Freshman Mike Woods is no stranger to the pipeline that sends
top Canadian runners to the University. All-Americans Kevin
Sullivan and Nate Brannen are just a couple of recent passengers
who have enjoyed success in Ann Arbor. Woods, a native of Ottawa,
Ontario, plans to be the next star from north of the border for the
No. 7 Michigan cross country team.

“If you’re a top distance runner from Canada,
you’re looking at Michigan — it’s a great
tradition,” Woods said.

When he received an e-mail from Brannen last summer urging him
to be a Wolverine, it further reinforced Woods’s desire to
attend Michigan.

“In high school, I idolized Nate Brannen,” Woods
said. It was awesome when I got that e-mail — it was a really
big deal to me.”

But Woods did explore his options — of which he had
plenty. He received offers from traditional powerhouses Wisconsin,
Arizona State and Villanova, among others. In the end, he
couldn’t say no to the Michigan tradition and coach Ron
Warhurst.

“He’s a special guy,” Woods said of Warhurst,
who has reached iconic status during his 31 seasons in the
program.

The feeling was mutual with Warhurst. He recalled Woods’s
prowess as a miler on the prep scene, which earned him first place
at the 2004 Canadian National Junior Championship in the 1,500- and
3,000-meters. But, Warhurst knew that running 8,000-meter and
10,000-meter lengths at the collegiate level would require some
progress on Woods’s part.

“He was a great miler in high school and I think
he’s made the adjustments quite well,” Warhurst
said.

Woods feels that the transition to longer distance has been a
little bumpy, but his times and finishes paint a smoother picture.
In his collegiate debut, Woods claimed second place at the Spartan
Invitational on Sept. 17 in East Lansing. One month later, he
achieved a personal-best time of 24:47.1, placing 42nd at the NCAA
Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind.

Woods was disappointed with his most recent finish of 23rd at
the Big Ten Championships on Oct. 31 in Iowa City.

“One of my goals before the season was to be Freshman of
the Year in the Big Ten, but I was the second freshman to cross the
line in that race,” Woods said.

Woods can redeem himself on Nov. 22 at the NCAA Championships.
But the Wolverines have to qualify for nationals on Saturday at the
NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Ypsilanti. Woods’s parents,
Barry and Deanna, will be in attendance, and Woods expects the team
to qualify.

Aside from finishing the cross country season on a high note,
Woods is excited for track to begin. He sets his goals a bit higher
as he vies to be an All-American in the mile his freshman year. If
he meets his objective of running 3:54, it is very possible.

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