With three seniors on the men’s cross country team, Eastern Michigan is certainly young. That doesn’t mean it can’t compete, though.
As the No. 1 runner, senior Curtis Vollmar won and so did his teammates at the Detroit Titan Invitational on Saturday.
“I don’t really feel that I really earned the number one spot,” Vollmar said. “It was just kind of given to me after all those guys left. It’s nice and definitely something I’m going to have to learn to embrace.”
He completed the 4-mile course in the fastest time (19:54) any EMU runner had done. The team scored 19, which was 30 fewer than second-place Wayne State.
“I’ve always had complete confidence that we would always have a strong number one running,” EMU coach John Goodridge said. “Curtis addressed that issue right from the start.”
EMU graduated five seniors from last season’s team. This year’s are Vollmar, Blake Figgins and R.P. White. Goodridge said he isn’t worried about the lack of seniors.
“It’s the standard cliché in team sports, it’s going to require a full-team effort,” he said. “It presents very exciting opportunity for lots of fellas on the team.
“There is a very, very rich tradition at Eastern Michigan University with our cross country program. We take that with a great sense of pride. Our current team gets a lot of strength from that. It’s their opportunity to contribute to that tradition.”
Eastern has won the past four Mid-American Conference championships and has 14 titles, including five in a row from 1990-94. It was picked to finish fourth in the preseason polls this season, and Kent State is favored.
“The MAC meet is definitely going to be a challenge for us,” Vollmar said. “That’s the biggest goal for the season to find a way to tie the record.”
The program finished third in the 2002 national championship. EMU’s Boaz Cheboiywo (Kenya) and Gavin Thompson (Britain) placed first and second as individuals in the championship.
International runners have helped EMU, and this season Terefe Ejigu (New Zealand) has joined.
“International recruiting is something that happens in all college sports,” said Goodridge, who has won MAC coach of the year five times. “At Eastern, our golf program, swimming program have national athletes. It’s part of the system.”
Ejigu, a freshman, is a transfer from a university in his home country, where he was a national champion in high school. Goodridge said since the two had contact from his high school days, he was able to recruit him.
Goodridge said Ejigu joined the team in time for school and practice but didn’t run on Saturday.
“We’re just very happy to have him at EMU,” Goodridge said. “We’re just giving him some time to adjust, we’re looking forward to his debut.”
He said he wasn’t sure when Ejigu would compete.
“It’s a coaching decision as to when a particular athlete is needed,” Goodridge said. “Right now we’re just concentrating on the transition for him.”
EMU continues its season at 4 p.m. Friday at the MSU Spartan Invitational in East Lansing.