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Hawaiian blows field away for first win since high school

BY JOHN GEISE

Published April 2, 2006

The Volunteers from Tennessee charged on, and Michigan redshirt junior Todd Iacovelli strived to keep ahead of them. He saw a chance for victory in a race he ran simply as a workout. Suddenly, as the pack neared the 3,000-meter mark, Iacovelli found himself all alone, the track in front of him clear and his nearest competitors hundreds of meters behind.

"That really threw me off," Iacovelli said. "I was racing those guys the whole time, and, then, they suddenly pulled off with five laps to go, and it became a solitary thing. You have to change your mind-set from racing those guys to suddenly it being you against the track. It's really hard to push yourself when there's no one around."

But, Iacovelli managed to adjust. He won the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:02.59, beating the competition by a healthy 14 seconds to claim the first victory of his three-year collegiate career.

"I grew up in Hawaii, and so I won a lot of races growing up because it is such a small running state," Iacovelli said. "I've really wanted to get this first collegiate victory for a long time, and this turned out to be the perfect race to do it in."

Iacovelli's victory was just one of the headlines for the Wolverines this weekend at the non-scoring Yellow Jacket Invitational in Atlanta. Running in its first true outdoor action of the season, the Michigan men's track and field team was buoyed by many notable individual performances rather than any collective achievement.

"It was great to see Todd get his first win," Michigan coach Ron Warhurst said. "But we had a host of great performances."

In the 1,500-meter race, senior Rondell Ruff and freshman Lex Williams were engaged in a spirited battle until the end. But Ruff finally prevailed, besting Williams by just 0.40 seconds to claim his second 1,500-meter victory at the Yellow Jacket Invitational in as many years. Both runners defeated the rest of the field by a significant margin, with the next runner finishing more than three seconds behind Williams.

The exploits of juniors Jeff Porter and Stann Waithe were also impressive. Porter, in his first action since earning All-American honors three weeks ago at the NCAA Indoor Championships, got his outdoor season off to a magnificent start. He ran a 13.93 in the 110-meter hurdles to claim fourth place at the race, trimming 0.15 seconds off his personal best. That time shattered the NCAA regional qualifying standard of 14.30, earning Porter a place in the NCAA Mideast Regional meet on May 26.

Waithe also qualified for the regional meet, running a 47.14 in the 400-meter dash to place seventh overall. Last season, Waithe earned a trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the same event.

"(Qualifying this early) takes a lot of pressure off," Waithe said. "This way, I can focus on other events and not have to worry about that kind of thing at meets like the Big Ten. Instead, I can focus on specific things I need to work on and not have to be so concerned with getting (a qualifying time)."

The track team will split up next week, with the relay teams going to Austin for the Texas Relays, while the rest of the team heads to Durham, N.C. for the Duke Invitational. With the prospect of heading south once more upon them, Warhurst feels the team needs one thing to continue and build upon its success.

"We could really use some nice weather," Warhurst said. "When we head south, we get to run in nice weather, and we get some great performances. But it's really hard to practice running fast when we come home and it's cold and windy. Everyone on this team would benefit tremendously if we could get it warmed up a little bit."