- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Rebecca Dzombak, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 16, 2014
Even divided, the Wolverines performed well, with 10 athletes placing in the top 10 while setting 14 personal records. The Wolverines split up last weekend, sending athletes to the Husky Invitational in Seattle, Wash., the Don Kirby Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. and the SPIRE Invitational in Geneva, Ohio.
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So why was the team divided?
“We picked people who we thought have a chance at qualifying for nationals,” said Michigan coach Jerry Clayton. “And seniors who are in their last year in the program, as sort of a rewards program for all their hard work.”
The Husky Invite, for example, is renowned for hosting a highly competitive distance field, with some of the top talent in the country competing in the 5,000-meter invitation-only race. The meet also hosted a less competitive open 5K.. Senior Morsi Rayyan placed 12th in a field of 25 with his time of 13:57.07 — a few hundredths of a second faster than his outdoor personal record from 2012.
Despite his fast time amid highly ranked national competitors, Rayyan wasn’t satisfied after he failed to qualify for nationals.
“We went there because of the competition,” Rayyan said. “We wanted to qualify for nationals, and that’s the place to do it. But we didn’t execute it quite as we’d planned, so we came away with slower times than we’d hoped.”
The Wolverines have only one meet before the Big Ten championship in March to hone their racing tactics. Its goal is simple: to have the strongest, most cohesive race they can in order to qualify. And that progress starts by locking down a better finish.
“About halfway through I fell back, then with about 600 (meters) to go, I reconnected with (junior Mason Ferlic),” Rayyan said. “We’re going to work on developing that closing speed in the next couple weeks to make sure we have a tight race at Big Tens.”
Though Rayyan may have found his performance subpar, Clayton was satisfied.
“(The) Husky (Invitational) was a very competitive field,” Clayton said. “Morsi had a very nice PR. We’re very excited about that performance going into the Big Ten competition.”
Ferlic also ran in the invitational 5K, finishing just 8 seconds after Rayyan for 16th place. It was both runners’ collegiate debut in the indoor 5K. In the non-invitational 5K, senior Mark Beams placed 10th, finishing with a personal best of 14:07.10.
Michigan also sent a trio of athletes to Albuquerque, which is where the NCAA Indoor Championships will be held on March 14-15. Senior Erick Gavin placed fourth in the 60-meter hurdles with a PR of 7.99 seconds.
The invitational offered yet another tough field, which challenged Gavin. It was a much-needed opportunity, since he raced in only one meet before Saturday.
“I think there was a high level of competition here that helped me get a better race in,” Gavin said. “I chopped a lot (of time) off. I think that given the short amount of time that I’ve been running, I’ve been able to get my stuff down like I wanted to.”
Seniors Ethan Dennis and Herman Washington were Michigan’s other two representatives at the Don Kirby Invite. Dennis took fourth in the weight throw with a distance of 20.26 meters. Washington didn’t finish his race after knocking over the second hurdle.
The majority of the team went to the SPIRE Invite in Ohio, where the Big Ten Championships will be held. Leading the Wolverines were senior high jumper Bradley James, with his third-place jump of 2.13 meters, and junior shot-putter Derek Sievers with his sixth-place throw of 18.06 meters.
“There was stiff competition,” Sievers said. “I was pretty happy with my finish. And a lot of the guys who were there this weekend will be at Big Ten, so I got a good feel for what I could be up against.”
Other notable performances at SPIRE included two seventh-place finishes by junior Codie Nolan’s 60-meter dash and sophomore Nathan Chapman’s 800-meter run.
“This weekend was very productive, we had lots of personal bests,” Clayton said. “The group that went to SPIRE got a preview of sorts of what the Big Ten championships will be in terms of the facility and the atmosphere.
“I thought that overall, we accomplished what we needed to. We’re in the best situation we could be in at this point in time, and we’ll use this next home meet as a tune-up for the championship season.”