The schedule for Michigan athletes at the NCAA Indoor Track
Championships got even busier after the Wolverines competed this
weekend at the Sykes-Sabok Challenge Cup in State College, Penn.
Michigan automatically qualified athletes in two more events for
Nationals. The distance medley relay was the highlight of the
weekend for the Wolverines. Michigan won the race by 17 seconds,
coming in at 9:29.79, more than five seconds less than the
qualifying mark. The performance was a mere .03 seconds off of the
relay team’s third-place finish last year at Nationals. The
time may suggest an all out effort, but the runners were holding
back.

“None of us were pushing real hard,” sophomore Nick
Willis said. “We were just getting the time we needed. With
the other guys running the 800 the next day, we just did what we
needed to.”

Indeed, Nate Brannen and Andrew Ellerton left enough in the tank
for the 800-meter run. Brannen automatically qualified for
Nationals with his runner-up performance. His time of 1:48.16 is
the third-fastest time in the nation this season. Ellerton was less
than a second off of the automatic standard, but his 1:49.13
performance makes him a provisional qualifier in the event. Jeff
Porter was the other provisional qualifier for the Wolverines,
qualifying in the 60-meter hurdles while earning second place.

A provisional qualifier is eligible to go the national meet if
there are a low number of competitors who automatically qualify for
the event.

Qualifying runners for Nationals isn’t new for Michigan,
but having a team leave a meet as champion is. Since the team
scarcely competes as an entire unit during the season, winning a
title has been a long time coming. Michigan was led by four
first-place performances as they edged out Central Michigan
University by 1.5 points in the final event. Going into the second
day of competition in third place, a complete team effort boosted
the Wolverines ahead of the Chippewas and Kent State. Every point
counted as 17 different athletes earned points for the Maize and
Blue.

In the field, sophomore Adam Kring and freshmen Michael
Whitehead captured first place finishes. Kring out-leaped the pack
by nearly two inches in a season-best jump of 6’10.75”.
Whitehead collected his second win in only his second meet of the
season. His jump of 49’4.5” is a season best and just
five inches short of his personal best.

Michigan’s other first-place finish came from freshmen
John D’Arcy in the 600-meter run. D’Arcy captured his
fourth win of the season with a personal best of 1:19.40.

But, even with all their success, the Wolverines trailed by six
and a half points going into the 4×400-meter relay. Needing a
second-place finish to secure a win, the entire team lined the
track to cheer.

Michigan kept itself in close contention for the first three
legs of the race, and when Junior Darnell Talbert received the
baton, they were in good position to get the second-place finish
they needed. Talbert surged past Cornell’s final runner in
the final 50 meters to give his team the second-place finish and
team title. Head coach Ron Warhurst couldn’t have been
happier with his team’s performance.

“We did very well, the team was just great,”
Warhurst said. “Every time you win, it gives the team a great
deal of confidence. It will only help us stay sharp mentally for
Big Ten’s.”

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