leading up to the race,” Ferlic said. “With an evening race, you eat your breakfast, and it is just you and your thoughts that whole time. I just tried to distract myself by doing something else while sitting around.

“I did some crossword puzzles, watched a little bit of ‘Alaskan Bush People’ and read a little bit. I just (did) some things to keep my mind off of the race.”

But once it came to running the actual race, Ferlic had almost no trouble, opening up a big lead before he had even finished his second lap.

Ferlic’s success wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as he entered the race ranked No. 1 in the country in the event. What did surprise Ferlic and his coaches, though, was the lack of a push from the rest of his competitors.

“I was a little bit surprised that nobody went with the early move that he made,” said Michigan assistant coach Kevin Sullivan. “But he was running at a level above a lot of guys, and that’s just his natural ability. So it didn’t surprise me that he built up a lead, it just surprised me that nobody challenged initially.”

And the challenge never came. Though the slight mishap at the end of the race may have cost Ferlic in margin of victory, his time of 8:27.16 was a new personal record, besting his old mark by 1.61 seconds.

Ferlic’s time was also below the Olympic standard of 8:30 for the event. Though it isn’t his first time running below that mark, he is the only collegiate athlete to run under 8:30 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

But in the end, Ferlic mostly focused on winning the national championship, a feat that he has been working toward for five years at Michigan.

“I remember that feeling vividly,” Ferlic said. “Stepping on the line, I said, ‘Hell yeah. I just won the national championship in front of 10,000 people.’ ”

Added Sullivan: “He puts his mark on the board as another national champion. There’s a lot of great history in our program, and a lot of fantastic national champions. But now, Mason gets to add himself to that list.”

Ferlic’s season isn’t done by any means. He will now train for his return trip to Eugene in the first week of July for the Olympic Trials.

But Ferlic can enter that training process with great confidence now knowing that, even with a bit of a stumble, he ran his best time at the end of the season to reach his ultimate goal: becoming a national champion.

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