The Michigan men’s track and field team appeared to be cruising before a packed crowd during “The Dual” showdown against rival Ohio State, winning six of the first 11 events.
But the 17th-ranked Wolverines dropped off quickly, never winning another event. Michigan dropped its last four events, and lost 85-77 to the Buckeyes at the Indoor Track Building Saturday.
“We knew when the date of this meet was a year ago, so we have no excuses,” Michigan coach Fred LaPlante said. “When you win, it’s a tremendous feeling of brotherhood. When you lose, you lose together and you have to get ready for the next meet.”
The Wolverines came up just short on a number of close finishes in the loss, which dropped them to a 20-4 all-time indoor record against Ohio State.
None illustrated Michigan’s tough luck better than the 200-meter dash, the third-to-last event.
The score was knotted at 66 after Michigan finished a close second in the 800-meter run. The anxious crowd was ready to erupt as senior All-American sprinter Adam Harris prepared to defend his crown in the sprint.
With the event separated into two heats based on seed time, Ohio State junior Stephen Robinson tied “The Dual” record with a time of 21.68 in the slower heat. Harris then won the faster heat handily, but finished second overall.
His time was just one-hundredth of a second slower than Robinson.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen in their heat,” Harris said. “You’re just trying to run your fastest trying to go against a time. It’s always hard to lose by a hundredth of a second. (Running against a person rather than a time) gives you a bit more to run with.”
Even though Harris said running separately made a difference, his 21.69 time was the fastest of his career on Michigan’s indoor track.
Michigan also dropped the final two events, the 3,000-meter run and the 4×400-meter relay.
Standout individual performances helped the Wolverines jump ahead early.
Redshirt junior Sean Pruitt won the first event of the day, the weight throw, and led after every round. He obliterated the competition in the fourth round by throwing the weight 20.27 meters (66.6 feet), as Ohio State throwers exchanged words of amazement. The mark extended his own school record by nearly three feet and provided Michigan with its first NCAA provisional mark of the season.
“I’m just focusing on getting it set up nice and then smacking the stuffing out of it,” Pruitt said. “Even though it was a school record, it really wasn’t that solid of a throw for me, so that means there’s a lot more in the tank.”
Sophomore jumper Robert Peddlar, who missed most of last season due to injury, won both the long jump and the triple jump. The Jamaica native won the triple jump by nearly a meter and a half (14.34 meters).
The other three Wolverine wins were courtesy of redshirt senior John Kipf in the high jump, redshirt sophomore Nick McCampbell in the 60-meter hurdles and Harris in the 60-meter dash. Kipf and Harris both defended their 2008 titles.
LaPlante said that competing in “The Dual” will help prepare his team for the Big Ten and NCAA championships this spring.
“You’ve got to beat the other guy, it’s head-to-head competition,” LaPlante said. “Often in track and field, the emphasis is on statistics and guys look at where they rank on a list, (so) often in a championship meet, they can’t compete.
“This is the perfect format to prepare for those kinds of meets.”