A year ago, at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Aaron Baumgarten ran a personal best by 22 seconds in the 5,000-meter run.
This year, at the same event, the redshirt sophomore topped his previous personal best by a full 14 seconds to claim first place with a time of 14:08.75.
“Last year, I ended up getting kicked down and getting blown out of the water,” Baumgarten said. “I came back this year and decided I was going to be doing the kicking instead of getting kicked.”
The Michigan men’s track and field team participated in its third split-squad weekend of the season as the team sent athletes to both Notre Dame and the Akron Invitational in Akron, Ohio — each event was non-scoring.
So far this season, 10 Wolverines rank among the nation’s top 50 in their events, with three other runners — fifth-year senior Mason Ferlic, senior Tony Smoragiewicz and junior Connor Mora — each making the list in two events.
After discussing the race strategy with assistant coach Kevin Sullivan, Baumgarten decided on a slow onset pace during the first two miles to scope out the competition.
“It was a big pack, and we were bunched up,” Baumgarten said. “We were all trading lead positions until 600 (meters) to go, and then some athlete took the lead and made a hard move. So I started rolling and made contact with 400 (meters) to go. I had felt really good up until that point, so I had a lot more in the tank than I imagined.
“I shot by him. It was perfect.”
Baumgarten led fifth-year seniors August Pappas and Nick Posada, who finished fourth and 19th, respectively.
Also notable on the first day of competition was the debut of hurdler/sprinter Drake Johnson in the 60-meter hurdles. The senior, who finished finished 17th with a time of 8.40 seconds, also plays running back on the Michigan football team.
Redshirt junior Steven Bastien — the Wolverines’ first-ever All-American in the heptathlon — continued the victory laps in Akron. He ended the day with 3,061 points for third place, just three points shy of second.
“I feel like the position I’m in right now is a lot better than where I was at this time last year, even though the score was a little bit lower,” Bastien said. “If I get those (jumps) corrected and where I want them to be, I’ll be in good shape because I’ll be well-rested, and this training cycle is designed to have me at my peak condition for conference. I think I can score a lot higher than I did this weekend.”
The following morning, Michigan competed in one of the most anticipated events of the indoor season, the Meyo Mile.
“It’s the premier mile,” Ferlic said. “The crowd gets super hyped. They let everyone onto the track basically, so you’re running through a corridor of energy and people cheering you on. When the gun goes off, you can’t think. You just run.”
Ferlic and Mora both ran personal records, arriving at the finish line at 4:00.50 and 4:02.35 for second and sixth, respectively.
The race, however, proved to be disappointing for Ferlic, who was hoping to finally break four minutes, but instead narrowly missed the mark by half a second. This meet was one of the last chances of the season for him to do so before he starts focusing on longer courses.
“There’s always something positive to take away,” Ferlic said. “I continued to lower my time and I raced a good race. It proves my strength, my speed and my overall fitness. I can only be disappointed I didn’t run under four. It does sting because this was the race I wanted to do it in.
I have to cross my fingers that I get another shot, I just got to figure out what’s most beneficial for me and the team.”
Added Michigan coach Jerry Clayton: “That was an outstanding mile that (Ferlic) ran, as well as (Ferlic’s teammates). After what (Ferlic) ran this weekend, after you’re that close, you want to do it again. I don’t know when that opportunity will arise. We’re looking at whatever we can do to put our team in the position to score the most points.”
Other Wolverine milers included redshirt freshman Chase Barnett, who also ran a personal record, and freshman Jordy Hewitt, who ran his first mile for Michigan.
Following the performance at Notre Dame was sophomore Brennan Munley (1:48.94) in the 800-meter run, finishing third overall. Junior Ben Flanagan led a pack of four in the 3,000-meter race to finish with a personal-best of 8:04.12, good for third overall among the collegiate athletes. Michigan alumnus Lex Williams (7:57.89) won the event.
“We definitely have been getting better every meet,” Clayton said. “We’re pleased as a staff at this direction. We still got a ways to go, but everyone’s doing really well at this point. The guys have to continue to stay focused.”