Toeing the Line #5: U-M to Race at Big Ten Championships on Sunday

Oct. 26, 2011

Event Preview

Sunday, Oct. 30 -- at Big Ten Championships (Champaign, Ill.) ,10:45 a.m. CDT
Meet Information

The postseason has arrived for the University of Michigan men's cross country, which will compete at the Big Ten Championships on Sunday (Oct. 30) at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill. The 8,000-meter event will kick off at 10:45 a.m. CDT at UI's Arboretum.

The Wolverines are ranked No. 21 in the country heading into the Big Ten Championships. Three other conference teams have received a lower ranking, including No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 7 Indiana and No. 12 Minnesota. Ohio State is the only other Big Ten opponent to appear in the top 30 at No. 26.

Nine harriers will represent Michigan at the Big Ten Championships -- fifth-year senior Craig Forys, senior Bobby Aprill, junior Zach Ornelas, junior/sophomore Brendon Blacklaws, sophomore/freshman James Yau, sophomore Morsi Rayyan, sophomore Mark Beams and freshmen Mason Ferlic and Alex Standiford.

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 24:30.9 Brendon Blacklaws 31:56.75
Zach Ornelas 24:35.0 Zach Ornelas 31:58.17
Morsi Rayyan 24:55.4 Morsi Rayyan 32:05.12

On how the postseason is what the team looks forward to ... "This is really the start of our championship season. From day one of our training cycle we've outlined the next four weeks with three championship meet -- this is what we're preparing for. This is how we'll measure our success. What's gone on before, regardless of whether it's been successful or not, is now dependent on what comes next."

On how much the team has progressed in his second year as a head coach ... "At this point we're about 16 months into the way I do things. Last year, they were just overwhelmed by everything. Now they understand what we're trying to do. The long cycle with the track season helped with that. We are really able to push the envelope physically, so they are certainly physically better at this point. You can certainly start to see things really clicking with the investment they've made, so I think there is a lot of excitement relative to that."

On how the team builds off early successes this season ... "Our early successes this fall, relative to last fall, have allowed me to keep our destiny in our own hands and it's allowed me to progress through certain training elements a little slower than perhaps I normally would because we've been running so well. We've really been able to keep control of our destiny is really the best way to say it. Over the last four weeks, the energy systems and specific needs that will lead us to be successful in this portion of the year have certainly been identified."

Led by senior Bobby Aprill's (Dexter, Mich./Dexter HS) 25th-place finish, Michigan took 13th in a challenging 39-team field at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 14. The Wolverines finished with 414 points as a team to top five teams that were seeded higher than them in the NCAA Division I poll at the time (No. 10 Oregon, No. 16 Georgetown, No. 21 Syracuse, No. 23 Arizona State and No. 25 New Mexico).

Practice Makes Perfect -- The Maize and Blue got a chance to run on the Big Ten course at the Illinois Orange & Blue Preview on Sept. 16. Four members of this year's championship squad made an appearance at that meet early in the season. Junior Zach Ornelas (Cedar Park, Texas/Vista Ridge HS) was Michigan's top finisher with a personal-best 8,000-meter time of 24:35, placing fifth overall.

Decorated Runners -- Fifth-year senior Craig Forys (Howell, N.J./Colts Neck), senior Bobby Aprill (Dexter, Mich./Dexter HS) and junior/sophomore Brendon Blacklaws (Wellington, New Zealand/Wellington College) are all previous All-Big Ten honorees and have been consistently in U-M's top five throughout their careers. Aprill was a first team member last year, while Forys made the second team in 2010 and 2008. Blacklaws, who redshirted last season, was a second team selection in 2009.

One Year Wiser -- The 2010 Big Ten Championships lineup included two juniors, a pair of sophomores and three freshmen. Five of those seven harriers will return to this year's lineup. U-M took eighth as a team at the conference meet a year ago and placed two runners in the top 10, including Aprill in seventh and Forys in 10th.

Prior to last season, U-M had finished in the top five in 20 out of the past 22 Big Ten Championships, including winning in 1993, 1997 and 1998, and placing in the top three 16 times over that span.

Calling the Shots -- Head coach Alex Gibby is in his second season at the helm of the men's cross country program. With one solid year of experience under his belt, Gibby's expectations for the team have elevated. Under Gibby's direction, the Maize and Blue finished eighth at the 2010 Big Ten Championship and seventh at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. In his first season, Gibby produced one NCAA Championship 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 worked their way into the NCAA Division I cross country top 30 for the first time this season on Sept. 27 at No. 28, as announced by the United States Cross Country Coaches Association. After an impressive 13th-place finish at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, U-M moved up to No. 21. The Maize and Blue also remains No. 3 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, Nov. 12 -- at NCAA Great Lakes Regional (Toledo, Ohio), Noon
Monday, Nov. 21 -- at NCAA Championships (Terre Haute, Ind.), Noon

Contact: Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423