Three years. Four seconds.

Both explain what separated senior Dan Lowry and freshman Tony Smoragiewicz on Saturday. Lowry stepped to the starting line at NCAA Nationals for the Michigan men’s cross country team in Louisville, Ky. feeling a little under the weather, but not ready to use it as an excuse. On the same starting line, Smoragiewicz stepped up, excited to run his first competitive 10-kilometer race, and his first team meet of this size and importance.

When Lowry reached the finish line, his struggles became clear. Michigan’s most consistent runner had come in second on the team and 125th overall with a time of 30:56. Four seconds behind Lowry was Smoragiewicz kicking to the finish for 132nd place. Just like that, Lowry’s college cross country career had come to an end, and Smoragiewicz’s future got even brighter.

“It was definitely a different experience going to a big competition as a team and having some of that accountability that you perform well for your team,” Smoragiewicz said.

With Lowry not running at his best, junior Mark Beams had the opportunity to lead the Wolverines. He crossed the finish line in 30:43 placing 101st. This was Beams’ second race at the national level after competing for the team last year.

“I felt more relaxed having been there before,” Beams said. “I felt like I was more prepared for it and I could compete at this level.”

For Beams, the race started out fast, especially in the first mile. He was able to settle in and run comfortably until the halfway point where he started to pick up the pace move up in the race.

Senior Zach Ornelas and redshirt junior Brendon Blacklaws came in right behind Smoragiewicz with times of 31:04 and 31:07, respectively. Junior Morsi Rayyan rounded out the Wolverines lineup with a time of 31:30.

Heading into the meet coming off their second place finish at Regionals, the Wolverines were hoping to finish in the top half of the teams in Louisville. With a few members of the team not running their best, though, Michigan left with a 23rd-place finish out of 31 teams.

“We just aren’t deep enough right now to replace an All-American performer like Dan Lowry,” said Michigan coach Alex Gibby.

This is the second year in a row that the Wolverines have made it to Nationals by earning an automatic bid at Regionals. According to Gibby, the team now has a streak but needs to work on improving and performing at the National level in the future.

This was not the closing to the season that the Wolverines were hoping for, but they still have a lot to be proud off. Regardless of their finish at Nationals, Michigan finished second at Regionals and second at the Big Ten Championships with multiple runners on the stage receiving honors at both meets.

Now that cross country has come to a close, the runners plan to take about two weeks off to recover both physically and mentally. The break will allow their legs and any small injuries to recover while also letting them get their mind off of racing. After about 14 days, the team will be back to work preparing for the track cycle that includes indoor and outdoor track through the winter and spring seasons.

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