Ben Flanagan wasn't the favorite in the 10,000 meters. He wasn't even a popular darkhorse selection. And he knew that.
But when he saw an opening with about 300 meters to go, he made his move and — with the Eugene, Ore., crowd roaring louder and louder with every stride — surged past the favorite, Alabama's Vincent Kiprop, to win the national championship Wednesday.
Flanagan, the Michigan red-shirt senior, raised his arms before even crossing the finish line, then looked around, seemingly stunned.
His first words after crossing the finish line: "Where's my mom? Where's my mom?"
Flanagan is the first Michigan runner to win the 10,000 meters since 1989, edging Kiprop by a fraction of a second with a career-best time of 28:34.53.
"I came here two years ago, and I'm so glad I was able to come back. The first time her was such an overwhelming experience," Flanagan told reporters moments after the finish.
"I just felt like so much out of my element, out of my league."
And this time?
"I felt like I belonged."
The 23-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario, said he told his assistant coach, Kevin Sullivan, early Wednesday that he believed he could win. He expected Sullivan's response to be somewhat along the lines of, "Let's go for top three."
"But he didn't do that," Flanagan said. "He was like, 'I know. I know you can win.'"
Flanagan has battled a number of injuries during his Michigan career, including a stress fracture in his back, so his time in Ann Arbor, he acknowledged, has been a bit of a rollercoaster.
But all's well that end's well.
He earned Michigan its second distance championship in the past three years, joining former teammate and current assistant coach Mason Ferlic, who won the steeplechase in 2016.
Flanagan's senior year included All-America honors, a regional title in cross country and a Big Ten championship in the 10,000 meters — and now the Holy Grail, a national championship.
"I just started freaking out," he said of crossing the finish line. "I can't believe it actually happened."
The track-and-field championships started Wednesday and continue through Saturday.