Every meet is a part of the process. From a non-scoring meet in early January to the NCAA Championships, there is value in every competition. Saturday, on an otherwise uneventful day, that value came from young athletes making their indoor debut for the Michigan men’s and women’s track team.

“The biggest thing I’m always looking for is that the kids get some competition in,” Michigan co-head coach James Henry said. “They get to the line, they finish the line and they’re healthy.”

A lot of freshmen did, in fact, get to the line and finish.  In the 800-meter run, freshman Ben Jacobs sprinted to a fourth-place finish in 1:58. In the men’s mile, freshman Anthony DeKraker powered down the home straight coming in third with a time of 4:12, with freshman John Florence right behind him in fifth with a time of 4:17. Later in the meet, freshman Nick Trevisan came in third in the 3000-meter with a time of 8:43, surpassing several competitors who had taken an early lead over the pack.

A solid showing from the men’s newcomers was duplicated on the women’s side.

Freshman Samantha Saenz took fourth in the 3000-meter, covering the 15 laps in 10:02. And freshman Ericka VanderLende — coming off her All-American cross country season — took second place in the women’s mile with a mark of 4:49, losing only to Nike’s professional runner Shannon Osika.

“In high school, I didn’t really do a lot of hard stuff in the winter, and now I’m doing a lot of hard workouts,” VanderLende said of her transition to her first track season. “So I’m seeing a lot of big improvements for the indoor season.”

VanderLende’s second place finish was only surpassed by one Michigan newcomer — freshman Amanda Schaare. Schaare won the women’s shot put with a throw of 15.22, besting the rest of the field by over two-tenths of a meter. 

“She redshirted last year. She wasn’t ready for the big leagues,” Henry said. “But she was trained to be a big leaguer, and she stepped onto the stage and she performed like a big leaguer. That’s just a part of the process.”

Henry stressed the process for these young athletes. For him, it’s all about the Wolverines coming in and just getting better and committing to it, and all of these young competitors seem to be responding.

“It’s a process for all of our kids, especially (Michigan co-head coach Jerry Clayton)’s kids, it’s important,” Henry said. “If you do well, it’s a process. If you do bad, it’s a process.”

Schaare is a shining example of this, with her year-long break from competition allowing her to be a force in the field events like she was on Saturday.

“That kid spent the whole year training and not competing,” Henry said. “And when it’s her time to get on the stage, she shined.”

So, if the athletes who suited up for their debut Saturday trust the process as Schaare has, then there’s no telling just how bright the future can be.

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