CHAMPAIGN Big Ten Champion Alan Webb led the Michigan men”s cross country team to a second- place finish at yesterday”s Big Ten Championships.
Heading into the meet, Michigan was expecting its strongest competition from Wisconsin. Michigan coach Ron Warhurst thought the three time defending Big Ten Champions would be within reach if the Wolverines could match the Badgers man for man. Wisconsin proved too tough, placing four runners in the top seven compared to Michigan”s two. The Badgers tallied a low score compared to Michigan”s two. The Badgers tallied a low score of 28 points, topping the Wolverines by 43 points.
The freshman Webb set a new Big Ten Championship record to continue his winning streak of three meets by out-kicking Wisconsin freshman Matt Tegenkamp in the final 100 meters of the 8-kilometer course.
Tegenkamp, who placed fifth at the World Junior Championships, had the best time in the conference coming into yesterday”s meet.
Tegenkamp “tried to break me throughout the race,” Webb said. “But I ran my own race and it was just my day.”
Webb and Tegenkamp began to distance themselves from the field a mile into the race. For the next three miles, Webb followed closely behind Tegenkamp, only momentarily taking the lead.
Tegenkamp “just started rolling,” Webb said of the pace the Badger leader was setting.
Webb remained within striking distance until the final stretch where he used his strong kick to overtake Tegenkamp and won the race.
“Alan had a great race,” Warhurst said “We wanted him to stay on pace and win with his strengths.”
Senior Mike Wisniewski placed fifth and earned first team All-Big Ten honors. Crossing the line third for the Wolverines was Senior Mark Pilja placing sixteenth overall. Sophomores Thomas Greenless and Nick Stanko placed fourth and fifth for the Wolverines, respectively.
Although not favored to win, Warhurst described his team”s second-place finish as “kind of a disappointment. We could have run better in the middle”
For Michigan to run to its potential, Warhurst believes his Wolverines need to improve their “mental and emotional toughness.”
With regionals two weeks away, Warhurst expects, “a solid performance, but nationals is definitely the most important race.”
Athough somewhat disappointed in the final outcome, Webb remains optimistic about the team”s chances going into regionals and then nationals.
“Second place isn”t what we wanted,” Webb said. “But training is going great.”
“We”ve had very strong workouts, everyone”s ready to run,” Warhurst said.
Overall, Webb has enjoyed this cross country season and feels good about his place on this team.
“There is much less pressure in cross country than track” Webb said. “I”ve had a few people asking for autographs, but that”s a neat thing.”