Captains lay solid groundwork for upcoming season

By Kelly Hall, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 20, 2014

It was only fitting that Michigan captain and redshirt junior Cody Riffle threw a 17.38-meter shot on Saturday to take first in the event.

In a meet held to honor Jack Harvey — the former men’s track and field coach of 25 years and an All-American shot put champion himself — it was nice to see a current shot putter do well.

Riffle, who didn’t expect good results from the meet because of a minor finger injury, was pleased with his first-place finish. But it meant even more to him that his fellow throwers, redshirt sophomore Derek Sievers and redshirt junior Justin Gaumer, finished in second and third, respectively.

“I know our team’s going to do a lot better than we have been, especially our throwers,” Riffle said. “We really want to be a spearhead event group and all of us want to continuously get better, but see those performances later in the season at conferences and nationals rather than earlier in the season.”

Riffle is enjoying his position as captain and believes first-year Michigan coach Jerry Clayton will only help the team grow stronger.

“I think our team really clicks with him, and he brings a really positive environment, which is something that’s always welcomed and definitely felt,” Riffle said. “I just think he brings something unique and will really help us this year.”

Riffle wasn’t the only Michigan captain to perform well at the meet. Senior captain Herman Washington was the top collegiate runner in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing behind former Michigan student-athlete and Olympian Jeff Porter.

“It was good just to come out here with high energy with the team and get some of the kinks out,” Washington said. “Not too bad, not too good, but just right.”

As a captain, Washington wants his teammates to get what they want out of the season. It’s important to him that he not only sets personal records, but that his team does as well.

The Wolverines’ third captain, senior Mark Beams, didn’t participate in the meet in order to rest for the upcoming indoor competitions. Beams is coming off a successful cross country season, in which he helped the Wolverines finish second at the Big Ten Championships.

Clayton was pleased with his co-captains’ achievements, saying that the close bond between himself and the three upperclassman will only help the team grow stronger.

“The captains today performed well,” Clayton said. “I think that they’ve shown really good leadership in this period, and that’s why they were selected by their teammates and the staff.”

The trio showed nothing but respect for their new coach as well.

“I love him,” Washington said. “It’s a great turnaround. It’s more family-oriented now, and there’s no divides between the different groups. It’s good to be close when we meet.”

Riffle simply called him “the man.”

The Wolverines undoubtedly laid a solid groundwork for the upcoming indoor season. Clayton is focusing on feasible goals to rescue the team from its four-year slump near the bottom of the Big Ten.

“We’ve got to be realistic,” Clayton said. “We’ve got to try to finish higher than we did at last year’s Big Ten.”