In his first cross country race in almost a year, redshirt junior Brendon Blacklaws was only 3 seconds shy of running an all-time personal best last Friday at the eight-kilometer Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend. As the only member of Michigan’s ‘A’ team in action, Blacklaws finished 45th overall with a time of 24:29.
“He’s a little rusty and while I don’t think he’s in our top five or six guys yet, he’s shown himself to be in the position in a month to affect our position at the Big Ten Championships,” said Michigan coach Alex Gibby.
Though Blacklaws did not run fast enough to crack the core group of runners up front for Michigan, he would have been one of the top contributors for some of the other teams that were competing at the meet.
The purpose of the meet was to give Michigan’s younger runners that aren’t on the ‘A’ team an opportunity to compete and improve.
“I think that bodes well for where our varsity will be once we put them back together in Wisconsin on Oct. 12,” Gibby said, referencing Michigan’s next meet at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational.
Michigan was able to notch 500 points and finished 19th out of 20 teams in the overall scores. The race was competitive with nine of the top 10 finishers being ranked nationally in the top 30. No. 20 ranked Tulsa finished first with 104 points.
Redshirt sophomore James Yau capitalized on this opportunity by running a personal best of 25:05 while finishing second on the team. Freshman Alex Moran and redshirt freshman Jeff Sattler also clocked in career best times, 25:14 and 25:29, respectively.
“Moran in particular bounced back from a very difficult experience at the University of Virginia last week and performed pretty well, which is a difficult step for a freshman,” Gibby said.
In Moran’s last race in Virginia he struggled and crossed the finish line in 26:54, a time much slower than he wanted. It was important for him to recover and have a good race Friday, which he clearly did by knocking 1:40 off of his time. Friday’’s race was his second eight-kilometer race in six days — something that is tough for any runner to do, let alone someone in their freshman season.
Redshirt junior Dallas North finished fifth on the team with a time of 25:36, followed by junior Matt Popielarz and redshirt freshman Trevor Denton with times of 25:53 and 26:11, respectively.
The future looks bright for Michigan, as its strong group of young runners has shown improvement throughout the season. Michigan hopes that as they become accustomed to running eight-kilometer races, they will lower their times and help contribute to the team.
“They are a middle distance oriented group and as we mature, results should follow accordingly,” Gibby said.