TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — On a chilly, wet day in Terra Haute, the 17th-ranked Michigan men’s cross country team returned to the NCAA championships for the first time since 2008.
The Wolverines, led by Coach Alex Gibby in his second year at the helm, posted a team finish of 20th out of the 31 teams at the NCAA finals. Wisconsin was the winner of the 10-kilometer event.
Michigan was led on the field by redshirt senior Craig Forys. Forys stayed with a pack of Michigan runners consisting of junior Brendon Blacklaws, senior Bobby Aprill, and Junior Zach Ornelas before pushing ahead in the second half.
The finishing burst earned Forys a personal best 30:37.03 for the national course and the 75th-overall spot.
“I was individually trying to find my way up to the top 40 and earn my All-American spot, which, in turn, would have been a great asset for the team,” Forys said.
Getting ahead this week in Terre Haute proved to be much tougher than last week at the NCAA regional meet in Toledo, where several of the runners posted career best times.
On Monday at the NCAA championships, Michigan faced a tougher course, and a tougher crowd,
“We tried to work our way up, but it’s just a really tough course and a really tough race with all of those bodies around you,” Forys said.
Fast bodies bunching up on a narrow course are just part of the adversity. The national meet is difficult for a number of reasons, be it the extended training cycle, the hectic, overwhelming environment or natural ups and downs of any team sport.
“There are very few people that get to this meet with everything going right,” said Michigan coach Alex Gibby.
Still, the runners pushed their way through to their expressed goal of making it to the top 20 in the nation.
“I don’t think guys ever quit during the race even when it wasn’t going too well, and that saved us because we ended up beating Washington State by one point,” Gibby said.
Next season, Michigan will be missing two of its top runners, Forys and senior Bobby Aprill, to graduation. While Gibby admits the team dynamic will change and he will have to make adjustments, the focus remains on moving forward with team.
Even having met this season’s goals, Gibby won’t let himself be too satisfied.
“It’s a good result, it could have been a little better but it’s a start,” Gibby said.
As for the runners, Foyrs and April aren’t done with Michigan. They plan to represent the Michigan men’s track and field teams this coming winter and spring.