MINNEAPOLIS – Coming in with high expectations, the Michigan men’s cross country team went to Minneapolis last weekend to compete for the cross country Big Ten Championship. But, just as the rain fell all morning, so did the hopes of the Wolverines. In a disheartening and surprising performance, Michigan took fifth place at the championships.
“I’m shocked and disappointed right now,” coach Ron Warhurst said.
“It’s just hard to believe that we came in here with hopes of taking second or third and we had to fight to take the place we did.”
Taking second or third was the goal of most of the teams in the race, as expected-favorite Wisconsin dominated the field. The Badgers were able to run in one pack for the majority of the race and had eight runners finish in the top nine spots – attaining nearly a perfect score. The Wolverines, on the other hand, struggled to implement their gameplan and stay in a pack out on the course.
“We just didn’t work together out there,” sophomore Seth Thibodeau said.
“When we run, we usually pack up, but it just fell apart. We didn’t react to what was going on in the race, and we never made our move together.”
Running more as individuals throughout the race, the top five runners for Michigan placed sporadically in the race, finishing anywhere from 15th to 41st. Michigan was paced by sophomore Mike Woods who was the 15th-place finisher with a time of 24:52:78 in the 8K. Woods was trailed by his teammates redshirt freshman Victor Gras, redshirt junior Ethan Brown, senior Rondell Ruff and redshirt junior Andrew Bauer who finished 20th, 27th, 30th and 41st, respectively. All places that simply fell below the men’s expectations
“We’re really disappointed right now,” Bauer said. “I know I ran terribly and am not happy with my performance. The best thing we can do at this point is just put this one behind us.”
With regional and NCAA championships coming up, that may be the very thing the Wolverines should do. With a talented core of guys who have expectations to perform well on the national level, the men’s team is still No. 17 in the country. Yet, if it is to meet these goals, then the way Michigan recovers from this weekend’s setback will be crucial.
“We’re going to need some good practices this week,” Thibodeau said.
“We’re going to have to move on from this and just work hard in the next two weeks.”
Immediately following the race, Warhurst seemed skeptical that even practice would make the difference.
“We’ve run the same type of practices here for five years and the guys have always responded and came out and ran well,” Warhurst said. “Right now, if we run like we did today at regionals, we won’t be sending anyone to the NCAA championship.”