It’s nice to do well early, but it’s the end of the season that counts.

Sunday, the No. 12 Michigan men’s cross country team will begin to see what it is made of as it travels to West Lafayette to compete in the Big Ten Championships.

The Wolverines will have their hands full as the Big Ten is perhaps the strongest conference in the nation. It boasts an impressive record with seven of its 11 teams in the national top 30.

Heading into this weekend, No. 11 Wisconsin is considered to be the favorite. The Badgers have yet to show their full lineup in any race due to injuries, but they are expected to be ready to run this weekend.

“I think if Wisconsin is very healthy with all their eight people, they will win the Big Ten and there will be six teams fighting for second,” Michigan coach Ron Warhurst said.

No. 15 Minnesota also should have a strong showing, having defeated a Wisconsin team last week that was not racing its entire lineup.

In addition, No. 23 Michigan State has been resurging as of late, along with No. 20 Ohio State. Both teams – previously unranked – jumped into the top 30 this week.

Rounding out the top competitors are No. 18 Indiana and No. 23 Iowa.

Warhurst believes the Big Ten Championships are a very important part to his team’s year.

“It’s a start towards respectability, towards stepping into the national scene,” Warhurst said.

The Big Ten Championships will be the team’s first championship meet, and it will be followed by the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship on Nov. 16. The top two teams from the regional meet receive automatic bids into the NCAA Championships the following week, while the remaining teams duke it out for at-large bids.

At the Great Lakes Regional meet, the seven top 30 teams from the Big Ten will be joined by three more top-30 teams – No. 7 Eastern Michigan, No. 8 Central Michigan and No. 19 Butler.

“You’ve got to be able to stand tall and beat people (at the regional meet),” Warhurst said. “There’s at-large bids, but they’re not taking nine teams, I’ll tell you that.”

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