By Steven Braid, Sports Writer
Published April 10, 2011
In what was surely one of his best days as a Wolverine, sophomore Matthew Campbell helped make sure that the Michigan men’s track and field team left an impression at the UCLA Rafer Johnson Invitational.
“I would say it was his best day at Michigan so far,” Michigan coach Fred LaPlante said.
Campbell won the 200-meter dash on the second day of the invitational, posting the third-best mark in the Big Ten. He then raced the 100-meter dash the next day, barely beating out teammate sophomore Aaron Taylor to take home first place.
But, during what was perhaps the most memorable race of the invitational, Campbell ran the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay that beat out the professional BK Radical Ryders to claim first.
“It was an interesting event,” LaPlante said. “They ran against an all-star team that featured two Olympic champions. Going in, we could only dream of running close to them. I don’t know how we did it, but it was amazing to beat them.”
It was even more impressive considering the Wolverines’ best 400-meter runners couldn’t even participate because of injuries. Missing junior Nick Neuman, senior David St. Amant and freshman Eric Oliver, Michigan raced freshman Ali Arastu, Taylor and redshirt freshman Troy Sneller alongside with Campbell.
Even though Michigan jumped out to an early lead, the Ryders seemed intent on coming back. But every time they seemed to close the gap, the Wolverines were able to break away and eventually held off the Ryders to win by roughly a second.
Along with Campbell, Arastu also had a fantastic day. After winning the 400-meter hurdles at the FSU Relays last week, Arastu continued his streak by finishing in first place while posting the second best mark in the Big Ten.
“(Arastu) is on a little bit of a streak,” LaPlante said. “He raced well and his confidence is high right now. Life is good when you’re a freshman and you’re winning events.”
Cody Riffle joined Arastu as the only other Michigan freshman to win an event. Riffle won the shot put by posting a distance of 18.40 meters, good for the second best distance ever at Michigan.
Aside from their five wins at the non-scoring invitational, the Wolverines also gained six runner-up finishes to round out an impressive weekend. LaPlante, though, wasn't too impressed.
“What we were hoping for was some good weather and some good competition,” LaPlante said. “We got the weather, we got the competition and we got some wins. We did have guys that had great days. But we also had some disappointments because of injuries. Overall, it was a mixed bag.”
LaPlante said Michigan still has a lot of work to do if it wants to compete at the top level.
“We’ve got to keep improving on everything,” LaPlante said. “We definitely have some guys that have improved a lot since the indoor season, but we also have some guys that haven’t improved that much. We don’t have much depth besides the 400-meter. We have to keep on getting good performances from our frontliners if we want to beat Ohio State next week.”