CHAMPAIGN — The Big Ten men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships started promising for Michigan.

Maybe the Wolverines wouldn’t be competing for a championship, but perhaps they could have finished in the top half of the field. Michigan had just scored points in the three of the first four events and was ready to prove itself in the sprints.

Things quickly fell apart. The second half of Saturday, the Wolverines failed to qualify a runner for the finals in six of the seven races. With no opportunity to pick up points in any of these events, the team’s chances to finish well in the meet were quickly wiped away.

Michigan finished ninth out of 10 teams in the two-day meet, scoring 28.50 points. Minnesota took the conference championship with 117.33 points, spurred by a strong Sunday which saw the Golden Gophers gain victories in the 35-pound weight throw, the mile and the 600-meter run. Indiana and Wisconsin finished second and third, respectively.

“I knew we weren’t going to be fighting for a title,” Michigan coach Fred LaPlante said. “You have to compartmentalize and go event-by-event. You want to have positive experiences for guys, which may or may not mean placing.”

Early on, Michigan scored points in a handful of events, but it didn’t place high enough in the events to put it in contention.

Junior Robert Peddlar took fifth place in the long jump with a mark of 24 feet and five inches to put Michigan on the board with five points in the first completed event of the meet. Then, redshirt junior Craig Forys and sophomore Jack Greenlee both scored for Michigan with Forys getting four points in the 3000 meter run and Greenlee tacking on 1.5 more in the pole vault.

But its lack of a presence in the sprints was Michigan’s downfall. The Wolverines scored in only one of the sprinting events when senior Nick McCampbell and freshman Erick Gavin took fourth and sixth for a combined eight points in the 60-meter hurdles.

“In a meet like this, even Minnesota who won the meet, will tell you that they left points on the table,” LaPlante said. “When you have eight places and seventeen events it never goes exactly how you want it to. There’s a couple points here or a couple points there we could have had.”

However small the victory may feel, Michigan can take pride in beating out Purdue by 2.5 points to avoid the stigma of last place.

On Sunday, freshman high jumper Bradley James cleared seven feet to place fifth in the high jump, while Peddlar added two more points in the triple jump.

“I was hoping to try to get on the podium,” James said. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but you’ve got to take it for what it is and it’s still not a bad performance.”

Despite the tough weekend, the Wolverines ended the meet on a high note. Mired in last place with one event to go, Michigan needed a strong performance in the 4×400-meter relay to dig its way out of the cellar. And it got it. By finishing fourth in the race, the Wolverines pulled themselves in ninth place by gaining five points while Purdue failed to score.

“We have so many freshmen and sophomores, that we’re really close,” LaPlante said. “It doesn’t look like it on the scoreboard, but we’re pretty close to being a very good team.”

As Michigan transitions to the outdoor season, it will gear itself up, trying to finish more respectably in the spring. LaPlante hopes that the young team will acquire enough experience so that it can perform better in the outdoor Big Ten championships.

“For the most part, the guys who are the competitors will come away from this with determination,” LaPlante said. “And I think we have those kind of guys.”

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