The Michigan men’s track team traveled to Atlanta this weekend for its second outdoor meet of the season – the Yellow Jacket Invitational, held at the George C. Griffin Track and Field Facility. What was at first thought to be a five- or six-hour day turned into a nine- to 10-hour day at the track – all in the Georgia heat. But the Wolverines brought more heat to Atlanta than the city was ready for, bringing a win home to cold Michigan.

J. Brady McCollough
Nick VanderPloeg participated in the hammer throw at the Yellow Jacket Invitational at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

“The atmosphere was great, and everyone pretty much had a good day,” sophomore Seth Waits said.

Waits was part of Michigan’s third-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay, along with sophomores Kaj Johansson and DarNell Talbert and senior Jeremy Schneider. The team finished with a time of 3:12.55, missing the mark set by first-place Middle Tennessee State by about five seconds. Still, it was a big win for Michigan.

“I felt really good (on Saturday) and am happy with the results,” Waits said.

Among the group achievements on Saturday were several individual successes. And although the Wolverines were extremely diligent in their preparation for the invitational, there were still some butterflies, especially before the 1,500-meter run.

“I’m not going to lie – I was scared (before I ran),” sophomore Rondell Ruff said. “I get very nervous before I run and was ready to walk off the track. But then, when the gun went off, and I saw everyone moving, I was ready. We just ran in a group at first, and I started off in one of the last places and made a move on a guy and gained seventh place. I just stayed there until the end.”

Ruff finished seventh in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 3:49.72 and did not qualify for the NCAA regionals.

Freshman Andrew Ellerton fared better in the 1,500-meter run, taking third place with a time of 3:47.23. What was even more impressive was Ellerton’s second-place finish in the 800-meter run, the most exciting event of the day. Four Wolverine runners achieved NCAA regional qualifying times in the 800-meter run – Ellerton, Schneider, senior Dan Cooke and junior Tom Greenless, with times of 1:49.76, 1:50.50, 1:50.49, and 1:50.95, respectively. Qualifying four runners was a big achievement for the Wolverines, and each expressed great satisfaction and astonishment.

“I had a couple hours in between (the 1,500-meter run and 800-meter run) so I felt pretty good,” Ellerton said. “But I still didn’t expect to do as well (in the 800-meter run), and then I was like ‘Holy shit’ (when I received second).”

“Two years ago, a time of just 1:52 would have been first or second place (in the 800-meter run),” Schneider said. “But today, it would be around 10th place, and we have about 10 guys who run faster than (1:52) already.”

Translation: The Wolverines performed better than expected in the 800-meter run on Saturday and have a group of strong 800-meter runners.

Another interesting point of the 800-meter run was Cooke’s 0.01 second win over Schneider.

“In the last 20 meters, I saw him come up on my right shoulder,” Cooke said. “So at the very end, I just leaned forward and won it.”

Tom Greenless’ performance was notable as well.

“(Tom) was a big surprise,” Cooke said. “No one expected him to run that fast.”

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