U of M Men - Michigan Takes 10th at NCAA Championships
Provided by U of M
11/18/2017 4:21:00 PM
// Kyle Terwillegar
Site: Louisville, Ky. (E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park)
Event: NCAA Championships
U-M Team Finish: 10th place of 31 teams (328 points)
Top U-M Individual: Ben Flanagan, 20th (29:44.0)
Next U-M Event: Season Complete
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- For the second time in the last three years, the No. 10 University of Michigan men's cross country team finished top-10 in the nation as it surged late to a 10th-place showing at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Saturday (Nov. 18).
Keying off a late-race charge from redshirt senior All-American Ben Flanagan, the Wolverines scored 328 points to take 10th in the 31-team race over the 10-kilometer (6.21-mile) championship race at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park.
Flanagan moved up more than 20 spots over the final half of the race, topping out at 20th place as he crossed the line in 29:44.0 to mark the 25th different top-20 performance in Michigan history. He was nearly joined as an All-American (top-40 finisher) by fellow redshirt senior Connor Mora in 48th (30:10.0).
Aaron Baumgarten -- another redshirt senior -- methodically and patiently advanced through the throngs of runners to take 73rd (30:27.9), while NCAA Championship newcomers true freshman Jack Aho and redshirt freshman Isaac Harding in 122nd (30:54.9) and 124th (30:55.8), respectively.
Redshirt senior Billy Bund (139th) and sophomore Ben Hill (186th) rounded out the lineup for Michigan.
That group combined for the second top-10 showing in the past three years (ninth in 2015), and the 14th top-10 showing in the history of Michigan cross country. Combined with the women's ninth-place finish, this marked the eighth time in program history both the U-M men and women took 10th or better in the same national championship meet.
"We're really happy with it," head coach Kevin Sullivan said. "We showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness out there today. As a program, we showed that a balanced track and field program can compete at the highest level in cross country, as well, and that's a testament to our guys and the rest of our coaching staff. We had a goal all year to be in the top 10, and they achieved that and I couldn't be prouder of them."
The Wolverines just edged out Southern Utah for 10th, topping the Thunderbirds by only six points. Michigan was just 10 points behind ninth-place Colorado State and only 34 behind eighth-place Colorado, a program that has posted podium finishes (top-four) in five of the past seven seasons.
Michigan's race played out similarly to their ninth-place finish in their regular-season finale at a loaded Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational a month ago, positioning itself well early and making strong moves through the field late.
After starting off the race in the bottom half of the field -- 16th place through two kilometers -- the Wolverines kept climbing for the remainder of the race. The four-kilometer checkpoint passed by with Michigan up to 15th place, and by the time the next four kilometers were run, Michigan had moved into striking distance of the top-10 with an 11th-place split.
The surge from the 4K split through the 8K split and onto the finish was propelled by the redshirt-senior trio of Flanagan, Mora and Baumgarten, who picked off a combined 67 runners over those four kilometers, and 103 total from the 4K split through the end of the race.
Flanagan asserted himself in the second half of the race, moving up for borderline All-America positioning in the mid-30s at the halfway point to firmly among the nation's top distance runners by race's end. The Canadian crossed through 4K in 47th place, but put in a significant surge over the next four kilometers to climb 17 spots to 30th.
He covered those four kilometers in 11:59.0 for the 19th-fastest split of the race over that segment, almost perfectly indicative of where he would finish two kilometers later.
Calling upon the same strength that secured him his NCAA Great Lakes Region title eight days ago, Flanagan ran down another 10 competitors on the course's hilliest section in those final 2000 meters.
"I came in here with a goal: 'Let's be an All-American, then once you're in that spot, just don't give it up and see how much better you can make it,'" Flanagan said. "As soon as I heard as I was in 34th, I was like, 'I'm not getting anywhere close to 40th,' so I just tried to keep momentum going forward with my foot on the gas, and found myself in 20th with a half mile to go, and then it was just about closing it."
His effort earned him Michigan's first top-20 individual finish at nationals since Mason Ferlic was 13th in 2014.
En route to his 48th-place finish, Mora did his fair share of heavy lifting as a steadying force in the race's closing kilometers. After coming through 2K in 70th, he progressively moved up to 63rd by 4K and 55th at 8K.
But the biggest factor in Michigan's rise through the team standings was Baumgarten. The redshirt senior overcame 42 opponents during the four-kilometer stretch from the checkpoints at 4K through 8K, moving up from 134th to 92nd. Only 22 men in the 254-man field were more prolific passers during that stretch of the race. But his surge did not end there, as he ran down another 19 opponents in the final 2000 meters.
All five scorers ultimately moved up during that span, as Aho and Harding -- both making their NCAA Championship debuts -- improved 10 spots and one spot, respectively.
With the cross country season now in the books, the indoor season now awaits the Wolverines. Michigan will kick off its 2018 campaign on Jan. 13, 2018, with the Wolverine Invitational, the inaugural home meet -- and the first of four home meets -- in the University's state-of-the-art new facility. The team's first practice in the new facility will take place on Monday, Nov. 27.