Saturday, July 27, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #27- Michigan

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Head Coach: Alex Gibby (4th Season)
2012 National Finish- 23rd

Key Returners from 2012
  • Mark Beams (Sr., 14:06, 29:36)
  • Brendon Blacklaws (Sr., 3:46, 8:08 Open 3k)
  • Morsi Rayyan (Sr., 13:57, 29:43)
  • Mason Ferlic (So., 8:41 3k Steeple, 14:15)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Connor Mora (Fr., 4:09 Mile, Foot Locker Finalist)
Season Preview

After a disappointing Nationals showing in 2012, the Big Blue are re-loaded and ready for redemption in 2013. Although the loss of key seniors Dan Lowry and Bobby Aprill (not as much in xc) will hurt, the Wolverines are looking to come back stronger than they were in Louisville. 

Mark Beams returns as the no. 1 finisher in Louisville last November and will be looked upon for leadership. Beams followed up a good xc season with a productive track season hitting PRs in both the 5000m and 10000m. If this momentum can carry through the summer, he will be a strong no. 1. 

Along with Beams, Brendon Blacklaws was possibly the most consistent runner on Michigan's team last season. Blacklaws finished between 2-5 in every race in 2012 and will be counted on to be just as consistent this year. This will be his last season as a collegian and that should be motivation enough to use go from being a miler to a 10k guy over a summer.

Mason Ferlic is coming into his second real cross country season (last year only competed in the first meet of the year, Panorama Farms, VA) and was the no. 7 in 2011, at Michigan. Ferlic surprised many in the spring with his outstanding steeple ability and had an amazing finish to the 2013 season. A fourth place East Regional finish and a fourteenth finish nationally should provide him the momentum and motivation to be a key contributor in the top five. 

Morsi Rayyan and Tony Smoragiewicz were also solid pack runners for the Wolverines in 2012 and if their progression goes in the right direction can also be impact players in the Michigan pack. 

After going over the nice returning crew that Michigan has, they are also bringing in a very good prep runner, Connor Mora. A good miler (4:09), Mora also has xc capability, having proven that by making the Foot Locker Finals. Their five is good enough that he might end up being a 6-7 runner, but if he can crack their top five it will only prove how deep this team really is. 

The Great Lakes Regional is wide open this year, similar to the Mountain Region on the women's side, with the depleted teams in Wisconsin and Indiana. This being the case, Michigan is definitely the favorite to win that title. Don't let this ranking deceive you, (#27 is only preemptive because only a few of their athletes are proven xc runners, Beams, Blacklaws, Smoragiewicz) this team can be very dangerous as the season progresses and could see them jump in the rankings after some of the big early meets (Wisco, Pre-Nats, Griak, Notre Dame, etc). 

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