Three”s company when you reach the national level.
Charles DeWildt, Mike Wisniewski and Ike Okenwa, three members of the Michigan men”s track team, face the end of their seasons tomorrow at the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
The pressure that the trio will encounter both mentally and physically is greater than in any other meet, as the best collegiate athletes across the country will meet in the culmination of the season.
Wisniewski, a senior who enters the 5,000-meter run with a time of 14:05, didn”t think his season would ever conclude in at the national championships he labeled his season “the scariest (he”s) ever had.”
“For eight weeks in the middle, I thought I was done,” Wisniewski said. “I didn”t know what was going to happen, if I wasn”t a runner anymore, because I couldn”t race I couldn”t do anything.”
After struggling with a bout of sickness and over-training, Wisniewski has regained his confidence and enters the NCAA meet on a high.
“You definitely have to have the mindset or else your body”s just not going to listen to you,” he said. “But I feel confident enough that right now I”ll have a decent race.”
Also dealing with a “roller-coaster season” is Okenwa, who qualified in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.94.
Okenwa, a junior, credited his “up-and-down” performances to a lack of concentration. Coming off of a good race, he said the most important thing for him to remember is to continue doing whatever made him successful. In failing to do so, Okenwa lost his focus. As he puts it, “it showed there out on the track.”
But Okenwa approaches the national meet with a new attitude.
“It doesn”t matter what you”ve done all season these guys have done it, too,” Okenwa said. “You”re only as good as your last race, so hopefully this will be my best race of the season.”
One Wolverine who has been peaking at just the right time is DeWildt. After soaring to a personal-best height of 17-9 in the pole vault one week ago, he expects to finish in the top three at the NCAA meet.
DeWildt”s season was a steady progression from the start. He said his coach, assistant track coach Ricky Deligny, didn”t understand why he wasn”t jumping higher at the beginning of the season.
“I told him everything was fine, and that it was just going to take time,” DeWildt said. “He was worried, but it took a while to just get in the groove.”
Now that DeWildt is in peak condition, his goal of a top-three finish is conceivable, as evidenced by his high national ranking in the event.
“I”m glad I”m seeded higher,” he said. “I want somebody to look up to me as well as I”m looking up to somebody else.”
Coach Ron Warhurst explained that at a meet like the nationalst, 70-80 percent of success depends on mental approach. With that in mind, DeWildt, Wisniewski and Okenwa all have to enter the meet with a level of confidence.
“We can talk to them until we”re blue in the face and tell them how great they are, but if they don”t believe in themselves, it”s not going to help,” Warhurst said.
“They”re in there because people know who they are now.”