By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 13, 2011
For the Michigan men’s track and field team, the field event athletes have stolen the show so far this season.
There was redshirt freshman Bradley James clearing seven feet in the high jump in four-straight meets. Freshman shot putter Cody Riffle threw the second-farthest distance in Michigan history. In the pole vault, sophomore Jack Greenlee set a meet record for “The Dual” when he soared over 16 feet and eight and three-quarters inches against Ohio State. And former Big Ten champion, junior Robert Peddlar, set a personal record in the long jump.
But this weekend at the unscored Grand Valley State Big Meet in Allendale, it was the runners who stepped up. Though the Wolverines failed to come up with any first-place finishes in the field events, they were able to salvage victories in the 600-meter run, the 60-meter hurdles and the 1600-meter relay.
“We realized we needed to get things going,” senior David St. Amant said of the 1600-meter relay team that placed third the week before at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind. “Everybody’s starting to get in better race shape, and it’s all coming together.”
This week’s relay team included St. Amant, redshirt sophomore Matthew Campbell and freshmen Ali Arastu and Eric Oliver. Even without anchor leg runner, senior Carl Buchanon, the team still put up a time of 3:12.29 — only fourteen-hundredths of a second off the season best.
Arastu also took home an individual victory after completing the 600-meter run in 1:20.96. The Northville native, who won the 500-meter run last week, is emerging as one of Michigan’s top middle-distance runners.
Redshirt senior Nick McCampbell took the final first-place mark for the Wolverines in the 60-meter hurdles, setting a personal record in under eight seconds.
The Grand Valley State Big Meet was the first competition that included the heptathlon in its event list, which allowed redshirt sophomore Kurt Reidenbach and junior Joe Strizich to compete in the seven-part competition for the first time this year. Reidenbach finished with 4,999 points — 176 points shy of the winner.
However, despite a handful of promising performances, Michigan coach Fred LaPlante is concerned with the progress of the team.
“Overall we’ve been a little stagnant the past couple of weeks,” he said. “I would have hoped for some better performances, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Only next week's meet remains before the indoor season culminates in the Big Ten Championships on Feb. 26-27 in Champaign.
“As a freshman, we won the Big Ten meet outdoors, so I kind of had a taste of what that was like,” St. Amant said. “We were close sophomore year and last year we had a little bit of an off year. I know I’ve been thinking we’ve only got two more shots, so I’ve got to take advantage of it. There’s definitely a sense of urgency.”
St. Amant, however, is one of just four seniors who are completing their college careers this year. The team is led mainly by young athletes.
“We’re a work in progress,” LaPlante said. “Right now, we don’t have the star power to fight for a league title. That’s what you need. We’ve got guys that, down the line, will fight for titles.”