In the first 1,000 meters of the 8,000-meter course at the Spartan Invitational, redshirt freshman Colin Martin tripped, stumbled and fell into a mass of 390 bodies. He rushed to get back on his feet knowing he could pace himself if he saw one of those athletes.
That athlete was brother and classmate Ethan Martin. Both were making their Michigan debuts.
Friday, the Wolverines traveled to East Lansing, where the only Big Ten schools in attendance were Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois. Michigan had six athletes compete and entered six as unattached runners. Redshirt junior Nick Renberg paced the Wolverines, finishing 11th with a time of 25:27 — just three seconds shy of being in the top 10.
Since the meet was not scored, Michigan coach Kevin Sullivan had the chance to put in some of his younger athletes. He took that opportunity to experiment with a younger lineup.
“This week was an opportunity for guys looking to move up a chance to compete,” Sullivan said. “For them to show where their fitness is at. For (Renberg), this was an opportunity for him to be a leader on the team. He stepped up today. He moved forward in his training and leadership involvement.”
Following Renberg came Ethan Martin in 43rd with a time of 26:11. His brother placed 50th, crossing the finish line seven seconds later. The next three Wolverines in uniform to finish were senior Alex Moran in 53rd (26:51), redshirt sophomore Austin Benoit in 65th (26:39) and fifth-year senior Scotty Albaugh in 81st after 26:52 minutes.
“It was a little bit of a slower day,” Colin said. “But the greatest thing about today was the fact that I got to open for Michigan. Putting on the jersey for the first time is the greatest feeling ever. It’s something I’ve anticipated for almost two years. It’s been a long time coming.”
Added his brother Ethan: “Next race, I know I can be a little more confident and aggressive. I’m ready to go faster. Place wise I can’t be disappointed. I was up towards the front. But there were almost 50 people faster than me, and that’s what I need to focus on.”
Last year, the two got to compete at the same course as unattached athletes. Following in those footsteps were six freshman led by Keenan Rebera, who claimed 32nd with a time of 25:50. Three seconds later, Jonathan Phillips finished in 36th.
Rounding out the unattached Wolverines were Jon Russell (26:48), Ben Hill (26:54), Matthew Plowman (26:55) and Jason Ferrante (30:45) who took 76th place, 83rd, 86th and 309th, respectively.
Despite not running as Wolverines, the athletes still remained competitive and used the race as a way to show what they can add to the team.
“Like any other race, we all think we’re going to go do some damage,” Colin said. “That is always the mentality. Even the unattached freshman, we’re all still a part of the University.”
The team will head to Louisville on Oct. 3 for the Greater Louisville Classic. This will also be the course for the NCAA Championships — a goal Sullivan and the athletes never lose sight of. They’re always looking to make that top-tier lineup.