Joe Ellis had already broken his own program record in the weight throw on his second attempt at the Notre Dame Invitational. For good measure, on his sixth and final attempt, he surpassed it again.
The sophomore’s winning throw of 22.02 meters helped lead the Michigan men’s track and field team to a dominating victory at the same competition where the Wolverines claimed their first victory in a scored meet under coach Jerry Clayton last season.
The Wolverines finished well ahead of the seven-team field consisting of DePaul, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia, racking up 133 points and finishing 47 points ahead of the second-place Cardinals.
Six Michigan athletes took home individual victories in their events, but Ellis’ record-setting performance — the second-best mark in the nation — was the highlight of the day.
“(The record is) a validation of the hard work that me, coach Clayton and the rest of the guys have put in,” Ellis said.
Junior Drake Johnson has established himself as a consistent force in the 60-meter hurdles. Johnson, who doubles as a running back, finished in 7.95 seconds to win the race, and has now set career-bests in both of his meets this season.
Also in the sprint category, junior Khoury Crenshaw claimed victory in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.75, tying his personal best. Participating in his first 400-meter race of the season, sophomore Taylor McLaughlin won with a time of 47.02, while freshman Alex Schwedt finished close behind him in third place.
The 800-meter race yielded more positive results for the Wolverines. Junior Brennan Munley entered the race holding the third-fastest time in the nation at that distance, but was overcome at the finish by senior Ned Willig. Willig finished with a time of 1:50.13, just 0.24 seconds ahead of Munley.
“The times were good, but the way (Willig and Munley) competed to place and score for the team was outstanding as well,” Clayton said.
Michigan runners made up five of the top eight finishers in the mile race, with sophomore Chase Barnett leading the pack by running a time of 4:07.33 to finish in second place. Junior Austin Benoit and senior Ben Flanagan were the other Wolverine scorers, crossing the finish line within a second of Barnett. Junior Micah Beller bolstered the Wolverines’ distance corps with a time of 8:17.98, good for second place in the 3000-meter race.
The Wolverines also saw a standout performance from senior Steven Bastien to win the long jump. Bastien, who also competes in the heptathlon and 60-meter hurdles, leapt 7.57 meters, a personal record for him. Junior Kevin Stephens Jr.’s triple jump of 14.93 meters placed him second in that event.
But above all the individual triumphs, the first scored meet of the season provided Michigan an opportunity to show the progress it has made in uniting as a team throughout Clayton’s tenure. While the Wolverines featured winners in a wide array of events, the newfound team chemistry has been equally as important to Clayton as the improvement on the track.
“This team is starting to really jell and this has been occurring for about a year and a half now,” Clayton said. “(The athletes) really make an effort to learn the other events so they know and are really starting to cheer and support each other.
“When I came here that wasn’t always the case, but now distance runners and sprinters and field events, they’re all one team instead of segments, and are really supportive of each other.”