The Michigan men’s track team had a very disappointing weekend at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, finishing in last place with 44 points. The Wolverines were hindered by injuries to several key athletes who, if healthy, could have significantly changed the final result.

The two athletes most noticeably affected by their injuries were seniors Lex Williams and Sean Pruitt. Williams came into the meet as arguably the favorite in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter run, having finished second in both events last year, but was only able to muster 13th and 14th place finishes.

Pruitt overcame a foot injury to finish an impressive third in the hammer throw, but could manage just 10th place in the discus, which is usually his best event.

“I feel like we had the personnel to be in the top five spots,” Michigan coach Fred LaPlante said. “But this is a sport where, if your big guns get hurt or have a bad day or some combination of those things, you can lose big points.”

The Wolverines’ final result was especially unsatisfying considering that they won the meet two years ago and finished third last year. This has been one of the team’s worst seasons in recent memory, and the injuries only exacerbated their troubles.

There were some positives during the weekend. Junior Frank Shotwell broke the school record in the decathlon, finishing in second place, just two points behind the winner. His margin of defeat was especially narrow considering the third-place finisher was more than 1,500 points behind.

“It’s just such a developmental type of act,” Shotwell said about his performance. “Each year, you keep getting better and better progress through different events, and you hope that all that work eventually leads to something like this.”

Senior Grant Till hadn’t thrown for five weeks before the event due to an elbow injury, but still managed a career-best distance in the javelin, despite being advised against competing by trainers. He finished in eighth place.

“An elbow injury is obviously not a good thing for a javelin thrower,” LaPlante said. “But Grant went through rigorous alternative training for weeks and, even though he was told not to throw, he said, ‘This is my senior year, I’ve gotta throw.’ ”

Among other impressive performers were sophomore Craig Forys, who finished fourth in the steeplechase, and junior Nick McCampbell, who finished fifth in the 110-meter hurdles.

LaPlante was clearly disappointed with finishing in last place, but made it clear that it was through no lack of effort.

“The effort and attitude of our athletes was great the entire weekend,” LaPlante said. “Even as it became clear that we weren’t doing as well as we had hoped, they still fought hard. Proof of that is that one of our best events was the very last one, the 4 x 400 meter relay, where we finished third.”

Michigan’s next event is the NCAA preliminaries in Greensboro, South Carolina in two weeks.

And several Wolverines have a chance to make the final rounds of the championships in Eugene, Oregon next month, including Shotwell.

“My goal is to be an All-American,” Shotwell said. “I know my best is yet to come, and I just plan on continuing to work hard.”

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