YPSILANTI — It’s days like this past Friday and Saturday that the Michigan men’s track team wishes that the indoor season had never ended.
Battling temperatures in the upper 30s, gusty winds and even an occasional snowflake, the Wolverines made the short trip to Ypsilanti this past weekend to compete in the Eastern Michigan University Invitational.
Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, Michigan still found a way to come out of the weekend with positive results.
“I think it always plays with guys mentally,” Michigan head coach Fred LaPlante said about the weather. “But guys are usually able to get themselves focused once they start warming up and getting concentrated on competing the best that they can, and I think our guys did a really good job of that.”
On Friday, the Wolverines won four out of the seven total events. Senior Carl Buchanon was back to his winning ways, winning the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 52.45.
“It was nice to see him getting back on track after a rough week the week before (against Ohio State),” LaPlante said.
And with senior thrower Sean Pruitt getting the weekend off, senior Brendan Lodge competed in the hammer throw and made the best of his opportunity.
Lodge won the event with a throw of 59.26 meters — the best throw by any Michigan thrower so far this year. LaPlante believes that the performance will give Lodge a “good chance” to qualify for the NCAA Championships in May.
Joining Lodge and Buchanon in the winners’ circle on Friday were freshmen Brendon Blacklaws and Zach Ornelas, who won the mile and the 3,000-meter steeplechase, respectively.
Michigan didn’t experience quite as much success the following day, winning only two out of the 13 scheduled events. But the results didn’t tell the full story, as the Wolverines held out some of their best athletes from competition for the weekend.
Still, Michigan received top-caliber performances from many of those who did compete.
Sophomore Nicholas Neuman won the 400-meter dash in dramatic fashion, holding onto the win by just one-hundredth of a second.
Redshirt freshman Bobby Aprill won the 3,000-meter race without quite the same excitement as Neuman’s win, but Aprill had a little drama of his own.
About halfway through the race, Aprill was in the middle of the pack, ready to coast into a fifth or sixth-place finish. But Aprill had a different plan in mind.
“The plan was, for a mile and a half, just kind of go with whatever the pace was,” Aprill said. “Just kind of sit with the pack, shielded from the wind because it was real windy.”
Just after the mile and a half mark, Aprill turned on the jets and cruised past the field, winning the race convincingly with a time of 8:27.92.
Aprill said that the wind played a huge factor in his plan of attack.
“On the back stretch, it was coming in pretty hard,” he said. “And if you were leading, you were putting in a lot more effort than anyone else in the race.”
The plan worked to perfection, and Aprill’s newfound confidence is something that LaPlante hopes to see more of with the Big Ten Championships now less than a month away.
“That was a real good confidence booster for him,” LaPlante said. “That was actually a very good time in this weather, so I think it was really good for him to pull out a win there.”