EAST LANSING — If linemen and Brady Hoke are tough because they never wearing sleeves, so are the men’s cross country runners who fearlessly stripped down to their normal uniform of short shorts and tank tops as spectators stood shivering in their coats Sunday.
Early in the afternoon on a wet and rainy autumn afternoon, the Wolverines traveled to Michigan State for the Big Ten Championships and came away with second place and three All-Big Ten honorees. Wisconsin took home the championship trophy after all five of its top runners who count towards their team score, finished in the top-15.
Leading the Wolverines was fifth-year senior Dan Lowry, who finished the 8,000 meter course in 23:40. This was his first time at the Big Ten Championships and he finished in fifth place earning him first-team All-Big Ten honors.
On a windy afternoon, Lowry had success by running in the back of the lead group, letting the wind wear down the guys in front.
“My race plan was to get up in the top group within two miles, and if one or two guys went, let them go and just try and stay content and catch them in the end,” Lowry said.” Most of the race was actually pretty easy, it was tactical, and then (in) the last 1,500 (meters), things got going pretty fast and I couldn’t quite hang on to the top group.”
Juniors Morsi Rayyan and Mark Beams finished with second-team All-Big Ten honors, coming in 13th and 14th place. Freshman Tony Smoragiewicz and senior Zach Ornelas finished close behind in 16th and 17th place.
“Morsi and Beams have come as far as any kids in the country in the last two years, so I was really proud of their efforts,” said Michigan coach Alex Gibby. “I think if our tactics were a little sharper we could have had another guy or two on the stand.”
Rayyan, Beams and Ornelas had a specific race plan that focused on strength in numbers. From the beginning, they planned on sticking together and pushing each other forward.
“We got separated initially, but we found each other and worked with that chase pack,” Rayyan said.
Rayyan was able to race extremely well despite having a rough week leading up to the race, when he got sick and had soft tissue damage in his lower leg.
“This week has been kind of a roller coaster,” said Rayyan. “It was nice to get out here and just have both of those things disappear on the starting line and get something done today.”
The Big Ten Championships have been the main focus of the season thus far for the Wolverines. As far as the team is concerned, this is the beginning of what they call the “Championship” season including the Big Ten meet, Regionals and Nationals, and everything up to this point has been in preparation for this time of the year. So when it was time to race, Michigan was ready.
“Once you get over that initial shock when the gun goes off, it’s all business,” Rayyan said.