By Kevin Raftery, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 11, 2010
After a 22-point loss to Ohio State in the indoor version of “The Dual” in January, the Michigan men’s track and field team traveled to Columbus on Saturday with a lot to prove, underneath sunny skies and 65-degree weather.
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Coming into the meet, the Wolverines knew they would need elite performances from all over the roster to beat the Buckeyes. But those came few and far between, as Ohio State pulled away with the 116-84 victory.
“We knew that if everybody on our team performed their best, we’d have a pretty good chance of winning,” Michigan head coach Fred LaPlante said.
And after the first few events, it looked like the Wolverines had a good chance of earning a season split with their arch-rivals. Senior Sean Pruitt won the discus and the hammer throw, and sophomore Robert Peddlar won the triple jump as Michigan jumped out to an early lead.
“We were tremendous for the early part of the meet, and I thought that was very good,” LaPlante said.
Junior captain Craig Forys was also a big part of that early success, making quite a first impression in the process.
Forys ran the 3,000 meter steeplechase on Saturday for the first time in his career — and won it with a meet record time of 9:00.60, besting the previous mark set by Ohio State’s Ian Connor.
Consisting of 28 ordinary jumps and seven water jumps over the course of the race, the steeplechase is not an easy event to get used to, let alone dominate.
But Forys seemed right where he belonged, perfectly in his element.
“Judging by how things went today, it feels like a really fun race,” Forys said about the steeplechase. “It’s definitely different.”
But unfortunately for the Wolverines, they could not sustain any of that early momentum.
Michigan won only six out of the 19 total events, and the Buckeyes ran away with the win.
“We had a few events where we rose to the occasion,” LaPlante said. “But we also had a couple events where we felt like we had a chance to win and didn’t, so that certainly changed the tide of things.”
One competitor who did exceed LaPlante's expectations was sophomore Joe Strizich.
Strizich, who is normally a decathlete, won the javelin with a throw of 193 feet-11 inches. The throw shattered his previous personal best by nearly 30 feet.
Strizich attributed his success to a slower approach to the throw and a different mental game plan.
“I was trying to focus on hitting my positions, and just stay focused on competing and not necessarily how far the javelin goes,” Strizich said.
His new strategy worked, and his newfound confidence will be valuable as the Wolverines look to continue to improve in the following weeks, with the Big Ten Championships just a month away.
“I know now that I can slow down and focus on my position,” Strizich said. “So that’s a really important thing to be comfortable with at this point in the season.”