The Wolverines had what they consider to be a very successful trip down to Jacksonville for the NCAA East Preliminary Championships.
Under the tutelage of co-head coaches Jerry Clayton and James Henry, the Michigan men’s and women’s track and field teams combined to send seven entrants to nationals –– six male and one female.
For the men, graduate students Joe Ellis and Jack Lint will be competing for the Wolverines in the decathlon and the hammer throw, respectively, senior Andrew Liskowitz will throw the shotput, senior Taylor McLaughlin and junior Roland Amarteifio will compete in the 400-meter hurdles, and the team of freshman Ian Davis, juniors Desmond Melson and Alex Schwedt, and sophomore Vail Hartman will combine to run the 4×400-meter relay.
Meanwhile, graduate student Erin Finn will be the lone female Michigan representative in the 10,000-meter.
Finn ran an impressive race, ensuring that she gets to finish her illustrious collegiate career on the biggest possible stage, clocking a time of 33:21.56 which was good for 3rd place at the meet.
“The goal of regionals is to qualify for nationals,” Finn said. “You don’t necessarily need to win. Twelfth place is as good as first place.”
Finn’s game plan of ensuring that she stay with the lead pack, but not pushing that pack forward, illustrates her focus on the main objective of the meet. After an injury-riddled couple of seasons and an abbreviated training cycle for this postseason, Finn made it clear that she is trying stay fresh so that she can make the most out of her last opportunity to run for a national championship.
“(Qualifying) was pretty surreal because I didn’t even think I was gonna race at Big Ten’s,” Finn said. “To be able to qualify one last time was really, really exciting.”
A theme of the three-day meet for Michigan was unexpected qualification. A whole slew of Wolverines finished above where they were seeded, including Amarteifio and the 4×400-meter relay.
As to how the team’s coaches felt about the overall performances, Clayton made his excitement quite clear.
“There were some placements we didn’t expect and some guys that were just solid,” Clayton said. “Roland was a surprise and him making it was absolutely huge. Him and the relay really showed up and ran great races.”
Amarteifio also felt pleased with how he ran the race. It takes the execution of an effective game plan for any runner to qualify for nationals, especially one who was not considered to be a comfortable qualifier, and that was exactly what happened for the Wolverine junior in Jacksonville.
“This week was all about being aggressive and not holding anything back,” Amarteifio said. “Just wanted to leave everything out on the track. For both races I was very aggressive out of the start and wanted to control the race as best as I could. In both races I got out of the gates very fast to the point where I could run off of the guy in lane eight. That was the game plan in addition to staying smooth and controlled. Seeing runners coming up behind me in the second turn was a good sign that everything was going to plan. Once that happened I just wanted to give it everything I had for the rest of the race.”
Amarteifio added that he is trusting the process moving forward. This statement is indicative of the faith that Michigan’s athletes have in their coaches’ end-of-season training and taper processes as warranted by the team’s overall success in their first regional meet with Clayton and Henry as co-head coaches.
“I do feel like the meet was a success not just for the people who qualified for nationals,” Amarteifio said. “Everyone showed up with a good attitude and raced to the best of their abilities. We had a lot of people take the next step forward, regardless of whether they qualified for nationals and or not. I think we really showed what the Michigan spirit is all about.”