Oct. 31, 2013
Senior Morsi Rayyan previews the Big Ten Championships, breaks down this year's conference squad and discusses the improvements Michigan has made under fourth-year head coach Alex Gibby.
On the talent and depth of the Big Ten squad ... "One through nine we're probably one of the deepest teams in the country. That comes from all of our offseason work and that huge group that we had doing workouts in the late summer and early fall. There is a lot of talent and a lot of passion. Everyone has been putting in a lot of hard work for five or six months now. The trick now is to move that entire group up in relation to others teams and that's when we become a great team."
On having three true freshmen on the Big Ten squad ... "I think that speaks to coach Gibby's ability to relate to recruits in that process and really his ability to identify who has a future in the sport and who will impact us right away -- and he's done a great job of that in that recruiting class this year. Coach likes to use Mark (Beams) and I as recruiting examples, in terms of what his program can accomplish given the right personalities and that passion and hard work. It's a huge honor and I'm definitely proud that I can be someone who those younger guys can talk to -- I can share my experiences with them and hopefully inspire them to do the same."
On heading into his senior championship season ... "In the last week or so I've been slowly realizing I only have three cross country races left. It kind of hit me after Wisconsin that it's winding down really fast here. I'm starting to look toward the younger guys to carry on what we've started here and hopefully continue improving the program and individually."
On the program improving each year under coach Gibby's guidance ... "Obviously one step up from second place is the goal. It's going to be a very close race this weekend it should be very exciting. The process is one of the things coach Gibby emphasizes the most, as opposed to results. He keeps his eyes on the long-term, like he did when he came in four years ago -- he made it clear to the younger guys that they weren't going to be All-Americans right off the bat, but stick with it and keep training and following the program, and great things can happen down the line. I remember some pretty, almost depressing talks, from the postseason my freshman year. Back then, I was just a freshman, so I didn't really know what it was like to be in a different position, so moving up through the years has given me a different prospective about where we were back then. I think Gibby's speeches now are much more positive and forward-facing, down the line in the right direction."
On important things the team wants to focus on at Big Tens ... "With the depth we have, the trick is now to get that group to move up in relation to other teams and that will bring our team scores down drastically. Individually, as a captain, I can try to rally those around me and try to encourage others to work together. A lot of it is making sure my teammates have the right mentality going into the race -- the idea of working together needs to be firmly implanted in them going to the starting line. During the race, it's not entirely up to them, but a lot of it is left to them. If they see they're falling back a little bit, I can sort of make a motion to get on my hip or something, but it comes down to each individual working together as one unit."
Previous Spotlight: Mark Beams