EAST LANSING — The Michigan men’s cross country team hit the course at Forest Akers Golf Course at Michigan State on Friday hoping to build on its solid season-opening performance at the Michigan Open two weeks ago.
Despite the damp conditions, the Michigan runners stayed in the lead pack and never looked back throughout the hilly 8,000-meter course. Junior Ciaran O’Lionaird paced the field for his first career meet win (24:44). Senior Lex Williams (24:52), sophomore Craig Forys (25:00) and senior Sean McNamara (25:05) joined O’Lionaird as the Wolverines took the top four spots and eight of the top 12.
“It felt very comfortable,” O’Lionaird said of the early pace.
The Wolverines quickly took control with a tight lead pack of eight. Then they picked up the pace and pulled away from the rest of the field.
“The plan was to stay together for 5,000 meters as close to the front as we could and then get it going and pick up the tempo,” Michigan coach Ron Warhurst said.
The start of the race was critical, said Warhurst.
“The plan was to stay in close proximity to the front,” Warhurst said. “If eight guys went out in 4:40 (for the first mile), we would have been 4:45.”
With a bit of humor, Warhurst said that if one of his runners broke before that, he would leave him home next weekend when the Wolverines travel to New York City for the Br. Doyle Meet of Champions.
A sea of maize and blue stormed the finish line as the top eight runners finished within a 42-second span. Warhurst attributed the successful outing to the hard workouts.
“We’ve trained very hard for two to three weeks,” Warhurst said. “They’re all in the 90-mile per week range.”
The Wolverines had to overcome wet, humid conditions as well as their competition in the meet.
O’Lionaird praised Michigan’s versatility, something that will be critical to a postseason push.
“One through four, we had a 20-second split, that’s as good as anybody in the conference,” O”Lionaird said.