Milestone met and records broken in Boston

Sunday, January 29, 2017 - 6:41pm

For the first time in program history, the Michigan men's track team had three athletes run a sub-four minute mile in a single race.

“It was outstanding,” assistant coach Kevin Sullivan said. “My freshman year when I competed at Michigan, we had two guys go under four minutes and we thought that was a pretty big deal.”

Graduate students Ned Willig and Will Sheeran and senior Connor Mora all broke the four-minute mark at the Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic, with all three reaching the milestone for the first time in their careers.

“I was just very excited,” Willig said. “It’s been a goal for a while, so it’s cool to finally reach that.”

Both Willig and Sheeran spent their undergraduate years at Brown University, with the former bringing home three Ivy League Championships during his time with the Bears.

“We knew coming in that all three guys had the potential to run under four minutes,” Sullivan added. “I was really hoping that at least one of the three would.

“It’s such a big barrier in the athletic world. … It says a lot about where the program is right now.

In addition to the success of the runners in the mile race, the Wolverines were able to showcase some of its younger athletes at the meet.

After nearly winning the 400-meter dash, sophomore Taylor McLaughlin was 0.1 seconds away from breaking Michigan’s record in the 200-meter dash, finishing fourth overall in the event.

“I think Taylor was a little disappointed with his 400,” Sullivan said. “For him to come back two hours later and run the second-fastest time in Michigan history showed a lot of resilience.”

Since arriving in Ann Arbor, the New Jersey native has quickly established himself as one of the program’s most promising athletes. McLaughlin has already managed to win a Big Ten championship, set a school record in the 400-meter run and finish second in the Under-20 World Junior championships in the 400-meter hurdles.

In addition to taking part in the Terrier Classic, the Wolverines also competed in the Saginaw Valley State Jet's Pizza Invitational this weekend, where some of the team’s less experienced runners had the opportunity to showcase their abilities.

Notable performances included sophomore Matthew Plowman’s second-place finish in the 800-meter run — a career-best and sophomore Blake Washington’s second-place finish in the 400-meter run.

Despite that half of the team was spread out at different competitions, both Sullivan and Willig stressed that the dispersed set-up did not impact the team’s preparation. Willig mentioned that, though the team had been split up, he received a lot of texts congratulating him on his record-breaking performance.

“Everyone’s very supportive even though we’re not competing in the same place,” Willig said.