In its first outdoor meet of the season, the Michigan men’s track and field team helped lead the Big Ten to a victory over the Pac-12 in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Challenge.
With student athletes from various universities, the two conferences faced off against each other in Tempe, Ariz., to kick off a new segment of the season.
The Wolverines finished eighth out of as many teams, scoring 47.5 points — a considerable distance behind first-place Nebraska’s 153.
Nonetheless, solid performances from sophomore Taylor McLaughlin, junior Connor Mora and junior Drake Johnson helped contribute to the Big Ten’s overall victory.
McLaughlin, one of the more promising athletes on the team, built upon a good indoor season with his 51.48-second run to finish third in the 400-meter hurdles.
The 400-meter run has consistently proven to be McLaughlin’s strongest event. The runner set a school record when he won the Big Ten championship in the category last season.
Michigan coach Jerry Clayton said that he thought McLaughlin’s performance was a good start to the athlete’s outdoor season, while also stressing that the transition from indoor to outdoor races is tough.
Clayton was particularly impressed by redshirt senior Stephen Burk’s 69.22-meter throw in the javelin throw, which was enough to earn third-place.
“It was nice to see him getting back to the form he was in prior to the injury situation,” Clayton said.
Burk missed the entire 2015 season due to injury, and its effects lingered through last season. His throw this weekend broke his previous personal record of 68.10 meters, which he set in 2014.
The Wolverines continued to have a series of solid performances, with Mora finishing fifth in the 1,500-meter run.
In addition to their more veteran runners, a handful of younger athletes had the opportunity to showcase their talents at the challenge, especially with the athletes who took part in the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 10 and 11 sitting out this weekend.
Sophomore Ben Hill and freshman Anthony Berry finished sixth and eighth, respectively, behind their teammate Mora while Drake Johnson made his outdoor debut with his fifth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles.
While Clayton was pleased with his team’s performance over the weekend, he stressed that it takes a couple of races before players are accustomed to the outdoor races.
“You’re dealing with weather factors whether it be wind or rain,” Clayton said. “(But) it’s just something they get used to.”