Toeing the Line #2: Orange and Blue Preview Up Next for Maize & Blue
Derek Henning

Sept. 14, 2011

Friday, Sept. 16 -- at Illinois Orange and Blue Preview (Urbana Ill.), 5:15 p.m. CDT
Meet Information

After a two-week hiatus, the University of Michigan men's cross country team will resume competition at the Illinois Orange and Blue Preview on Friday (Sept. 16) at the University of Illinois' Arboretum in Urbana, Ill. The 8,000-meter race is slated for a 5:15 p.m. CDT start.

The Orange and Blue Preview is designed to give runners a chance to race on the Big Ten Championships course. Following the preview, the Wolverines will have six weeks to prepare for the real thing as the Big Tens will be held on Sunday, Oct. 30.

U-M will send seven runners to the race -- senior Bobby Aprill, senior/junior Derek Henning, junior Zach Ornelas, sophomore Nathan Karr, junior/sophomore Brendon Blacklaws, sophomore/freshman James Yau, and sophomore Matt Popielarz. Aprill, Blacklaws and Popielarz will make their season debuts.

Top Wolverine Times
8,000-Meter Run 10,000-Meter Run
Bobby Aprill 23.50.9 Craig Forys 30:29.14
Craig Forys 23:55.2 Bobby Aprill 30:49.56
Brendon Blacklaws 24:53.4 Brendon Blacklaws 31:56.75
Morsi Rayyan 24:55.4 Zach Ornelas 31:58.17
Zach Ornelas 25:11.6 Morsi Rayyan 32:05.12

On his expectations for the Orange & Blue Preview ... "For the guys that ran at the Michigan Open, we're looking for their debut at 8,000 meters and a little bit sharper performance mentally. With some of the returners who were All-Big Ten last year, we're looking to reintroduce them to racing. They'll be set up, from a race plan prospective, in a more controlled environment. We're going to set something up that's more structured and allows those guys to set up next week when we go to Florida, where we'll see Florida and North Carolina, among other top teams. I'm looking for good decision making and to set the trends for a decision making process that will arrive by the Big Ten Championships when the more physical competition comes around."

The Wolverines kicked off their 2011 campaign hosting the annual Michigan Open on Sept. 2. Four of the top five finishers sported the Maize and Blue, including junior Zach Ornelas (Cedar Park, Texas/Vista Ridge HS), who claimed his first collegiate victory with a time of 15:35.21. Senior/junior Derek Henning (Alanson, Mich./Petoskey HS), the 2010 Michigan Open champion, followed Ornelas across the finish line at 15:47.84.


A Mix of Experience -- The Orange and Blue Preview lineup will feature a range of experience, including three 2010 NCAA Great Lakes Regional participants. As a 2010 All-Big Ten First selection, senior Bobby Aprill (Dexter, Mich./Dexter HS) will lead the lineup along with fellow upperclassmen junior Zach Ornelas (Cedar Park, Texas/Vista Ridge HS) and senior/junior Derek Henning (Alanson, Mich./Petoskey HS). Michigan's top finisher at the 2010 Big Ten Championships, junior/sophomore Brendon Blacklaws (Wellington, New Zealand/Wellington College), will return to the lineup after redshirting last season. Sophomores Nathan Karr (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer) and Matt Popielarz (Saginaw, Mich./Heritage) will look to gain more experience this season after appearing in a combined four meets in 2010. Sophomore/freshman James Yau (Troy, Mich./Troy) made his collegiate debut at the Michigan Open and will look to build on his sixth-place performance.

Calling the Shots -- Head coach Alex Gibby enters the 2011 campaign in his second season at the helm of the men's cross country program. Under Gibby's direction, the Maize and Blue finished eighth at the 2010 Big Ten Championships and seventh at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. In his first season, Gibby produced one NCAA Championships qualifier and guided two harriers to All-Big Ten honors. Prior to coming to Michigan, Gibby served as the head coach of the William and Mary men's cross country and track and field programs from 2003-10. Gibby paced the Tribe to four straight top-16 finishes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, three NCAA Southeast Region titles and seven CAA cross country titles. In 2009, Gibby was honored as the Southeast Region Coach of the Year for the third time in his career (2005, '08, '09) after leading William and Mary to fifth place at the NCAA Championships.

The Wolverines remain just outside of the top 30, receiving votes in the first regular season NCAA Division I cross country poll, released Tuesday (Sept. 13) by the United States Cross Country Coaches Association. U-M continues to own the fifth spot among the Great Lakes Region. [ Poll ]

Michigan cross country/track is now on Twitter. Sign up and follow the Wolverines (michigan_track) with up-to-the-minute news and information throughout the season and beyond. Twitter is a free casual, online social network that is designed to connect businesses, organizations and individuals. Each Twitter post (or "tweet") can be received on a user's cell phone via text or on the web.

Saturday, Sept. 24 -- at Florida Mountain Dew Invitational (Gainesville, Fla.), 8 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 14 -- at Wisconsin adidas Invitational (Madison, Wis.), 10 a.m. CDT

Contact: Whitney Dixon (734) 936-8746