Just seven short months ago, Grant Cartwright started training on the weight and hammer throw for the first time since a lower-back injury in high school. But even after a few years, the redshirt sophomore threw 19.71 meters to place fourth overall Friday.
“Throwing this mark is definitely a big milestone for me in my athletic career,” Cartwright said. “I let myself be happy with what I did today, but the goal is to keep throwing as far as I can and score as many points for the team. It’s obviously satisfying to throw benchmarks, but I don’t get satisfied very easily.”
Cartwright and the Michigan men’s track and field team participated in its fourth and final split-squad weekend of the indoor season. The Wolverine field event athletes traveled to Geneva, Ohio, to compete in the SPIRE Collegiate Invitational for a two-day event, and the runners went to Ames, Iowa, for the Iowa State Classic. In the second-to-last weekend before the Big Ten Indoor Championships begin, Michigan set a total of 21 personal records.
Adding to an already impressive weekend, Cartwright participated in the shot-put event and threw 19.94 meters, the third-best throw in program history, on the second day of competition.
“I wanted to do it for my team,” Cartwright said. “They’re working hard for me, so I should work hard for them. Everybody really cares about other people’s accomplishments. We’re moving in a right direction as a program. The culture is changing rapidly into a highly competitive and positive area, where we just try to go out there and be the best we can. It’s very exciting to be a part of it.”
Though Cartwright sustained a pointer-finger injury back in December, he didn’t let it stop him from trying to rehabilitate as quickly as possible — a pattern in his track and field career.
“I think I came as far as I have because coach Jerry Clayton is such a fantastic coach,” Cartwright said. “I listen to the best of my ability to everything he’s told me to do.”
Added Clayton: “The thing with (Cartwright), he’s one of the athletes that has really focused in, and does everything he can, to be the best he can. He’s made that commitment. He does everything he’s asked, both on and off. That’s the type of individual we need leading our team.”
Cartwright puts emphasis on his relationship with his fellow thrower and training partner, redshirt freshman Joe Ellis, for helping him with his focus. Ellis, himself, made headlines when he threw 20.08 meters in the weight throw to finish fourth — over Cartwright’s fifth — overall. The distance also qualified as the third best in program history.
“The two of them are working together and focused, and that’s the key,” Clayton said. “That’s what I’m used to in the most successful programs I’ve been a part of. That’s the type of atmosphere, leadership and individuals I’m used to working with. These two throwers are young and the future of the program.
“They really feed off of each other with staying focused. It’s not just in athletics, but in academics, they make those sacrifices, too.”
Clayton is in his third season at the helm of the program and works primarily with the throwers and jumpers. In total, Clayton has coached 16 individual NCAA Champions.
Elsewhere in Ohio, redshirt junior Steven Bastien set a personal record in the pole vault, clearing 4.73 meters. Bastien finished fifth overall, right behind redshirt freshman Kevin Haughn. Freshman Nick Burkhalter also cleared a personal record at 4.58 meters.
During the second day of competition, redshirt sophomore triple-jumper Kevin Stephens Jr. took third place after flying 14.89 meters. Stephens finished third and also claimed the ninth-best distance in program history.
In Iowa, the runners also made fast strides en route to the Big Ten Indoor Championships. In the mile run, all three Wolverines set personal bests, led by redshirt freshman Chase Barnett (4:03.77) in 13th overall.
In sprints, senior Phil Washington III ran 47.99 in the 400 meter to finish ninth overall and second in his section. Freshman Blake Washington (49.09) ran a personal best in the same event.
Next week’s meet, the Alex Wilson Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 20, will wrap up the regular season, with the Big Ten Indoor Championship just two weeks away.
“This is a time for people to change their workload,” Clayton said. “The critical phase is: are they going to make those adjustments? We, as coaches, don’t get on the track, the athletes have to have that confidence. That’s the thing I was pleased about this weekend. The athletes really did compete. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re excited about the focus going forward.”