The Michigan men’s track and field team began its transition to the outdoor season this weekend and saw promising results. Not only did the Big Ten win the second annual Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Challenge, but the Wolverines were a big reason why.
Nine athletes set personal records over the weekend, including two different throwers. Senior Brad Bolton earned his longest hammer throw, while junior Grant Cartwright scored 11 points for the Big Ten on his own, finishing ninth in the hammer throw, sixth in the discus and second in the shot put.
“(Cartwright’s a) great guy,” said sophomore thrower Joe Ellis, who finished second in the hammer throw. “It was really fun to see him compete in all three events. He’s an excellent athlete, and he did really well throwing the hammer for the first time.”
Though the throwers had success, the middle-distance runners scored more points for the team, despite many of their runners participating in events they don’t normally run.
One of those athletes was senior distance runner Mason Ferlic, who finished third overall in the 1500-meter race despite it being just the second time he had run in that event. He, along with sophomore mid-distance runner Brennan Munley and senior distance runner Tony Smoragiewicz, who finished fifth and seventh in the event, respectively, earned the Big Ten 12 points in the 1500-meter race alone.
“Obviously his best event is the 3000-meter steeple chase,” said Michigan coach Jerry Clayton. “(But) for him to get to the next level in that event, like NCAA and beyond, the speed factor becomes an element. So (Michigan assistant) coach (Kevin) Sullivan has put a lot of attention in getting him better in the mile and the 1500 (meter), which should help him in the 3000-meter steeple chase.”
Even if winning the meet doesn’t mean a lot for the Wolverines as an individual team, that didn’t mean they weren’t focused on winning the event for conference pride.
“It’s something that’s showing how we stack up against other conferences,” Clayton said. “On the men’s side, this is the second year we’ve had it and the second year we’ve won it. So that was a real plus.”
When Michigan looks back at the end of the season, it may not matter that the Big Ten beat the Pac-12 this weekend. But the tournament itself was invaluable for the team and its transition to the outdoor portion of the season.
“The big thing I like is it gives us a sense of a team unity. That’s what’s critical for us to be successful in the conference,” Clayton said. “We need to really come together and support each other, and that’s why this meet and the meet we’re doing this next weekend, with ‘the Battle of the Blues,’ are meets that are really towards team building.”
Though the Wolverines still have work to do, the team looks to be headed in the right direction. Their strongest showing in the NCAA Indoor Championships since Clayton has been hired and many successful performances this weekend are evidence of just that.