After two Michigan men’s cross country team members finished in the top 10, it looked like the Wolverines would repeat history and take a high position at this year’s Big Ten Championships. In the past 20 years, Michigan has placed outside of the top two just six times.
The youth of Michigan’s three-to-five slot runners proved too much, however, as the next Wolverine to cross the finish line came more than a minute later – in 53rd place.
The Wolverines took eighth place on Sunday at the Big Ten Championships in Madison, finishing with a score of 185. Wisconsin took the number-one spot for the 12th consecutive year.
“The execution on race day is really where our big improvement is going to have to come,” Michigan coach Alex Gibby said after the race. “We’ve got some guys running hard, certainly, but they’re not racing and there’s a little bit of a difference there.”
Junior Bobby Aprill set the pace for the Wolverines for the second time this season, previously crossing the line first for Michigan at the NCAA Pre-Nationals on Oct. 16. Aprill finished with a time of 23:50.9, earning him seventh place in Madison. It was a personal best in the 8,000-meter event, shaving 32 seconds off his previous time.
“Over the past few weeks you could see him taking a step forward physically,” Gibby said of Aprill. “And now he’s starting to form mentally at the level he’s been training at, in a competitive sense.”
Redshirt junior Craig Forys crossed the finish line just seven seconds after Aprill, capturing the final slot in the top 10 with a time of 23:57.6. It was the 12th time that Forys finished in the top 15 during his collegiate career at Michigan.
“Bobby and Craig were tremendous; they really did a very good job,” Gibby said. “Bobby earned his first All-Big Ten honors, and Craig, after a layoff last year due to injury, was able to return to form.”
The Wolverines could not keep up their fast pace as several other schools pulled ahead with numerous finishes over the next minute.
The next two Michigan runners to finish took 53rd and 55th place. Freshman Sean Bone finished with a time of 25:02, and freshman Morsi Rayyan followed him in shortly thereafter, finishing in 25:07.
“We had good races out of Sean Bone and Morsi Rayyan, who are two walk-on freshmen, but they’re just not ready yet to be at that Big Ten level,” Gibby said. “We just need to get a lot better production out of our sophomore class right now. They’re not competing at a level that will help us move forward.”
Michigan boasts a young team, and Gibby said that though the freshmen will be much better in the future, the Wolverines are currently going through some growing pains.
“What I see as the key to our success at the regional level are the performances by sophomores like Derek Henning, Zach Ornelas and Dallas Bowden,” Gibby said. “In practice, they’re running respectably close to what Craig has been doing and pretty close to what Bobby’s been doing. The racing results just haven’t reflected it yet.”
The Wolverines will take next weekend off as they prepare for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Rochester, Michigan on Nov. 13.