The Michigan men”s cross country team faced lousy weather, and a challenging course head-on yesterday as it easily won the Wolverine Interregional.
Led by freshman Alan Webb, who won the first home meet of his collegiate career, the Wolverines took six of the top eight places in the race. This gave them a score of just 18 points, which easily beat second-place Purdue and third-place Montana State, which finished with 53 and 70 points, respectively.
Capturing the second and third places for the Wolverines were two seniors, Mike Wisniewski, and Mark Pilja who ran 25:44 and 25:48, respectively.
The meet was somewhat of a breakthrough race for Wisniewski, who showed for the first time in a race this season that he is ready to run with the top guys in the country.
“I haven”t been running well (this season),”Wisniewski said. The senior attributed his fatigue to the high mileage he ran this summer. His improvement yesterday may be due to a slight decrease in mileage, in addition to a week off of racing which gave his legs a chance for some recovery.
“I should be good from here,” Wisniewski said.
Pilja has been a model of consistency this season for the Wolverines, and Sunday”s race was no exception.
“It”s exciting,” Pilja said. “We were hoping to go 1-2-3 (in the race) and have six in the top eight, and we did”.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Wolverines was a fifth-place finish from sophomore Nick Stanko, who covered the course in a time of 26:07. Stanko has been running well this season, but his finishes hasn”t necessarily reflected his ability.
“I”ve had a couple rough weeks,” Stanko said. “But, I think the work I did this summer is finally catching up.”
Rounding out Michigan”s finishers were Tom Greenless, who came home in 26:14, Ryan Hesselink, who crossed the line two seconds after Greenless, and Nathan Brannen who crossed the line in 26:47.
“We did well,” Warhurst said. “We”ve been training hard, and not too concerned with racing.”
This will change drastically in the weeks to come. As the team enters into the last month of the season, racing will become much more important. But, Warhurst isn”t too concerned.
“We”re going to do things I”ve been doing for the last ten years,” Warhurst said. “We”ll be ready.”
“Everyone did what they were supposed to do,” Michigan coach Ron Warhurst said. “The course is difficult, and with the weather how it is, it”s even worse.”
Even on the challenging course, Webb managed to run a time of 25:12, which was 32 seconds faster than his closest pursuers.
“It was tough”, said Webb, referring to the conditions of the course. “You felt the ground pull underneath you, you were pushing your feet, but not going.”
Webb went for the lead right from the starting gun, and had opened a gap between himself and the rest of the field at the half-mile mark. The freshman ran his first mile in about 4:45, which was a bit fast considering the poor conditions.
“I paid for a quick mile,” Webb said.
But, going out too fast, in the sloppy conditions didn”t seem to phase the freshman, as he looked strong holding the lead for the remainder of the race.