Toeing the Line #1: U-M to Host Purdue in Season Opener

Aug 27, 2013

Friday, Aug. 30 -- Michigan Open (Dexter, Mich.), 10 a.m.

The University of Michigan men's cross country team will open the 2013 season on Friday (Aug. 30), hosting the annual Michigan Open at Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter, Mich. Purdue will join the Wolverines for the non-scoring 5,000-meter race, which is slated for a 10 a.m. start, followed by the women's race at 10:30 a.m. Admission to Hudson Mills Metropark is $5.

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Race Day Information: Hudson Mills Metropark

Top Returning Times
8,000-Meter Run 10,000-Meter Run
Mark Beams 24:01.00 Mark Beams 30:43.20
Morsi Rayyan 24:10.80 Tony Smoragiewicz 31:00.10
Tony Smoragiewicz 24:13.40 Morsi Rayyan 31:08.10*
Mason Ferlic 24:28.50 Mason Ferlic 31:43.60*
August Pappas 24:40.40 James Yau 32:26.00
* Indicates time run in 2011


• Friday's meet will mark the first time U-M will face an opponent at the Michigan Open since 2010, when Eastern Michigan also competed in the meet.

• The Michigan Open will provide an opportunity for many of U-M's younger runners to gain valuable race experience. Several Wolverines will make their collegiate debut in the 5K race.

• The Wolverines return 14 harriers from their 2012 squad, including six that were members of the 2012 Big Ten runner-up team. Senior Mark Beams (Vicksburg, Mich./Vicksburg), sophomore Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D./Rapid City Central) and senior Morsi Rayyan (Dewitt, Mich./St. Johns) were each members of the NCAA Championships squad.

Mark Beams and Morsi Rayyan represented Michigan as team captains during the 2012 season.

• Junior Mason Ferlic (St. Paul, Minn./Mounds Park Academy) competed in just one meet a year ago due to injury but returned for a strong outdoor track season, where he finished as a second team All-American in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Junior/sophomore August Pappas (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea) was a member of last year's NCAA Championships squad but was unable to finish the 10K at the national meet, due to injury. Ferlic and Pappas will each return as well.

• U-M's roster features 14 runners who have not competed in a Michigan uniform, including 11 true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen. Freshman Ben Flanagan (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada/St. Mary's HS) is one newcomer who could make an immediate impact for the Wolverines. He is a three-year member of the Canadian Junior National Cross Country team and owns a personal-best 8K time of 24:34, which would currently rank fourth on the team.

• The Wolverines arrived in Northern Michigan for preseason camp on Aug. 21 and will spend eight days training and bonding as a team in preparation for the start of the 2013 season.

• Last season, Michigan constructed its most successful season since 2008, finishing runner-up at the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Great Lakes Regional. The Wolverines also qualified for the NCAA Championships as a team for the second consecutive year, placing 23rd. Mark Beams and Morsi Rayyan garnered All-Great Lakes Region and All-Big Ten second team accolades.


• Head coach Alex Gibby enters the 2013 season in his fourth year at the helm of the men's cross country program. In 2012, Gibby guided Michigan to its best season in four years, which was highlighted by runner-up finishes at the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Great Lakes Regional. He also helped Michigan qualify for the NCAA Championships as a team for the second straight year. Gibby has wasted no time taking the program to the next level as the Wolverines have improved their conference and regional finishes each year under his guidance. The 2012 season marked the first since 2008 that the top five finishers at the regional meet all earned All-Great Lakes Region honors. At the 2012 Big Ten Championships, Gibby also produced three All-Big Ten performers for the first time since the 2008 season.

Annual Results During the Gibby Era

YearBig TenRegionalNCAA

According to Gibby
On preseason camp ... "Camp has been going great. For the first time since I've been at Michigan, our group consists of a bunch of guys that have been coached only by me since they've gotten to college. From a philosophical standpoint, that makes things a little bit smoother. We do have a young team, but we also have a couple outstanding upperclassmen. In an eligibility sense, we are skewed toward the freshmen and sophomore classes, with 11 true freshmen. So what we use camp for primarily is to establish patterns and routines in training, in lifestyle, in culture, that we will repeat once the rest of the student body returns to campus. Between the five days we have before we get to camp and the four or five days before school starts when we get back from camp, that gives us a two and a half week period where we get a nice test run on the habits we'll use all the way through November and beyond."

On what he wants to get out of the Michigan Open ... "We'll use it for a couple of our younger guys -- guys who have already redshirted will get in uniform, perhaps for the first time in their Michigan career. Our guys will get an opportunity to prepare for competitions to come, including setting up their dietary habits for competition. "Test run" is probably the optimal word for this meet. We'll control the competitive environment, so they'll get the opportunity to let things rip, but it won't be from the gun and at 8,000 meters like it will be later in the season. Having Purdue there will add a benefit, in that when we do let them go, they'll be able to measure themselves against some good runners and other Big Ten competition."

On his expectations for the season ... "That we take the next step forward and that in practice we're consistent day-by-day and week-by-week. In doing so, we'll be able to achieve heights that we have yet to obtain as a team. Our conference has been such that Wisconsin has had an iron-clad grip on it for the last decade or decade and a half. This is one of those years, where between our development, as well as other team's development, I think the Big Ten is fairly wide open. Logically, I think there are only a couple teams that could win it, but it is very open and I think there are a variety of teams that could finish one-four. Our expectations -- with increased development, consistency and talent levels, as well as similarities from seniors to the freshmen in what we're trying to accomplish culturally -- are that we're able to do some things that we've yet to do since I've been at Michigan."

On the team continuing to improve its finish at championship meets ... "Part of it is tradition. We had to sort of jump-start a tradition when I got here. It had been a few years since they had been at the NCAAs or had run successfully at the NCAAs, so part of this whole equation is tradition. Now, since I've been here, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that we could advance to the NCAAs and I think in a general sense, we should do it in this set up. When you're talking tradition, you're talking about a critical advancement of expectations. I think every year, this group has been able to up the expectation level and pair it with an increase in preparation, both from a volume standpoint, as well as an intensity standpoint; they've also been able to match it with advancements in their lifestyle and how they take care of themselves. On top of that too, the part I've been responsible for is that in the recruiting process we've been able to build off these positive initial results to attract some very good, young distance runners. You pair expectation with work load increases and lifestyle changes and then you add talent on top of that, that's a pretty potent mix"

On who he expects to lead the team on and off the course ... "Off the course, we're fortunate to return two seniors who did an excellent job last year in a leadership role, in Mark Beams and Morsi Rayyan. We'll determine team captains at a later date once everyone on the team has a sense of where leadership flows from. I think pure leadership is very important. On the course, we're returning three guys who are All-Big Ten, or right there, in Mark, Morsi and Tony Smoragiewicz. On top of that you add into the mix Mason Ferlic, who is returning for his redshirt-sophomore year. Mason was a Second Team All-American last year on the track and he has developed considerably as a distance runner. And then, for the first time since I've been at Michigan, we have significant depth between August Pappas, Nick Renberg, Scotty Albaugh. They're starting to pair good performance credentials with significant workloads. The expectation is that one of these guys will step up. Camp has also proven that we could have some freshmen that are very capable is stepping in as well. We'll determine in the next four or five weeks who we will use and who we'll redshirt, but we have three or four freshmen that came back very well prepared and have the ability coming out of high school. The question is who we will use this year and who we'll save for the future."

Friday, Sept. 13 -- at Purdue Invitational (West Lafayette, Ind.), 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 28 -- at Cowboy Jamboree (Stillwater, Okla.), 9:45 a.m. CDT

Contact: Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423