Toeing the Line #4: Michigan to Compete at NCAA Pre Nationals

Oct. 13, 2010

Saturday, Oct. 16 -- at NCAA Pre Nationals (Terre Haute, Ind.), 12:10 p.m.

The University of Michigan men's cross country team will send 12 runners to the 2010 Pre-National Invitational on Saturday (Oct.16) at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind. The 8,000-meter blue race is slated for a 12:10 p.m. start.

The Wolverine lineup will feature junior Bobby Aprill, freshman Mark Beams, freshman Sean Bone, sophomore Dallas Bowden, senior/junior Craig Forys, junior/sophomore Derek Henning, freshman Nathan Karr, freshman Nick Kern, sophomore Zach Ornelas, freshman Matt Popielarz, freshman Morsi Rayyan and junior Nick Thomas. Seven Wolverine competitors will compete in the blue race, while the remaining five will run in the open event, scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. start.

Among the ranked teams slated to appear at the Pre-National Blue Race are Florida, Florida State, Iona, Michigan State, Northern Arizona, Princeton, UCLA and William & Mary as well as Big Ten rivals Illinois, Ohio State and Purdue. For more information about 2010 Pre-Nationals, including a course maps, please visit

On his expectations for this weekend's race ... "I don't quite know what to expect. The debuts on both sides of the equation -- at Wisconsin and Oklahoma State -- I was pleased with them, and we saw some positive signs. The Pre-Nationals will be a big ramp up in intensity and competition. Oklahoma State is an exceptional team, but the field there was relatively weak, and we did some things well and some things poorly and still ended up a solid second. With Pre-Nationals, you're under the microscope a little bit. It's a fast course, and there are no places where lack of composure or lack of focus will be rewarded. The depth of the competition is such that any mistakes are magnified. That's the part I enjoy. We'll find out a little bit more about where we are. We're going to try to put a few concepts to the test and see if the guys can stick with them. If they do so, obviously the opportunity is to take the next step forward at Big Tens and regional. If they don't, it just clarifies very quickly what we need to work on before the championship season. My guess is we'll see them do some things well and some things that need to be improved upon."

On whether running with veteran teammates will help U-M's freshmen ... "From a sensory standpoint, they're going to be overwhelmed by a lot of things. If they pay attention to what they're doing, stay composed and stay focused on the keys we've talked about, they'll perform to the best of their abilities. And that's really what we want. We are a young team, and I want to see us take the next step forward -- take what we did at Wisconsin or Oklahoma State and do it better. If we keep taking those steps, the final result will be a good one. Again, the thing I like about Pre-Nationals is there is a lot going on, and it will put everyone to the test. Some coaches like to protect and take cautious steps forward; I'd rather throw them into the pot and see what happens."

Five members of the Wolverines' squad made their collegiate debut at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 2, contributing to Michigan's 20th-place finish (622 points). Among U-M's first-time competitors, freshman Morsi Rayyan (Dewitt, Mich./St. Johns HS) led his team to the finish line, claiming 103rd place with a time of 24:55.4.

May the Forys Be With You -- Despite a one-year layoff due to injury, senior/junior Craig Forys picked up where he left off in his return to cross country competition, turning in a solid 11th-place finish to pace the Wolverines at the Cowboy Jamboree on Sept 25. It was the second time in his career that Forys crossed line as U-M's top finisher, adding to a seventh-place performance at the 2007 Big Ten Championships. The Wolverine junior owns 11 top-15 showings in his collegiate career, including four finishes among the top five.

Phenomenal Freshmen -- Over the Wolverines' last two competitions, eight Michigan newcomers have made their collegiate debuts. Five did so at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational (Oct. 2), including four members of U-M's scoring five. Freshman Morsi Rayyan (Dewitt, Mich./St. Johns HS) paced the Wolverines to the finish line, clocking a time of 24:55.4, while freshman Sean Bone (Lake Orion, Mich./Lake Orion HS) was Michigan's top freshman finisher at the Cowboy Jamboree (Sept. 25) with a 49th-place showing (26:17.98). Six freshmen will compete for the Wolverines at this weekend's NCAA Pre-Nationals.

Calling the Shots -- Head coach Alex Gibby was announced as the eighth head coach in Michigan men's cross country program history on July 29, 2010, and enters his first season with the Maize and Blue. As head coach of the William and Mary men's cross country and track and field programs (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. Last fall, 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 second-best showing in Tribe program history -- and three individual All-Americans. He is also a seven-time CAA Coach of the Year recipient.

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.

The Wolverines remain just outside of the top 30 in the latest NCAA Division I cross country poll, released last Tuesday (Oct. 5) by the United States Cross Country Coaches Association. U-M owns the 10th spot among the Great Lakes Region.

Saturday, Oct. 23 -- at EMU Fall Classic (Dexter, Mich.), 10 a.m.
Sunday, Oct. 31 -- at Big Ten Championships (Madison, Wis.), Noon CDT

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423