Michigan redshirt junior Peter Christmas crossed the finish line covered in mud at the Michigan Intercollegiate Invitational. Besides being a little dirty, this race was different from his others. For the first time in his collegiate career, the Ann Arbor native finished in first place.

“I want to consistently be in the top,” Christmas said. “I’ve done that so far this season and this one was just my day.”

The wet and muddy conditions Friday at the Gainey Athletic Complex couldn’t slow down the Michigan men’s cross country team from earning its second event title of the season.

Michigan placed four in the top 10 to secure the invite title (32 points), ahead of Grand Valley State (55) and Eastern Michigan (66).

Christmas ran the 8,000-meter course in 25:07.8, good enough for first place. Not far behind were fifth-year senior Sean McNamara, freshman Brendon Blacklaws and sophomore Bobby Aprill, who crossed the finish line third, fourth and ninth, respectively.

Christmas’s progression has been apparent this season. He has finished in the top five of each meet in which he has ran. Christmas finished in the top 10 just twice last year.

“For me, personally, the biggest difference is the mental approach and not worrying about anything if I get sick or have to take a day off. It’s not a big deal,” Christmas said. “Our training is really different this year. Everyone’s not sweating the small stuff.”

Both Christmas and McNamara missed last week’s meet due to illness, and the duo agreed to take the front of the field so they wouldn’t get stuck in the mud in the back of the pack.

While some of the Wolverines didn’t mind running in the mud, others had difficulties gaining traction on the ground.

“Some of our non-milers who run more on the back of their feet had a tough time staying up in the mud,” Aprill said.

The meet brings Michigan’s best teams together in an annual matchup for bragging rights. Despite Michigan’s relative lack of depth, it was clear Friday afternoon that the Wolverines were the strongest group at the meet, bolstered by their solid core of juniors and seniors.

The success of the freshmen has been a pleasant surprise for the team. They have contributed in every meet thus far and are keeping up the pace in practice, especially with rigorous speed workouts beginning last week.

“They looked really good,” Aprill said of the younger guys on the team. “They were a little nervous going into it because of the pure volume of it. It was the first time we dipped below five minute pace (per mile) but they handled it very well.”

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