Michigan coach Ron Warhurst wasn’t used to this.
His men’s track and field team stepped into Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State to an unexpectedly warm reception. Sunny skies and mild temperatures made for a picturesque setting for the dual meet rematch with the Buckeyes on Saturday.
“We’ve been treated to some really lousy weather,” Warhurst said. “So this was a treat. I bet the guys forgot how to compete because the weather was so nice.”
There was just one problem — too few Wolverines were there to enjoy it.
Michigan battled health problems and the Buckeyes, falling 110-93 and surrendering The Dual pennant they won on Jan. 19.
Ohio State’s superior depth ultimately secured the pennant for the Buckeyes. Ohio State athletes finished 1-2 in five events – two distance and three field. The meet was out of reach by the time the Wolverines’ 4×400-meter relay team of redshirt junior Dan Harmsen, junior Andre Barnes, freshman David St. Amant and senior Andrew Wechter notched an upset in the final event. The squad took down an Ohio State unit that won the Big Ten Indoor Title this season.
What makes Michigan’s dual record time of 3:11.78 more impressive is that the relay team was competing without fifth-year senior Stann Waithe, whom Warhurst calls the Wolverines’ top sprinter in the 200-meter and 4×400-meter races. The two-time All-American pulled up in the 200-meter dash with a slightly strained hamstring. Waithe will miss next weekend’s meet, too.
The absence of two of the Wolverines’ top distance runners also left big holes to fill.
Three-time All-American junior Lex Williams sat out on Saturday with an illness that’s been hampering him since the cross-country season last fall. Redshirt junior Mike Woods is out for the season with a broken ankle also suffered during cross-country season.
“It was just mediocre performances up and down,” Warhurst said. “Especially with those guys injured. We’re kind of thin, but that’s what we’ve got to work with.”
Even though the Wolverines didn’t take advantage of the warm weather, four regional qualifiers provided plenty of bright spots.
After staying even with Ohio State’s Anthony Cole through the first half of the 100-meter dash, junior Adam Harris turned the jets on down the stretch. The All-American pulled away from his personal rival and surpassed an icon in the process.
Harris’s NCAA Mideast Regional time of 10.51 seconds broke Jesse Owens’s Michigan/Ohio State dual-meet record of 10.54 seconds, set in 1936.
In addition to his contributions in the 4×400-meter relay, Harmsen tallied a regional qualifying score of his own with his victory in the 400-meter hurdles, while redshirt sophomores Sean Pruitt and Vince Belitsos placed second and fourth in the hammer throw to stake their bids for the Mideast Regional.
Fresh off receiving Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week honors, Pruitt’s 197-03 missile eclipsed his own school record set at the Yellow Jacket Invitational on March 29.
Michigan still has its share of details to work out as it enters the heart of the outdoor season.
“We’ve been training pretty hard, but it’s kind of difficult to judge how hard the workouts are because of the weather,” Warhurst said. “We’re obviously not getting enough speed training in because you can’t run fast when it’s cold, rainy and windy on that outdoor track. Hope the weather will give us a break.”
The Wolverines couldn’t get enough breaks on Saturday, either. The Buckeyes celebrated their revenge after the meet, parading along the track with the pennant in their grasp as the scarlet and gray faithful provided a warm reception of their own.