By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 6, 2011
Competing in a meet that included SEC powers like Alabama and Mississippi, the Michigan men's track and field team knew it was going to be hard to win events.
But even with the inflated competition, the Wolverines put themselves toward the top of the scoreboards at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend this weekend. The two-day, unscored meet included schools ranging from North Dakota, to Illinois and into the southeast.
“It was the biggest quantity of quality competition we’ve had this year,” Michigan coach Fred LaPlante said on Saturday. “In track, you’re going to have pockets where some teams are stronger in some events than others. When you have a lot of teams that compete, then every event is strong. One school might have a good jumper, but not a good sprinter, and vice versa.”
The Wolverines held their own, taking home six third-place finishes and two runners-up.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend came from junior Robert Peddlar in the long jump. The Jamaica native finished second, jumping 24 feet and 10.5 inches — a personal record.
“This past week, we’ve really been working on our techniques, and I just came into the meet focused on that, and I believe that’s what allowed me to jump as well as I did,” Peddlar said.
The former indoor Big Ten champion believes his marks are still improving, and that he will be able to record his best jumps in the Big Ten Championships on Feb. 26.
Freshman Ali Arastu also put together his best performance of the year, placing second in the 500 meters with a time of 1:03.81. Though the 500 meters isn’t an official indoor event, LaPlante believes that Arastu’s performance will translate well to the outdoor season, when he will run the 400-meter hurdles.
While most indoor tracks are a 200-meter oval, Notre Dame’s facilities include a 300-meter track, which allowed for faster times in all races longer than 60 meters. A 300-meter track has longer straightaways where runners can hit top speed for longer periods of time.
“I didn’t worry about the competition,” redshirt sophomore Matt Campbell said after winning the unseeded section of the 400 meters. “I just took the opportunity to get a better time and run on a better track. I looked at it as a new opportunity rather than an obstacle.”
Among other top performers was redshirt freshman Bradley James, who cleared seven feet in the high jump for the fourth straight meet (jumping off of four different surfaces). James, along with freshman shot putter Cody Riffle, redshirt freshman 35-pound weight thrower Ethan Dennis, sophomore 200-meter runner Aaron Taylor, freshman 60-meter hurdler Erick Gavin and the 4x400 meter relay team all took third place in their events.
Michigan will have an eye on the Big Ten Championships as it competes in the next two meets leading up to Feb. 26. The Wolverines will rest athletes when they feel necessary, as they did with the distance runners in this weekend’s competition.
“When you get to a certain point in the year, it takes a toll on your body,” LaPlante said. “Mentally it’s good, but physically, you need to get recovered for the next competition.”
This weekend’s meet also gave Michigan a sneak peak at what it will be going up against in the Big Ten Championships — Purdue, Indiana and Illinois were part of the Meyo Invitational field.
Michigan knows what it has to do to top these teams in a few weeks.
“We need to improve on being more consistent,” Campbell said. “We can’t let little things get us down. We need to learn from our mistakes and get better. That’s the only way we’ll do well at the Big Ten meet.”