TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – To the Michigan men’s cross country team, stepping up to the start line packed with some of the fastest men in the nation was more of an accomplishment than the final results suggest.
No. 11 Michigan finished a disappointing 24th at the NCAA Championships Monday on Indiana State’s LaVern Gibson championship course.
“They could have raced better,” Michigan coach Ron Warhurst said. “I thought with an average race we could at least made the top 20, but we ran a little below average.”
The Wolverines qualified for Nationals behind their unexpected first-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional last week. Yesterday’s race was Michigan’s first team appearance at Nationals since 2004 and the first Nationals race for all participating Wolverines.
“Everyone who raced for our team, it was our first race at Nationals,” junior John Black said. “It was good to get some experience.”
The men’s race featured the country’s powerhouse cross country programs including four Big Ten teams and eventual National Champion Oregon, which entered Nationals as the nation’s top-ranked squad.
The Wolverines had difficulty establishing strong position early in a fast field. They continued to struggle, steadily losing position throughout the race.
Michigan found a bright spot in Lex Williams’s performance. The junior finished 66th (31:00) to lead the Wolverines.
Williams fought his way near the top 30 in the first few thousand meters, but fell back around the eight-kilometer mark.
“Lex really ran a tough race,” Black said. “He really pushed it forward. He definitely put it on the line going out hard.”
Sophomore Brandon Fellows (31:18), freshman Craig Forys (31:20), Black (31:27) and junior Victor Gras (31:30) rounded out Michigan’s top scorers.
The Wolverines suffered another setback when they lost their No. 2 runner, Sean McNamara, to injury. The sophomore got caught in a tangle when two runners fell in his path at the 3,000-meter mark. McNamara turned an ankle trying to dodge the duo and was forced to drop out at 5,000 meters.
Despite a mediocre performance, Warhurst was pleased his team participated in the National meet.
“We got here, and the whole team’s coming back for next year so we’ve got experience,” Warhurst said.