Michigan men’s cross country coach Ron Warhurst raced at the historic Van Cortland Park in New York 46 years ago.
He returned Saturday with his team for the Br. Doyle Meet of Champions, and the Wolverines dominated.
Redshirt sophomore Ciaran O’Lionaird was Michigan’s top finisher for the second meet in a row. After winning the Spartan Invite last weekend, O’Lionaird finished third in New York. The Wolverines won the meet with 39 points far ahead of second place Penn State (121 points).
With senior Lex Williams sidelined with a sore back, Michigan needed O’Lionaird to step up.
Unlike Michigan, No. 4 Iona, No. 18 Providence, and Penn State all had raced on the course before.
But once the gun sounded, the Wolverines weren’t intimidated.
“I haven’t felt at home at a race as I did today,” O’Lionaird said. “We had so (many) supporters on the course. We had a lot of parents. A lot of alums came out. Even alums who ran 20 years ago under Ronnie came out and supported us today.”
For the first four miles of the race, O’Lionaird kept up with Iona’s Mohamed Khadraoui, who finished second on his home course.
“At four miles, it’s a steep hill about 300 meters long,” Warhurst said. “The kid from Iona made a quick break up the hill and Ciaran just kind of didn’t fight him on it.”
Though Khadraoui beat O’Lionaird up the hill, Michigan found overall success for the day.
In addition to O’Lionaird’s third place finish, sophomore Craig Forys came in fourth (24.52) and redshirt junior Sean McNamara finished sixth (24.56).
This specific course had special meaning behind it for Michigan. Warhurst had raced at the famous cross-country course in 1962.
“Its great that we were able to go to a big city like New York,” O’Lionaird said. “It’s away from home. It’s our first time out on the East Coast, and yet we still have so much support. So many people getting behind us in the race, and it makes you proud to be running for Michigan. It makes you proud to be a Wolverine.”
The Wolverines had trained hard all week, running more than 95 miles.
“Definitely weren’t resting for this one,” Warhurst said.
Though the Wolverines won the event convincingly, O’Lionaird thought they were capable of “team domination” had they not been so fatigued.
“I think you see the hard work we are doing now will really show come Big Ten, come regionals, come nationals,” O’Lionaird said. “But you don’t see it just yet, because we are tired. But once we start easing up, I think there’s more to come from this team”