The Michigan men’s track and field team returned to action for the first time this year at the Hillsdale Winter Opener on Saturday in Hillsdale, Mich. With just 11 Wolverines competing in the day’s events, the unscored meet provided little information about the team as a whole. But Michigan coach Jerry Clayton said the meet still held value.
“This weekend was basically about the individuals who wanted to try to see where they’re at at this point,” Clayton said.
The Wolverines found the majority of their success Saturday in field events, taking first place in shot put and the top three spots in the weight throw.
For senior shot putter Derek Sievers, whose 18.42 meter throw earned him first place in the event and an early season personal best, this meet will serve as an important stepping stone to improve upon for the remainder of the season.
“It’s always easier to compete in practice the next week when you’ve had a good performance,” Sievers said. “Because you just keep the momentum going.”
Michigan redshirt freshman Joseph Ellis took first place in the weight throw with a throw of 18.96 meters, earning his first event title as a member of the Wolverines.
Redshirt sophomore Grant Cartwright and fifth-year senior Brad Bolton added second- and third-place finishes with throws of 18.52 meters and 17.00 meters, respectively.
Clayton was also pleased with the performance of the pole vault group, which had two members finish in the top five. Junior Michael Hovater took fourth place, trailed directly by redshirt freshman Kevin Haughn in fifth. True freshman Nicholas Burkhalter finished in 11th place with a height of 4.35 meters.
Sophomore Charlie DeJonge was the only athlete to represent the Wolverines in multiple events Saturday, finishing the 60-meter hurdles in 8.73 seconds to take fourth place. DeJonge also competed in the shot put, finishing 13th, but setting a new personal best of 11.45 meters.
In high jump, senior Stephen Sykes cleared 1.90 meters and finished third overall. Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Kevin Stephens Jr. finished fourth in the long jump with a distance of 6.53 meters.
While Saturday’s meet was an important test for its competitors, Clayton emphasized the even greater importance that each athlete’s performance would have on his coaching moving forward.
“(The race) gives me ideas of what I need to do training-wise to make adjustments so that we can get through this month of January and come out really ready to roll in February when we get to the championship phase,” Clayton said. “The bigger test will be when we have 90 percent of the team open up next weekend.”