Despite four first-place finishes, men’s track and field finishes last in Tri-Meet

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By Michael Kessler, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 6, 2014

Competing in its first scored meet of the outdoor season, the Michigan men’s track and field team was hoping to rebound from its disappointing finish in the Big Ten Indoor Championships. At the tri-meet held Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., however, the Wolverines once again found themselves in a familiar spot: last place.

Despite the poor showing, Michigan still recorded some impressive results, including three first-place finishes in field events and a dominating victory by sophomore Mason Ferlic in the steeplechase.

Overall, the Wolverines finished with 108 points in the 40-event meet, falling to California, which scored 142 points, and host Virginia, which scored 124 points.

The tri-meet began last year as a three-year series involving three of the top public universities in the country. California won the first two meets, while the Wolverines and Cavaliers have alternated second- and third-place finishes.

“Overall, we were a little disappointed,” Ferlic said. “We’re all competitors, we like to go out there and win and do our best, and some guys weren’t happy with how they competed.”

Among the individuals who walked away happy with their performance was Ferlic, who dominated the 3,000-meter steeplechase in its inaugural running. He led the race at every split en route to a time of 8:47.91, which was nearly 30 seconds faster than second place.

“I was a little rusty, but I steepled last year so I came back pretty quickly,” Ferlic said. “Obviously, the fitness is there. I put in a lot of good work over indoors, so I felt pretty good.”

Added Michigan coach Jerry Clayton: “That was definitely a very excellent first race, especially in a situation where he was pretty much out there by himself, so he had to set the pace. We’re looking for a lot of positive things with him, as far as Big Ten, preliminary rounds and hopefully the national level as well.”

Though Ferlic was the only Michigan runner to record a victory, three field athletes won their respective events. Among the breakthroughs was a one-two finish in the javelin. Freshman Stephen Burk won with a throw of 64.40 meters and junior Justin Gaumer placed second, tossing 50.91 meters. Gaumer, who competed in three events, also set a personal best in the shot put with a 17.10-meter throw that placed him third.

Additionally, senior Ethan Dennis won the hammer throw with a toss of 64.60 meters, while senior Patrick Cochran won the long jump with a leap of 7.33 meters. Seven more athletes set personal bests in at least one event.

Nonetheless, Michigan was unable to stay abreast of California and Virginia, and didn’t get the start to the outdoor season it was hoping for.

“It’s Michigan, we demand results and we want results … and the coaches expect that,” Ferlic said. “Going forward we have some great opportunities to run fast, get good times, get regional marks and prepare ourselves for the Big Ten Championships and hopefully NCAA Championships.”

The meet’s focus on placing and a head-to-head structure also served as a test run for the Big Ten Championships, which is structured similarly to the tri-meet, according to Clayton.

Though Michigan may not have been happy with its performance, with the outdoor season still in its early stages, the Wolverines remain confident that they will improve in their upcoming meets and put themselves in position to challenge for a Big Ten championship.

“It’s a long outdoor season, so if things didn’t go right the first meet, you know what to change, and you know what to keep,” Ferlic said. “Coming out of this, there’s some good things and some bad things, but we would have liked to place higher.”