Two weeks ago at Boston University, Chase Barnett and Ben Hill nearly broke four minutes in the mile. This weekend, they fell short again — only this time, the experienced distance runners didn’t come quite as close, with Barnett falling behind late to finish 4:05.14 and Hill at 4:08.26.
Barnett and Hill were among the distance runners of the Michigan men’s track and field team who traveled to Ames, Iowa for the Iowa State Classic, while the throwers, jumpers and sprinters went to Nashville, Tenn. for Vanderbilt’s Music City Challenge. While the Wolverines failed to meet their full potential in the mile, there were a host of strong performances and personal-best records in both of the non-scoring meets to build off of as the team prepares for the upcoming Big Ten Indoor Championships, which will be hosted in Ann Arbor.
“We got done what we wanted to get done there in Nashville,” said Michigan coach Jerry Clayton. “And coach (Kevin) Sullivan’s group had some really good races there at Iowa State, so I thought that we’re where we need to be right now. But we still got to step it up at the Big Ten.”
Sophomore Jack Aho impressed on Friday at Iowa State as he competed in the 5000-meter race for the first time this season, coming in just short of the 14-minute threshold at 14:02.28. Aho got off to a blazing start, but failed to keep pace with the leading pack the rest of the way. Finishing in 12th place, his performance earned him the 11th-best time in Michigan history in the event.
Freshman Will Landowne hung around in the middle of his heat in the 3000-meter race, catching up to finish in third place and earning a personal-best time of 8:17.14.
Two other Wolverines gained new personal-best times as well in the same event. Sophomores Lewis Tate and Christian Hubaker finished at 8:21.92 and 8:21.00, respectively.
While both meets were non-scoring, several Michigan athletes placed well in their events at the Music City Challenge. The throwers, in particular, left their mark on the final scoresheet, and very nearly in their school’s record books, against strong competition.
Fifth-year senior Josh Ellis had the best performance of his season in the weight throw, launching the 35-pound ball 23.56 meters, a throw that pushed him to second in the country in the weight throw. He finished second behind former Wolverine teammate Grant Cartwright. Senior Andrew Liskowitz finished third in shot put with a 19.62-meter throw that was just two centimeters short of breaking his own indoor school record that he set in January.
“Of course Joe and Andrew have been pretty consistent all year,” Clayton said. “But for them to improve on their performances and then to do it under very good competition — that probably was the best weight competition of the weekend of anywhere in the nation, and the shot wasn’t far behind. And that’s why we wanted to get them there to get them that opportunity to go against those type of people.”
Hurdlers Roland Amarteifio and Sierra Hendrix-Williams were a potent duo in the 60-meter hurdles. Both beat their own personal records in the finals, with respective times of 7.91 and 7.97. Amarteifio finished in second — .18 seconds short of first place — and Hendrix-Williams came in fourth.
“I thought the hurdler races went really well,” Clayton said. “Those guys really dropped their (personal record) … really a lot of positive things there.”
The two weekend meets were the last major ones of the regular season before Michigan brings a small squad to Notre Dame next week before the Big Ten Championships on Feb. 22-23. Most of the team will have a chance to recover, and the coaches will focus on finalizing their strategy for the conference championship and making sure their athletes are ready.
“It’s basically going back, tweaking things a little bit this week,” Clayton said. “And then next week it’s time to come out and showtime after that.”