With one event left in the decathlon — the 1,500 meters — at the Big Ten Championships, Steven Bastien sat in second place, trailing Nebraska’s Cody Walton by 137 points. So the Michigan senior met with one of his coaches to formulate a plan.
“(The plan was) based on his personal best and based on what I needed to run, the type of splits I would need to run for each lap, and I just tried to execute that plan,” Bastien said. “(My coach), as the javelin finished, he immediately was like, ‘You have to beat Cody by 20 seconds if you want to win’.”
A little less than halfway through the race, Bastien was well on pace to do so, with a 12-second lead over his Cornhusker rival. Coming into the final lap, Bastien had reached the margin he needed, ahead of Walton by 23 seconds. And he didn’t let up, as he cruised to a time of 4:36.01 — 13 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Andrew Huber of Indiana, and 40 seconds ahead of Walton.
With his dominant performance in the 1,500, Bastien became just the second Wolverine to claim a conference title in the decathlon, with a score of 7,713 points. His decathlon championship, along with a record-breaking victory from sophomore Joe Ellis in the hammer throw, highlighted the Michigan men’s track and field team’s eighth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, hosted by Penn State. The Wolverines scored a total of 64 points, 53 behind the victorious host Nittany Lions.
The decathlon victory is just the latest addition to Bastien’s legacy. The Saline product already holds Michigan program records in the heptathlon and decathlon, and won the heptathlon at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in 2016. He also has earned first-team All-American status three times, and qualified for last year’s United States Olympic Trials in the decathlon. But Bastien says that these accomplishments pale in comparison to what it means to him to be a Wolverine.
“Just running for Michigan and having success here has been an accomplishment that’s been really enjoyable,” Bastien said. “I don’t think one (accomplishment) stands out above any other. It’s just that being able to have success at Michigan has been really rewarding because of the history the school has, the individuals on the team and the coaches that I have. The whole atmosphere that Michigan offers is a fun place to have success.”
The running and jumping events proved most successful for Bastien. Along with his 1,500 victory, he won the 100-meter dash by .22 seconds and the 400-meter dash by over a second, while outjumping his competitors in the pole vault as well. He also set a career-high in the javelin, while tying his career-best in the 110-meter hurdles. He even could have potentially recorded a larger score had it not been for unfortunate fouls in the long jump and shot put.
“Getting more consistent at running the 400 faster and the shot put, although the mark didn’t show it, I had a really big foul and in the javelin my (personal record) there,” Bastien said. “I think those build confidence going into future meets as far as being able to score bigger points in those areas.”
Ellis’s hammer throw title was the first time a Wolverine had won a conference crown in that event in 87 years. And he won it in dominating fashion — with a heave of 70.98 meters, he broke the program record — which he himself had set just two weeks ago — by 1.68 meters.
Ellis wasn’t the only highlight for Michigan’s throwers, who had an impressive showing as a unit. Junior Grant Cartwright set career-bests in both the discus and hammer throw, finishing third and fourth, respectively, in those events. He also finished fourth in the shot put, right behind redshirt freshman Andrew Liskowitz.
“To have my family here watching and supporting — for them being here all the way, my dad’s seen pretty much all my (personal records) from high school in the weight and hammer and now here,” Ellis said. “To have them and two of my brothers and my mom, words aren’t enough.”
Added Cartwright: “It’s just really special. The biggest thing is to be here with Joe — we’re brothers, we train together, we do everything together.”
The Wolverines’ distance contingent also made several key contributions, beginning with junior Ben Flanagan, who finished eighth in the 10,000 meters in his outdoor season debut. Graduate senior Ned Willig scored in two events — placing fourth in the 1,500 meters and fifth in the 800 — while junior Brennan Munley was eighth in the 800. Junior Connor Mora aided the effort with two sixth-place showings, in the 3,000 meter steeplechase and 5,000 meter run.
However, Michigan had much less success in the sprint events, with only one scorer — sophomore Taylor McLaughlin — coming in fifth in the 400-meter hurdles.
The Wolverines will now have a week off to prepare for the NCAA Preliminary Meet, which will be held in Lexington, Ky. from May 25-27, and hope to qualify a large contingent to the national championships in Eugene, Ore. the week after.