U of M Men - Successful Michigan Open Kicks Off 2016 Campaign

U of M Men - Successful Michigan Open Kicks Off 2016 Campaign

Provided by U of M

What You Need to Know

» After a short hiatus last year, the Michigan Open is back for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons. It is one of two races U-M will run at the Hudson Mills Metropark in nearby Dexter this fall.

» Seven Wolverines made their U-M debut this morning: Connor Herr, Ned Willig, Ben Hill, Kevin Hall, Jordy Hewitt, Matthew Plowman and Brennan Munley.

» Two of today's top three finishers (Ben Flanagan, Connor Mora) competed unattached, but just nine seconds separated finishers one through four overall, including a 1.8-second win for Aaron Baumgarten.

» This meet provides the opportunity for many of U-M's top athletes to shake out their legs in a competitive setting at this early part of the season while newcomers get their feet under them.

• Complete Results | Photo Gallery

Site: Hudson Mills Metropark (Dexter, Mich.)

Event: Michigan Open

U-M Team Finish: Non-scoring

Top U-M Individual: Aaron Baumgarten, 1st place (15:09.2)

Next U-M Event: Saturday, Sept. 10 -- at Indiana State Sycamore Invitational (Terre Haute, Ind.)

DEXTER, Mich. -- The 18th-ranked University of Michigan men's cross country team began the 2016 campaign with a solid all-around effort at the 5,000-meter Michigan Open on Friday (Sept. 2), running at nearby Hudson Mills Metropark.

Head coach Kevin Sullivan knew today's race would be more about getting into the rhythm of race-day routines and strategic execution than the athletes feeling fit and loose.

"We're coming off of a couple of really hard weeks of training, and this week in particular was a pretty big volume week, so I didn't necessarily expect guys to feel good," he said. "We were trying to treat it more as a hard workout than a race, per se, but I think there are still valuable things to be gained from lining up with a jersey on and going through the routine you would typically go through on a race day. It's a chance to continue working with your teammates and training group as we get a race under our belts."

The pack running that Sullivan preaches was in practice today, as the day's top four finishers crossed the line within 9.6 seconds of each other.

Senior/junior Aaron Baumgarten led the way, besting unattached senior Ben Flanagan over the final 100 meters to clip him by 1.6 seconds at the line with a time of 15:09.2 to Flanagan's 15:10.8.

The foursome of Baumgarten, Flanagan, unattached senior Connor Mora and senior/junior Micah Beller went 1-2-3-4, and the group of all-senior Wolverines showed poise and controlled effort during today's race.

Baumgarten timed a race that was 15 seconds faster than his fourth-place effort in 2014, the last time the Wolverines opened their season at this location, while Flanagan (11 seconds), Mora (15 seconds) and Beller (13 seconds) also shaved significant time off their races from two falls ago. It was a positive sign for Beller, who was encouraged by today's effort.

"We had a really nice group up front with Aaron, Ben, Mora and myself," he said. "We've trained well together over the course of camp and over the past three years, so it was nice to have a nice, tight pack all the way through the race. It made it feel like another practice."

"Today was all about getting the mental aspect of our race primed and shaking off some of the rust from the summer to get everyone on the same page. We wanted to be in that race mentality and approach the race with the right warmup technique and everything."

Beyond the top four, Ivy League graduate transfers Connor Herr and Ned Willig placed fifth and sixth, while fellow former Ivy Leaguer Will Sheeran took seventh, competing unattached. The consistency of the upperclassmen and veteran transfers was a reassuring sign for Sullivan.

"I like that our veteran leaders are consistent; that's what we are looking for," he said. "They all ran solid and managed their effort really well. I also thought Austin Benoit in particular really stood out to me. He's put in a lot of good work this summer, and he's made some big strides forward, so it was nice to see him closer to the front group."

The next pack came about four seconds behind Sheeran, led by senior/junior Billy Bund, junior/sophomore Kyle Kroon and sophomore/freshman Ben Hill rounding out the top 10.

Kroon and Hill's finishes are particularly encouraging the Wolverines, as was the 11th-place showing of sophomore/freshman Kevin Hall. Competing unattached, true freshman Isaac Harding was the top-finishing Wolverine freshman, as he took 13th place in 15:55. That finish was unfamiliar for Harding, who was undefeated during his senior cross country season leading into the national races. His unattached classmate Jacob Branch (15:55.7) and unattached sophomore/freshman Lucas Peterson was right on his heels.

U-M gets right back to it next weekend, previewing the NCAA Championships course in Terre Haute, Indiana, with the Indiana State University Sycamore Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 10. The 8,000-meter race will be among the most important of the season, especially early in the month of September, and race time is set for 10 a.m.

Top 10 Individual Finishers

1. Aaron Baumgarten, U-M (15:09.2)

2. Ben Flanagan, UNA (15:10.8)

3. Connor Mora, UNA (15:14.7)

4. Micah Beller, U-M (15:18.8)

5. Austin Benoit, U-M (15:24.1)

6. Connor Herr, U-M (15:29.7)

7. Ned Willig, U-M (15:30.8)

8. Will Sheeran, UNA (15:36.8)

9. Billy Bund, U-M (15:40.6)

10. Kyle Kroon, U-M (15:43.5)

Other U-M Finishers

1. Ben Hill (15:46.0)

12. Kevin Hall (15:48.1)

13. Jordy Hewitt (15:54.8)

17. Brennan Munley (15:58.6)

19. Matthew Plowman (16:02.2)

20. Ryan Wilkie (16:03.4)

26. Will Burke (16:20.8)

Communications Contact: Chad Shepard