Despite the Michigan men’s track and field team coming in second out of three teams, the only thing that was blue about the athletes was their jerseys.
The Wolverines traveled to Durham, N.C., to compete in the Battle of the Blues — a three-way fight between Michigan, North Carolina and Duke, the host school — for their second outdoor-season event. Michigan had started the weekend strong, but on the last day at one point, trailed the Tar Heels by more than 20 points.
Despite the gap the Wolverines faced, the final stretch of events — shot put, triple jump, 3,000-meter run and the steeplechase — saw the Wolverines rally and finish with 78.5 points. Unfortunately for them, the push was too late and they finished just 4.5 points behind North Carolina.
Overall, Michigan finished within a single-event margin and coach Jerry Clayton is proud of the way his team competed in the Battle of the Blues.
The meet was a great preview for NCAA contests and left the team in a position to focus on the individual competing. Out of 17 total events, Michigan had 19 different scorers.
“I think it was an excellent meet,” Clayton said. “A lot was accomplished. Head-to-head competition is great because it prepares them for Big Ten Championships and what occurs at NCAA meets.”
After the first day of competition, the Wolverines were leading by a small margin bolstered by the throws group. Michigan was the victor in three of four throw events — hammer throw by freshman Joe Ellis, discus by fifth-year senior Derek Sievers and shot put by sophomore Grant Cartwright. Overall, the group contributed 25 points to the Wolverines.
Ellis scored in the hammer throw with a new personal best of 214-1 feet. The throw was only a little over one meter shy of Michigan’s all-time record. This was the second weekend in a row that Ellis threw a record, beating his previous throw by three feet.
Other impressive throws came from Cartwright, who earned the runner-up spot in the hammer throw, fourth in the discus and first in the shot put. In the hammer throw, Cartwright threw 10 feet farther than his previous personal best for a distance of 198-6 feet. Sievers also added to the Wolverines’ score by clinching the victory in the discus with a throw of 172-1 feet, only one meter shy of his personal best.
“A lot of the athletes had a great meet,” Clayton said. “These last four weeks, we’re coming together as a team. We still have a lot of work to do, we got to get better every week and every day, but we’re making a lot of progress. I’m pleased with their attitude and their performances to date.”
On the second day of competition, Michigan shined on the track as well, winning the 100-, 800-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs and 3,000-meter steeplechase for a total of 29 points.
Senior Chris Maye (10.77) won the 100-meter dash and subsequently competed in the 200 race. Maye (21.71) sprinted a personal best, as did fifth-year senior Phil Washington III, who finished with a time of 21.55.
Sophomore Brennan Munley (1:49.01), who closed an eight-meter gap between him and an athlete from North Carolina, won the 800-meter race.
Junior Tony Smoragiewicz finished first in the 3,000-meter run with personal best of 8:06.64. He led the Wolverines to a 10-point contribution with Michigan placing both second and third behind him. Rounding out the races was freshman Jordy Hewitt (3:49.35), who finished first in the 1,500.
The final push for the Wolverines was made by fifth-year senior Mason Ferlic in the outdoor season’s first steeplechase. Ferlic crossed the finish line at 8:33.95 — 25 seconds in front of the runner-up.
“I was happy to get the win for the team and score points, but I didn’t think I was going to run that fast,” Ferlic said. “I took the first half of the race pretty conservative and really tried to focus on technique, but I felt good and kept pressing the gas a little bit, and I ended up responding well and came away with a PR, which is a great sign this early into the season.”
Ferlic has been participating in the 1,500-meter and mile runs to work on his speed, a tactic that assistant coach Kevin Sullivan has been pushing for all of his distance runners.
“It’s important to get other races in to work in different aspects that could be really important when I’m racing the steeple or other distances further down the road,” Ferlic said. “I’m trying to become a well-rounded athlete and not just focus on the steeple, especially trying to score in other events at the conference meet.”
Going forward, Clayton will be pushing his athletes to keep that competitive atmosphere alive and remember the importance of one athlete for the team. He hopes to keep the Wolverines focused and healthy and feeling blue only when wearing the jersey.