The Michigan men’s track and field team, led by freshman hammer thrower Brad Bolton, succeeded at the famous Penn Relays in Philadelphia this weekend.
Known for being the longest uninterrupted collegiate track meet in the country, the Penn Relays ran from Thursday to Saturday morning on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Michigan has competed in the historic relays since the early 1900s.
The first day of competition was highlighted by junior Zach Ornelas, who finished sixth in the 3000-meter steeplechase. And senior Bobby Aprill recorded a 20th-place finish in the 5000-meter run.
Day two’s high point was a second-place finish from the distance medley relay team, made up of sophomore James Yau, freshman Scott Dvorak and juniors Troy Sneller and Brendon Blacklaws. The quartet finished with a time of 9:56.90 minutes, just over one second behind the top team from Appalachian State.
But it was the third and final day where Michigan thrived. Along with a third-place finish from the 4×400-meter relay team, consisting of senior Matthew Campbell, freshman Phillip Washington and sophomores Ali Aratsu and Eric Oliver, Brad Bolton recorded a personal best at the hammer throw with an impressive distance of 60.25 meters.
Going into the weekend, Michigan had moved into the No. 4 spot in the Great Lakes region. Ahead of the Wolverines sat fellow Big Ten members Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio State.
For the second consecutive week, the team was hindered by outside distractions. Last week, the Wolverines were preoccupied by final exams during competition. This week, the team competed without its seniors, who decided to attend graduation, rather than the races.
“I think this is four out of five years where the Penn Relays has fallen on the weekend of graduation,” said Michigan coach Fred LaPlante. “Some of the guys choose to go through graduation ceremonies and some guys choose to go to Penn and this year all the guys chose to go to graduation. It’s a great experience for them to be able to share that with their families, and it gave a couple other guys a chance to go to Penn and step into the lineup, which was good for them.”
Michigan has only one remaining tournament before the Big Ten Championships. Coincidentally, that final tournament is the Len Paddock Invitational, located in Ann Arbor.
LaPlante believes the regular season has provided sufficient experience to prepare the team for the Big Ten Tournament.
“We’re progressing and we’re headed in the right direction,” LaPlante said. “I think some of our top performers are surfacing and your top guys have to perform at the Big Ten meet.”
The team will host the Len Paddock Invitational this coming weekend. Following this tournament, the team will square off with its Big Ten counterparts in the conference’s championship on May 11-13.