In a span of 20 days, the men’s cross country team participates in what it call its “championship season.”
This span includes the Big Ten Championships, Regionals and Nationals. On Friday, coming off their second-place finish at the conference championship, the Wolverines were able to secure one of the two automatic Nationals bids at the Great Lakes Regional in Madison.
“We would have liked to win, but first is the same as second (for qualifying), and we just want to set ourselves up for Nationals,” said Michigan coach Alex Gibby.
The key factor to their top-two finish was that Michigan’s top five runners all finished in the top-25 overall, which earned all of them All-Great Lakes Region honors. At Regionals and Nationals, the races bump up from 8,000 to 10,000 meters, and this was something that the Wolverines took advantage of by training less for the regular season and more for these two meets.
Leading the pack was senior Dan Lowry, who finished the race third overall with a time of 30:46. Heading into the race, Lowry had a specific race plan that was on the conservative side. This involved just staying in the pack for the first half of the race and then slowly picking it up.
Lowry ran the last 2,000 meters hard and treated it like a workout. Even with his conservative strategy, he finished in the top five and beat some people who beat him at the Big Ten Championships.
“It gives me a lot of confidence going into next week. I didn’t get a full taste of what I can do, and it was nice to see that there was still some in the tank and that I have some speed,” Lowry said.
Coming in 13th and 14th for the Wolverines were junior Mark Beams and redshirt junior Brendon Blacklaws with times of 31:24 and 31:27 respectively. Beams and Blacklaws were able to work together all race and push each other to a top-15 finish.
“We worked off each other and traded off leads,” Beams said. “That is always very helpful, especially on a windy day like today.”
Finishing out the top five were junior Morsi Rayyan and senior Zach Ornelas with times of 31:38 and 31:46, respectively.
“That group after Dan lately has shown to be interchangeable.” Gibby said. “One day it’s Mark, one day it’s Blacklaws, other days its Morsi or Zach. We just need to get them lined up and firing on all cylinders.”
James Yau and Nick Kern rounded out the Wolverines’ lineup, running 32:26 and 33:33, respectively.