Each year, 70 runners representing ten different schools wait
for the sound of a gun to explode into a rigorous run of 10,000
meters.

All of these remarkably conditioned men stand poised at the
starting line, immeasurably anxious for the race ahead.

This is the scene at the beginning of the men’s cross
country Big Ten Championships, though Northwestern, which does not
field a team, is absent. Each individual athlete is looking to push
himself harder than the person next to him, while simultaneously
pushing his teammates to do well with him.

But on Oct. 31 — when the Big Ten Championships will be
held in Iowa City — there will be seven runners from
Michigan’s cross country team who won’t be competing
for first place in the team standings.

They’ll be counting on second.

Why not go for first? Go for the gold? Shoot for the stars? One
word — Badgers. Wisconsin has taken first in the Big Ten
Championships for the past five years.

In that span of time, the Michigan cross country team has come
up just short all too often — finishing in second place to
Wisconsin on three of those five occasions.

But what about being an underdog? What about the
come-from-behind, miracle win like in all of every famous sports
movies? Not this year, says Michigan coach Ron Warhurst, who
— in his 31st year as Michigan’s head coach — may
be a motivator, but is also a realist.

“Wisconsin is loaded.” Warhurst said.
“We’ll take second place in the Big Ten and second in
our NCAA region.”

Everyone around the Michigan program expresses excitement about
how great the team can be and how much potential it has if some key
guys step up.

But, according to the Wolverines, the gap between themselves and
Wisconsin might be too large to close this season — no matter
how quickly Michigan’s athletes are able to develop.

Still, the Wolverines continue to train vigorously, hoping
— without much passion — that David could possibly beat
Goliath.

“It’s a long shot of us beating Wisconsin at the Big
Ten, but anything can happen,” freshman Mike Woods said.

Senior speed demon Nate Brannen has seen his squad fall to its
conference rivals all three of his years at Michigan and
doesn’t seem too confident in his team’s chances this
season.

“It’s unlikely we’ll beat Wisconsin this
season — they’re ranked first in the country,”
Brannen said. “If we race well and snag the team title,
it’d be great.

“But they’ll win unless they lose it for
themselves.”

But some of the runners seem to be more optimistic than
others.

Sophomore Todd Iacovelli is looking to make his mark on the team
and on the nation by becoming a legitimate contender for
Michigan.

“It’s important for us to finish high in every meet,
not just the Big Ten Championships, but we can’t control what
other teams do,” Iacovelli said. “We have a solid core
of people all working hard.

“And with that, good things will happen.”

The Wolverines look ahead to the Big Ten Championships and will
test their skills at their first scored meet of the season this
Friday at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary,
N.C.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.