Who knew that such a seemingly simple question could be so complicated.
When asked what he thought of his team’s overall performance this past weekend at the Rod McCravy Memorial in Lexington, Ky., coach Fred LaPlante couldn’t quite find the words to describe the Michigan men’s track team.
“Well, that’s a tough question to answer as far as these types of meets,” LaPlante said. “We’ve got 30 guys competing, obviously a bunch of different events, some guys are at different points in their training, and so forth and so on. It’s kind of hard to say it in terms of sort of a team evaluation.”
So goes the first few weeks of the indoor season. With so many individual competitors and events, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where the 38th-ranked Wolverines stand.
But after competing in a field loaded with high-quality competition from schools such as No. 1 Florida State, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Georgia Tech, it is clear that the Wolverines have the potential for success.
“Our guys in general don’t fear the tough competition,” LaPlante said. “I think they really like the tough competition.”
Long distance runner Brian Fellows, who led the Wolverines with a first place finish in the mile run, crossing the finish line with a career-best time of 4:06.37, was no exception.
“Brandon Fellows winning the mile was the best performance for our program this weekend,” LaPlante said.
Although Fellows was the only Michigan competitor to win an event, there were others who experienced success as well.
Junior co-captain Carl Buchanon, who has primarily been a hurdler, finished third in the 60 meter hurdles with a time of 8.12. He also tallied a surprising fifth-place finish in the 400-meter dash — an event that Buchanon had never run until this past weekend.
There were also some encouraging performances from the underclassmen, something that will prove to be important for Michigan if they hope to compete in the Big Ten.
After a 2009 team that was loaded with seniors, 30 of the 54 athletes listed on the Wolverines’ current roster are redshirt sophomores or younger. Needless to say, Michigan will have to rely on its underclassmen for much of the season.
On Saturday, freshman Dallas Bowden finished fifth in what LaPlante called Bowden’s “first serious mile” with a time of 4:08.83.
Redshirt freshman Bobby Aprill also finished fifth in the 3,000 meter run with a career-best time of 8:15.66.
Amidst all the uncertainty of the early weeks of the season, it is clear that the future looks bright for the Wolverines. But it is going to take a lot of work to get this team where it needs to be.
“If they’re going to perform well, it takes more than just training hard,” LaPlante said. “You really have to have a passion to compete. Sometimes it happens that you find out your passion when you kind of get your teeth knocked in a couple times. Hopefully some of those guys will find the passion, and that will be a good thing.”