In the face of 2,000 screaming fans at the new U-M Indoor Track Stadium, fifth-year senior Micah Beller came sprinting down the stretch of his 3000-meter race, neck and neck with Michigan State’s Clark Ruiz. As they neared the finish line, Beller narrowly pulled ahead, holding his advantage with a final lean of his chest over the finish line.
“Once it was within 200 meters, it was just the crowd carrying me the whole way,” Beller said. “They really got into it, and it was awesome being able to feed off that atmosphere.”
It initially appeared that Beller’s victory gave the Michigan men’s track and field team the advantage it needed to hold off Ohio State and take home the Simmons-Harvey Quad meet. However, a late disqualification in the 4 x 400 race dropped the Wolverines to second place.
Despite the disappointing ending, Michigan came away from the meet optimistic about its all-around showing.
“We performed in almost every area,” said Michigan coach Jerry Clayton. “Obviously the throws and then (junior) Taylor (McLaughlin) in the 400, the 4 x 4 there at the end. Overall, from top to bottom, very good team effort.”
While Beller’s 3000-meter was the most exciting race of the day, the Wolverines were also dominant in the throwing circle. Junior Joseph Ellis and senior Grant Cartwright placed first and second, respectively, in the weight throw, while sophomore Andrew Liskowitz and Cartwright were the top-two shot putters.
To contend for a Big Ten title next month, these throwers — the self-proclaimed ‘Meat Factory’ — know they will need to repeat Saturday’s performances.
“We took that responsibility (to be team leaders) on last season,” Ellis said, “when we scored 30-some points at outdoor Big Tens so the team is expecting a lot of us but we expect a lot of ourselves. Ideally the ‘Meat Factory’ — me, Grant, Andrew Manning — we’re making moves onto the next stage at nationals and we start to score big points for the team.”
Clayton was equally pleased with the performance of his throwers.
“The marks at which they opened at (were) about exactly what we were expecting,” Clayton said “so we’re real excited with where they’re at.”
Back on the track, Michigan saw two personal records in the 800-meter race produce another 1-2 finish. Junior Matt Plowman clocked in at 1:51.83 while his sophomore teammate Anthony Berry ran a 1:52.18 in his first collegiate race.
“That was really a big step forward, because those guys are younger,” Clayton said. “To step in and compete against the teams we had here, that was an outstanding race for both of them.”
While the Wolverines were pleased with their work on the track, perhaps the most encouraging performance was from the stands. Many of the Michigan athletes credited both the crowd and their sparkling new facilities as supplemental to their success.
“I can’t speak enough to how this facility has helped us (train) over the last couple of months,” Beller said.
Even the throwers — normally hidden from the fans — noticed a difference in the crowd.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking” Ellis said. “Normally the throws are off to the side and now we’re just surrounded by fans.”
Added Clayton: “The crowds we’ve had these last two meets have just been great. We’re excited and we’re glad the fan base is too.”