Michigan-Ohio State.

Two of the most storied schools in one of the most storied rivalries in college sports.

Heisman Trophy winners. National Championships. Gold medalists.

Yes, I said gold medalists.

I’m not talking pigskin here. I’m talking about the purest sport – track and field. And this weekend, the two programs return the sport to its purest form – the dual meet.

The dual-meet series between the two schools dates back to 1907, although the meet hasn’t been held since 1993. Back in the day, world record-holders Jesse Owens (for Ohio State) and Bob Ufer (for Michigan) dominated the competition.

At that time, dual meets were commonplace. But nobody on Michigan’s roster has competed in that format since high school.

In a sport that has become too focused on qualifying times and distances, this weekend’s iconic meet, “The Dual,” returns track and field to its roots in a fan-friendly setting.

Other track meets can be difficult to follow: too many teams competing, no logical story line, too much time between events, little to no atmosphere.

But these shortcomings won’t be a problem at the Indoor Track Building this weekend.

It will be just Michigan and Ohio State. The winning team will win The Pennant, a trophy designed by Michigan distance runner Brandon Fellows, and take it for a victory lap.

Unlike other track meets that can drag on all day, The Dual will start at noon and finish by 2:30.

The program is making every effort to keep fans entertained throughout the meet. The Men’s Glee Club will be on hand to sing the National Anthem and “The Victors.” The cheerleading team will perform – something I’ve never seen at a track meet. The announcer will give energetic and informing play-by-play that makes even the most casual fan feel like an aficionado.

Admission, by the way, is free.

The only thing missing will be the dogs that perform at basketball games – Michigan associate head coach Fred LaPlante actually tried to schedule them for the event, but they’ll be in Florida.

The team is taking The Dual as seriously as the Athletic Department is trying to make it entertaining for the fans. Whenever the team needed extra motivation during the offseason, LaPlante reminded his athletes the number of days left until The Dual. It’s all built up to this.

The most exciting event should be the 60-meter dash. Junior Adam Harris, fresh off a school record-setting performance in the team’s first meet of the season, will square off against defending Big Ten 200-meter champion Anthony Cole in a showdown between two of the fastest athletes in the country.

This is the type of matchup that will make this weekend’s meet the most exciting home meet in years.

It’s the tradition between the two schools that will restore the three-year, six-meet series (indoor competitions in Ann Arbor and outdoor ones in Columbus) to its place as one of the nation’s top dual-meet series.

All of this combined should convince you to head down to the Indoor Track Building Saturday.

It has me convinced.

Robinson can be reached at irobi@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *