UDM - Detroit Defends Horizon League Cross Country Championship

UDM - Detroit Defends Horizon League Cross Country Championship

Provided by UDM

KENOSHA, Wis. (11/1/2014) -- The University of Detroit Mercy men's cross country team went to Wisconsin with a mission to defend its title and the Titans did just that as a late push gave them their second-straight Horizon League Championship on Saturday.

"We ran our best race of the season and one of the best in the 50 seasons of UDM Cross Country," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Guy Murray '89. "We knew it would be close and it would take a full team effort and we got it."

In the 50th season of Detroit cross country, UDM had never won a conference championship since the Horizon League started to sponsor the event in 1980, but now the red, white and blue have claimed it twice. It was the first time that Detroit has had two runners under 25:00 minutes in the same race, while a freshmen 8k record was also set.

The Titans took home a number of awards at the meet in four All-Horizon League honors, the Freshman of the Year in Ben Kendell and the Coach of the Year for the second-straight season for Coach Murray.

Detroit had four runners in the top 14 as it recorded 57 points, just edging Milwaukee who had 59 in the 8k race at the Wayne E. Dannehl National Cross Country Course. UDM also finished ahead of Oakland (4th – 77) to earn a pair of points in the new Metro Series Rivalry as that series is all squared at 4-4 with each school splitting the men's and women's soccer match-up as well as the Horizon League Cross Country Championships.

Senior Colin Creagh – who redshirted last year with an injury - earned All-Horizon First Team honors for the first time in his career as he was in pursuit of an individual title for the entire race and was runner-up in a career-best 24:45, six seconds behind Milwaukee's Marcus Paulson and a PR by 17 seconds. It was the best finish by a Titan at the league meet since Ken Dubois was second in 1987 and the fastest time since Pat Liederbach ran 24:32 for fourth at the 2010 race.

"Colin ran a fantastic race. He made sure he had the spot for the team and then made a great run at a win. Paulson did a great job leading the whole way and Colin didn't let him rest. It was great for all of Colin's work to pay off," added Coach Murray.

Freshman Ben Kendell was also All-HL First Team as he posted a season-low 24:55 for fifth. It is the best finish ever by a Titan true freshman in school history, ahead of Liederbach's seventh-place effort in 2007. After the race, Kendell was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year, the first Titan to claim that accolade in school history.

"Ben, as he has done all year, raced beyond his years," said Coach Murray. "Great tactics and effort and pushing a couple of top HL veterans to the wire."

Sophomore Ryan Leahy – who missed last year's event due to an injury – placed 13th in 25:25 to make the All-HL Second Team. It was a new career best for him by 22 seconds as he set a personal record in the 8k for the fourth-straight race.

Just behind Leahy was junior Derek Gielarowski as he was 14th in a career-low 25:25 to earn All-HL Second Team accolades for the second-straight year. Gielarowski took 11th last season, while his 8k low was a 25:54 at the Canisius Alumni Classic two weeks ago.

"Ryan and Derek worked well together and gave us the chance to win," said Coach Murray. "They moved up and battled the 3-4 from Milwaukee."

Junior Austin Wigent was 23rd in 25:55, shaving 51 seconds for his new PR, but most importantly, he was able to stay in front of the Milwaukee fifth man to clinch the title for Detroit. UDM was trailing Milwaukee by four points, 34-30, with four runners in, but he was able to make up the difference and a little more in taking 23rd, while the Panthers' fifth man Joseph Morgan was 29th, giving the Titans the six points they needed for the victory.

"Austin really came through for us today and it was his season best by a minute," said Coach Murray. "He has struggled a bit this year and had the job to just go for it as our five. He got into position and them moved forward the last two miles. He battled a large group of guys with every point counting and came through."

Senior George Holman was right there to also hold off the Milwaukee runner as he was 26th in a personal record 26:04, 10 seconds faster than his previous low at last year's league championships.

"George had another Horizon League PR race and he used a big kick up the final hill to catch Milwaukee's five and that helped put us over the top," Coach Murray said.

Freshman Charlie Felton ran 26:32 for 37th, while senior Ylli Alla posted a 26:55 for 48th and freshman Miles Kelleher was 64th in a season-best 27:40.

"The guys did a great job this year and we worked hard and improved all the way," said Coach Murray. "We responded to the challenge after Milwaukee beat us at Louisville. The Horizon League has really improved this past year. We ran this course in 2012 and only 14 guys in the league ran under 26 and today 25 did it."

The Titans will now get ready for the 10k Great Lakes Regional Championships on Nov. 14, held at the Zimmer Championship Course on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.