EAST LANSING – The Michigan men’s cross country team is showing signs of great improvement from last year, placing four runners in the top 10 at the non-scoring Spartan Invitational while resting its two best athletes. Of the six current runners who ran at this meet last year, four improved their times by 30 seconds or more.
Tom Greenless, for the second consecutive meet, led all finishers across the line with a time of 24:35, which was 10 seconds ahead of Ohio State’s Brian Olingger.
“The wind was really bad,” Greenless said. “But we ran well as a team and took control over the last two miles.”
Senior captain Nick Stanko and junior Tarn Leach ran stride for stride to the finish line, placing sixth and seventh, respectively. Rounding out the top 10 in the 8,000-meter race was junior Sean Moore.
“Compared to last year, everyone ran very well,” Michigan coach Ron Warhurst said. “Even with worse conditions, everyone had better times at this race than they did last year.”
Unpredictably cold weather and harsh winds provided an interesting challenge for No. 7 Michigan. Michigan’s four top-10 finishers used a unique strategy to gain an edge on the competition. They ran behind some Ohio State runners for most of the race, using them as human shields to block the strong, cold wind. With about a mile-and-a-half remaining, Greenless, Stanko, Leach and Moore positioned themselves to finish in the top 10. Once Greenless was securely in front, he held off his opponents to capture the individual title.
“Tom Greenless has made a tremendous step forward from last year,” Warhurst said. “He (bettered) his time from last year by almost a minute.”
With nine runners returning from last year’s team, Warhurst is well aware that experience and depth are two of Michigan’s best assets. To meet Warhurst’s high expectations, the Wolverines practice hard on a regular basis, sometimes running 15 miles in a single day. The team’s strong performance in this meet shows that it is much improved from last year when it was unranked at this time of the season.
Michigan hopes to move up in the standings with the help of All-Americans Nate Brannen and Nick Willis, who sat out this race in order to prepare for the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N. C., which takes place this weekend.