Senior Lex Williams waited the entire season to run a quality race.
After missing the first part of the indoor season with an injury and struggling to compete in the last few meets of the year, Williams was looking to redeem himself when he arrived at the Hutsell-Rosen Track in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday.
And the Ann Arbor native raced as if he had been competing healthy the entire year.
Williams’s performances were the highlight of the Michigan men’s track and field team perfomance at the non-scoring Auburn Invitational this weekend.
In the 1,500-meter run, Williams and redshirt sophomore Peter Christmas helped pace each other to second- and third-place performances. Williams’s mark was good enough for an NCAA regional qualifying time (3:46.90).
“Lex has been one of the top athletes for the last few years and he definitely went through a rough patch,” Michigan coach Fred LaPlante said. “It was his first outdoor meet so, it was a nice way for him to start.”
Williams wasn’t done for the evening.
With his teammates setting a fast pace early, Williams crossed the finish line first in the 3,000-meter run (8:19.32). The performance was Michigan’s lone victory of the meet. Following Williams’s lead, Christmas finished second in the event (8:24.82).
“It was really a tremendous race he had in the 1,500,” LaPlante said. “Then he came back and won the 3,000. It was a track record.”
Though no one else took home an event title, the rest of the team shared Williams’s success.
Senior Dan Harmsen continued to improve his time in the 400-meter hurdles. Competing against one of the best hurdlers in the nation, Harmsen finished second (51.21) to Reuben McCoy, a recent Auburn alum, who finished second at the NCAA Championships last year.
The invitational was an opportunity for the Wolverines to prepare for their much-anticipated match up with Ohio State in the outdoor edition of The Dual next weekend.
The last time around, Michigan hosted the indoor meet against the Buckeyes on Jan. 17 and lost, 77-85. The meet was decided in the final event, the 4×400-meter relay. The Wolverines were edged out by just over a second.
Not only was the team without Williams for The Dual, but they could have used the help of senior Andre Barnes in the 4×400-meter relay, who was scratched from the meet because of an ankle injury.
With a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter dash this past weekend, Barnes posted his fastest time in the event this season (47.82). Barnes also contributed to the second-place 4×100-meter relay team.
The 4×400-meter relay showcased the Wolverines’ efforts in the sprinting events. The team of Barnes, Harmsen and sophomores David St. Amant and Carl Buchanon crossed the line fourth against a competitive field (3:09.36). Amant anchored the relay and finished with a 46.90 split for the last 400 meters, a performance that was good enough to give Michigan another regional qualifying mark.
“I took the first 300 and ran it,” St. Amant said. “Then with the last 100, I went all out. The first three guys put me in a great position.”
In the field events, redshirt junior Sean Pruitt continued to rewrite the Michigan record books in the hammer throw. His 199-foot-5-inch throw catapulted him into third place and set a new school record.
A healthy Williams could help secure Michigan’s first Big Ten victory of the outdoor season and regain the pennant which is awarded to the winner of The Dual. Ohio State took the top spots in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs in January, dominating the distance events.
“We certainly want to beat them and they want to beat us,” LaPlante said. “That’s what makes it fun.”