An event that included representatives from four of the Power Five conferences — as well as some lesser known but equally potent foes from around the country — was the perfect place to make a statement with just weeks until conference championships.
The No. 18 Michigan men’s cross country team showcased its abundance of depth, as well as high levels of individual consistency, with an 11th place showing at the Nuttycombe invitational in Wisconsin last Friday. The 33-team field included 15 units ranked in the top 25 of the Coaches' Poll.
The Wolverines featured one of the tightest spreads of the field, with all seven runners crossing the line within 45 seconds of one another. After a predictably fast first two kilometers, junior Devin Meyrer, freshman Nick Foster and junior Joost Plaetinck split low and even throughout the remainder of the race to move up the pack and finish in that order.
Meyrer, a transfer from Baylor, noted a desire for teammates who would challenge him as a primary motivation for his change of scenery.
“I realized that if I wanted to be the best runner I could be, I needed to have more guys to train with,” Meyrer said.
The last pair of kilometers were the most chaotic, with a large diversity of times leading to a shuffling of runners, especially outside the top 10. The geography of the course contributed to this statistical consistency.
“The race didn’t really crack open until 6k,” Meyrer said. “The course caused a lot of guys to bunch up … it was hard to get up and keep pushing.”
The late-race frenzy cost the Wolverines some points in the back half of their lineup. Junior Jack Aho and sophomore Ben Hill, running in the crucial displacing roles, tumbled in the standings after losing steam in the latter half of the race. Michigan coach Kevin Sullivan remarked that this is one of the areas the team needs to improve on going into championship season.
“Once we get a couple guys moved a little closer to the front, that’s gonna put us in a much better position,” Sullivan said.
Shouting his responses above the din of a satisfied team post-race, Meyrer noted the importance of cooperation and teamwork in what appears, at first glance, to be a sport rooted in individual practice and performance.
“We have a group of seven guys and countless others all working together,” Meyrer said. “When someone’s feeling bad, we’ll pull them along, and when someone’s feeling good they’ll pull along someone else.”