No matter how well a team practices, all goes for naught if it cannot compete at the same high level.
The Michigan men’s cross country team was impressive in its last outing, placing four runners in the top 10 at the Spartan Invitational last Friday.
On Monday, the team headed to Huron Hills Golf Course for its first workout of the week, which consisted of a five-mile course over a series of hills. The runners’ goal: To run hard and to stay together in a pack for as long as possible.
After only being able to keep together for the first two and a half miles on Friday, there was room for improvement. During their practice, the runners ended up staying together in their pack for all five miles, which is no small feat for the team.
“I haven’t seen a team effort like that in many, many years,” said Michigan coach Ron Warhurst, who is in his 29th season with the team.
In previous workouts, both this year and in past seasons, several runners would break away from the pack, and others would fall behind. But Monday’s workout is indicative of the tremendous progress the team has made this season.
“These guys are really staying together. The individuals who are really good are helping the other guys come along,” Warhurst said. “The guys who are (toward) the back end are staying with the good ones.”
Now, it’s just a matter of the team coming out and competing the way that it has been practicing. As Warhurst was quick to point out, any team in any sport can practice and practice and practice, but the circumstances all change during the actual contest.
“You can only improve so much unless you compete,” Warhurst said. “So we want to compete and improve even more, both mentally and physically.”
The Wolverines will have their chance to do so on Friday when they take to the paths of Buhr Park in Ann Arbor, competing in an event hosted by Eastern Michigan.
The eight-kilometer course should be challenging and has been described as having “rolling terrain” by Eastern Michigan coach Brad Fairchild.
Although it’s technically not a home race, Warhurst put the location in perspective.
“Since we don’t have a home meet, it can be considered like one if people want to come and watch us run. It’s really close (to campus).”