- Ryan Reiss/Daily
By Danny Vargovick, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 23, 2014
The Michigan men’s track and field team’s final tune-up before the Big Ten Indoor Championships was unscored, so the athletes’ lone goal was to get themselves prepared for when it really matters. But the Wolverines competed like the Silverston Invitational was the biggest event of the season, notching eight personal records.
To qualify for the Indoor Championships, athletes must be in the top 18 of their event, so there was a certain sense of urgency Saturday as it was their last shot to make the cut.
Senior Erick Gavin got the ball rolling, winning the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.98 seconds.
“That’s really big, it’s been a long time coming,” Gavin said. “I’ve had two really good meets in a row. It was important to get under eight seconds. I like where I’m at heading into the championships.”
Gavin ran 7.99 the previous week, but due to the altitude in New Mexico, two additional hundredths of a second were added to Gavin’s time, so this was the first time he officially ran under eight seconds. Last week’s performance tied his previous career high.
The senior said the key to his recent success has been his starts. In the indoor season, races are shorter, so hurdlers have less time to correct an initial misstep.
Perhaps the biggest attraction of the day, though, was sophomore high jumper Stephen Sykes. The crowd came alive to watch Sykes shatter his previous best of six-foot-eight by 2.75 inches. Sykes’ career best coming into this season was just six-foot-four.
Clayton has worked extensively with Sykes to remake the lanky sophomore’s approach, and it has clearly paid dividends.
“If Stephen keeps this up, he’ll be breaking the world record soon,” Clayton joked. “We know that you can’t keep adding multiple inches every meet, so our goal will be to build consistency.”
Sykes beat second-place finisher and teammate freshman Louis Lamberti by a full two inches, but even they weren’t quite as dominant as their teammates in the mile.
Junior Jack Sattler finished first with a time of 4:08.23, and Michigan took the top four spots. Seniors James Yau and Nathan Karr and junior Ben Reed took second through fourth, respectively.
“The important thing isn’t necessarily placing, it’s the clock,” said Michigan assistant coach Alex Gibby, who works extensively with the mile runners. “There’s not something tangible you’re racing against, it’s hard to race your teammates. We came away with four big personal records.”
In track, final times are adjusted to compensate for the differences between one track and another. Gibby estimated that converting the track Saturday to the standard track will shave off about three seconds, which would put the four in line for personal records.
“We haven’t had an indoor mile finalist in about five years, and when these guys got here, we didn’t have much going on,” Gibby said. “They’ve worked very hard to put Michigan back in a meaningful place.”
Saturday, Michigan placed first in seven events, but Clayton was more concerned with the times than how the Wolverines did compared to the other teams.
“I keep telling them, ‘You need to work on the things you have control over,’ ” Clayton said. “You show up every day, give effort every day, that’s what you have control over. You don’t have control over what your opponent is doing.”
Clayton admits his team isn’t one of the strongest in the Big Ten, so for now, he’s happy with his players’ effort and progress at Saturday’s event.