In a sport designed to highlight individual achievement, teamwork and camaraderie are often overshadowed.
For the Michigan men’s throwing unit, the opposite is true. The tightly bound crew together soars through the highest of highs and suffers through the lowest of lows, constantly feeding off the success of their teammates.
Perhaps the most apt display of this unit cohesion occurred this past weekend at the National Relay Championships at Arkansas.
The relay meet — the ultimate test of togetherness — scored only the running relay events with all other athletes essentially competing in open competition.
Heading into the meet, the throwing unit was completely aware that every throw throughout the day would not be counted towards the team’s score and would only serve as a testament to its commitment to the sport.
In light of this, the throwers delivered their greatest performance of the season and shattered the Wolverine record book.
Leading “The Meat Factory,” as they have so fittingly dubbed themselves, was senior Joe Ellis who shattered his own school record in the hammer throw twice and ended the weekend with a winning bomb of 72.16 meters. In his conquest, Ellis also humbled a pair of top-ranked throwers from Florida.
“It’s all about competing,” Ellis said. “Those guys have a lot of years under their belts. They’re both from Europe and started from a young age and had a significantly higher PR than me, so it’s one of those things where you never like not being the top-ranked guy going into a meet, so both of those guys had a bulls-eye on their backs.”
One of the Florida throwers, Anders Eriksson, took the lead heading into the event’s finals. Ever a flare for the dramatic, Ellis overcame him with the record-shattering throw.
Setting a record of his own and contributing to the ethos of “The Meat Factory” was junior Andrew Liskowitz.
Not to be outdone by his teammate, Liskowitz delivered two back-to-back record-breaking throws in the shot put to not only win the event, but move within four centimeters of the 2018 national-leading throw. Liskowitz finished with a throw of 20.28-meters and a statement to the collegiate throwing community.
While not setting a school record, senior Grant Cartwright set a personal record with a 67.12 meter hammer throw to add an exclamation point on his unit’s weekend.
“The Meat Factory’s” success could be attributable to an entire season of hard work and training, the energy that the squad gives each other—or a mix of both. Whatever it was, there is no denying the chemistry between the teammates and how the athletes feed off it.
“We’re pretty much just always in each other’s corner and it’s a very special relationship,” Ellis said. “It’s definitely something that I’ve never been a part of in sport before coming to this school and it’s definitely boosted me to do better than I would’ve thought possible, especially considering the small amount of time we’ve actually been training.”
Beyond training, the group of throwers all live together to create the ultimate culture of brotherhood and success. This particular type of bonding has clearly produced promising results and is something Michigan coach Jerry Clayton hopes to distribute to other event areas.
“They push each other both in practice and in the weight room, but they all live together too, so they’re all focused and the culture’s there,” Clayton said. “So the whole team needs to do that and that’s what we’re looking to do in other event areas as well.”
From here, the throwing squad appears to be in an ideal condition entering the big postseason meets beginning with the Big Ten Championships in two weeks.
“Tomorrow’s gonna be a super heavy lift,” Ellis said. “You gotta set your nervous system back so you can be super prepared for when our conference meet is, and then it’s just finalizing technique, working on the rhythm of the throw. You can’t make many too many major changes two weeks out, so you just gotta get ready for the event and then go in with a very expectant attitude and just do what your training has taught you to do and just compete.”
Granted that they stick to what they’ve been doing, “The Meat Factory” will stake their claim not only in Michigan history, but in NCAA throwing history as well.