All of the months of training and all of the miles run in practice have been with an eye towards this weekend.
Members of the Michigan men”s track and field team have one shot to validate their efforts.
The Wolverines will face their most intense competition of the season this weekend at the Big Ten Indoor Championships at Penn State.
But, Michigan won”t stop there. The Eastern Michigan Last Chance meet on Mar. 1, and the Alex Wilson Invitational in balmy South Bend, Mar. 2-3, will each provide Michigan”s athletes with numerous opportunities to break qualifying standards for the NCAA meet in three weeks.
Still, Michigan isn”t looking forward to nationals just yet. While coach Ron Warhurst said the team will realistically finish in the lower half of the Big Ten, some athletes have their sights set on individual conference titles.
Seniors Charles DeWildt and Steve Lawrence will both enter the meet as last year”s runners-up in their respective events. DeWildt, who jumped 17-2 3/4 in the pole vault last year to finish second to Justin Norberg of Illinois, is confident that he can win this year. He soared to a personal best of 17-5 at last weekend”s Harold Silverston Invitational, and now that Norberg graduated, DeWildt enters as a favorite.
Lawrence, who finished second in the 5000-meter run last year in 14:13.98, returns as a force at the long-distance event. Junior Mike Wisniewski and freshman Brian Turner might also have a chance “if they get into the race and compete,” Warhurst said.
Junior Ike Okenwa, who finished fourth in the 200-meter dash last year, is still a top contender in that event and the 60-meter dash. Okenwa has already provisionally qualified for the NCAA meet in the 200-meter dash.
In addition to concerning themselves with individual titles, the athletes attempting to win at the conference meet are also concentrating on the team”s overall finish.
“We would have to have everybody”s season”s bests to be in the top three,” Warhurst said. But “to get every single person on your team to get their season”s best (performance) in one meet is very difficult,” he added.
With host Penn State holding “a home-court advantage,” Warhurst believes that along with Ohio State, the Nittany Lions will provide the toughest competition. After Wisconsin and Illinois, the Wolverines fall in with the rest of the teams in the Big Ten.
“I think the realization is there,” Warhurst said about the conference meet”s arrival. “Everybody just has to be wanting it.”