DEXTER — The only advice that Michigan coach Ron Warhurst gave freshman Bobby Aprill and redshirt junior John Black before Friday’s race was, “Take your clothes off and run. You gotta go.”
It was simple advice, but taking off their warm-up gear in the 45-degree weather was a more difficult task.
Yet, it brought out the toughest in Aprill and Black, the sole Wolverines competing in the 10k EMU Fall Classic at Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter.
Warhurst didn’t mind the rain, mud, sloppy course, or cold weather. He said too many nice days with nice races can make a cross country runner soft.
“You have to be a gritty kind of kid to run in weather like this, and they’re both pretty gritty,” Warhurst said. “That brings the best out of them.”
From the start of the race, it was obvious Aprill and Black weren’t going to let the unfavorable weather conditions affect their races.
“Everyone knows it’s a crappy day,” Aprill said. “Everyone’s cold. Everyone’s wet. So, it’s whoever gets over those things and realizes that you still have to run the same, as if it’s a beautiful day.”
Aprill was the top collegiate runner, placing sixth with a time of 31:32 and beating his previous personal best by 44 seconds.
Black was not far behind, finishing ninth with a time of 31:57.
Aprill and Black went out strong in a 5:02 opening mile, sticking close to Warhurst’s five-minute-mile pace goal. Both runners stayed with the front pack, which included five Hansons-Brooks Team professional runners and 2004 Eastern Michigan graduate Jordan Desilets, who competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
But after the first mile, Aprill knew he couldn’t stick to Warhurst’s race plan any longer. The weather wasn’t favoring a five-minute-mile pace — instead, Aprill would just need to race with the front pack.
“Once you get guys up front with you, plans kind of disappear and you start racing, just try to beat the other guy,” Aprill said.
The rain pressed on throughout the race, making the muddy course even worse. Black found himself relying on his teammates for motivation in the gloomy weather. The entire men’s cross country team had rescheduled practice to come to the non-scoring EMU Fall Classic to support their teammates.
“Having them out there, even though they weren’t on the course, definitely helped,” Black said.
The Wolverines, with the exception of Aprill and Black, had hard workouts throughout the week gearing up for this Saturday’s Big Ten Championships. While Warhurst would not disclose whether Aprill or Black will be in the nine-man line up for the Wolverines this Saturday, he will likely announce his race roster today.