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Detroit

November 26, 2013

University of Detroit Mercy men’s cross country wins program’s first league championship

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
The University of Detroit Mercy men’s cross country team is pictured after winning the program’s first-ever Horizon League Championship.

University of Detroit Mercy Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Guy Murray has been a part of the Titans’ program since 1985.

In Murray’s role as a student-athlete and a coach entering this season, he had never been part of a men’s league cross country championship. In fact, nobody has, as UDM entered the season with a men’s squad having never won a league title.

All that changed on Nov. 2, when UDM captured the program’s first-ever league title after the Titans won the Horizon League Championship meet. That meet followed the Titans’ first-ever event win earlier in the season.

Prior to winning the Horizon League title, UDM’s runner-up finishes in 1980, 1985 and 1986 were the highest in program history.

After the Titans finished in 29th place at a meet in Louisville earlier in the year, even Murray wasn’t sure this would be the year the Titans would make program history.

“It was very exciting,” he said of the championship. “Very good for the plan to go even better than expected. The guys did a great job (and) executed the race plan.”

The fact that it had never been done before is a pretty strong indication of how challenging winning a league championship can be.

“We got everybody’s best race of the season that day,” he said. “Even at the end, when we (kind of) knew we had it, couple of guys really battled for spots all the way to the finish. Everybody fought for every place (and) point. They wanted it.”

While the opportunity to make history for the program may not have been discussed a whole lot prior to the meet, the kind of reaction Murray has gotten since the feat has been accomplished may be appropriate, given that this year’s squad is responsible for the first men’s cross country Horizon League championship banner to be hung in Calihan Hall.

“(It’s) good to be the first,” he said. “It’s great. To think of all the great athletes and people we’ve had come through the program that contributed to our tradition. A lot of alums reached out, congratulated us. More interviews with the media the last couple weeks than I’ve had the last couple years. It’s a great accomplishment for us. Fun to be on that side.”

Aside from the immediate satisfaction of winning a championship, Murray knows what it could do for UDM’s program as it moves forward.

“Hopefully, that gets us in the door a little bit and ultimately helps us improve,” he said. “We’re just trying to get going and translate that enthusiasm to recruiting and raising the level of the program.”

In other UDM cross country news:
Martin Nelkie (senior), Ryan Hofsess (junior), George Holman (junior), Austin Wigent (sophomore) and Derek Gielarowski (sophomore) earned All-League honors following the Horizon League Championship.

The men’s team finished in 19th place at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Nov. 15, which is an improvement of over last year’s 24th-place finish.

The Titans’ women’s squad finished in fourth place at the Horizon League Championship, and their 26th-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional was an improvement of two spots over last year.

“We had a good season,” Murray said of his women’s team. “We’ve had to overcome some health issues. Overall, it was good.”

Senior Louisa Coppola (Warren Woods Tower) finished in 47th place at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, tying her for fourth-best in school history with Kim Hemstreet, which was only bested by Hemstreet in 2002 (12th), Ruthie Cook in 2001 (26th) and Angie Lefere in 1997 (40th). Coppola also made the first team All-Horizon League.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.