When it’s January, and the wind-chill factor puts the
temperature at 30 degrees, most of the men’s cross country
team is out running as part of its 80 to 90 mile a week routine.
Thirteen of the 19 runners on the team are also a part of the
men’s track and field team as distance and middle-distance
runners, which requires them to train all year long.

Although running cross country involves a variety of surfaces
and inclines, the training for the cross country season and the
indoor and outdoor track seasons are very similar.

“Training wise, it’s basically the same,”
senior Nate Brannen said. “It’s just the races are
usually shorter in track.”

The majority of runners see the cross country and track seasons
as one, since their training seems to be endless.

“There isn’t any transition, it’s a
continuation really because all of the cross country runners run
the same distance in track,” Michigan coach Ron Warhurst

As for the varying conditions and the physical wear from running
on a variety of surfaces, cross-country running is more demanding

The runners train together from August to June, and under the
guidance of Warhurst, who coaches both the men’s cross county
and men’s track and field teams. This energetic coach, who
has 31 years of experience at the helm of the Michigan program,
finds it pivotal to the team’s success that the runners spend
time together.

“It takes a while for a distance coach to get to know the
athletes,” Warhurst said. “You know their times from
high schools, but you don’t know how they are going to
respond to me and the way I coach. Some of them are scared to death
of me when we first start and then some of them adjust right

Brannen is an eight-time NCAA All-American in three different
sports — cross country and indoor and outdoor track. In
addition he is a back-to-back NCAA title winner and is constantly
leading the 19-person cross country team by example.

“He is very quiet about his leadership,” Warhurst
said. “He leads by example, and I think he is totally
respected by the athletes and he tells people what he

To make sure there are no bumps in the trail for the incoming
freshmen, Brannen developed a big-brother program where each
upperclassman is assigned to a freshman, easing their transition
into college and their new role as a student-athlete.

“I think it’s a great idea, and it gives them the
opportunity to come and approach us without the feeling of being
scared to talk to the upper classmen,” senior Nick Willis
said. “It means I can call (freshman Victor Gras) up even if
I don’t have a reason and tell him to get to bed, and he has
to listen to me, which gives me a bit of authority, which is a bit
of fun as well.”

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