The first event of the year in any sport is often typified by high energy, as athletes are chomping at the bit to show their teammates and coaches the fruits of an arduous off-season. At the men’s track intrasquad meet, even though everyone is a Wolverine, there will be no shortage of competitive fire.

“These athletes have been training all fall, and they finally get a chance to see where they’re at,” assistant coach Fred LaPlante said. “It’s pretty exciting for them because they’ve all been working hard.”

There’s more at stake than just personal bests. The Wolverines will divide into Maize and Blue squads, creating an environment where competitors go right at each other.

“The absolute best are kind of laid back, but there’s still definitely some bragging rights to be had for these guys,” LaPlante said. “We’re trying to build some camaraderie at the same time, though.”

Adding to the competitive atmosphere is the fact that some individuals have yet to make the squad. The meet serves as a final proving ground for walk-ons trying to catch a coach’s attention.

“For a lot of these guys, this is the deciding factor for if they are actually on the team,” LaPlante said.

One individual who certainly has nothing to worry about is Nathan Brannen. The sophomore burst onto the college scene last year as an All-American who set Michigan’s 800-meter record at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He was also Big Ten Freshman of the Year for indoor track. Now with a year of collegiate experience under his belt, Brannen is expected to be one of the leaders of a crew of middle distance runners that typically represents the strength of the Michigan program.

“He’s one of a number of high-caliber guys we’ve got,” LaPlante said. “In many ways, he was a veteran even as a freshman because he competed in a number of national competitions. He’s just a great competitor with a lot of talent.”

Michigan leads the Big Ten with a total of 26 indoor conference championships since 1911, and while the event provides a way for coaches and fans to see the best the team has to offer, it is less clear whether the Wolverines will be able to add to this total.

“We can measure ourselves versus ourselves, but there’s just so many variables as far as other teams that it’s probably a little too early for (speculation),” LaPlante said.

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