With the Big Ten Championships less than a month away, Michigan men’s cross country coach Alex Gibby wanted to get an idea of where his team stood.

After sending most of the team’s top runners to the Cowboy Jamboree in Oklahoma two weekends ago, this past weekend was a chance for the team’s younger runners to prove what they could do.

“The Oklahoma State group had most of our key returners,” Gibby said this weekend. “We wanted to give both groups an opportunity to see high-level competition and get at least a valid measuring point of where we are at this point in the season.”

Competing with five freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, the Wolverines finished 20th out of 21 teams this past Saturday at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison.

Although the results weren’t pretty, this race was about gaining experience for the younger runners.

“I wanted to see us compete,” Gibby said. “I wanted to see us go over some of the things we talked about earlier — composure, conservativeness, focus. I wanted to see the process follow through.”

Michigan’s inexperience was exposed early on, as nearly the whole team fell far behind the pack within the first two miles of the eight kilometer race.

“We were just a little too tentative,” Gibby said. “We did a lot of damage to ourselves in the first ten, 15 minutes of running. And in a field of this caliber, if you make a few technical errors, you’re going to get buried. And that’s what happened. We got buried and we stayed buried.”

But there was one Wolverine who didn’t let his youth get the best of him. Freshman Morsi Rayyan finished 103rd overall and led Michigan with a time of 24:55, nearly a full minute ahead of junior Nick Thomas, who was next to cross the finish line for the Wolverines.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest,” Rayyan said. “We were all feeling pretty nervous. I just kind of went out and tried to hold on.”

Rayyan found a way to use his naiveté and his nerves to his advantage. Before the race, Gibby told him to channel his nervous energy for his own benefit. And that is exactly what Rayyan did.

Rayyan’s impressive performance could help land him a spot in the lineup for the Big Ten Championships in a month.

“Morsi really stuck his nose out there and took some risks, and he was rewarded for them,” Gibby said. “I was really pleased with him. He looks like a guy that, when we line up our top seven to nine guys at the Big Tens in a month, he could be an impact guy.”

As for the rest of the team, eliminating simple errors will be key heading into the Big Tens.

“We just didn’t execute very well,” Gibby said. “But if we can eliminate these errors in the next month then it’ll be to our benefit, obviously. And if we don’t, then the individuals who don’t obviously won’t be competing for us at the Big Tens.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.