The Michigan men”s track and field team came home on Saturday for its final meet before the Big Ten Championships. Visiting Ann Arbor to compete in the Harold Silverston Invitational were Western Michigan, Calvin College, Hillsdale Detroit Mercy, Waterloo, Toledo, Windsor, Akron, Grand Valley and representatives from various professional running clubs.
The contest was also the last time that the seniors competed inside the Michigan Indoor Track building donning the maize and blue. With the departing veterans looking to peak and leave their mark on the program, Michigan won six events as Ike Okenwa led the way.
“This whole week I”ve been thinking about the Big Ten meet. I was just using this to fine tune for that meet,” Okenwa said.
The senior tri-captain highlighted the day with victories in the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. Okenwa beat out Ken Mannie, who ran without a team, by .004 seconds in the 60-meter dash.
Freshman Nathan Taylor continued his impressive year with a third-place finish in the same sprint. He crossed the line in a paltry 6.94 seconds.
Unfortunately, freshman phenom Alan Webb has officially been redshirted for the season. Webb, who ran the fastest mile ever for a high-schooler, came into Michigan with very high expectations. Those expectations were realized as Webb dominated the Big Ten in cross country by winning the individual championship. Webb has tendonitis in his Achilles that has kept him sidelined for the past several weeks. The team had hoped to rest him after a long cross country season until close to the Big Ten Championship in track. Webb should be physically healthy in two weeks and should be ready by the time the outdoor season starts on March 21.
Michigan also swept the 600-meter dash with Dan Cooke taking first in 1:21.08. Darnell Talbert took second while senior Kevin Rogan”s 1:22.31 was good enough for third place. The Wolverines third sweep came in the mile, in which Ryan Hessleink controlled the race and crossed first in 4:14.68. Terrance Rindler and Dave Sage rounded out the top three with times of 4:16.97 and 4:19.68. Just missing the cut was senior tri-captain Mike Wisniewski, who finished in 4:19.82. Wisniewski has already provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 3,000-meter.
Senior tri-captain Derek Applewhite had his best performance of the year in his last home meet. Applewhite, who has been struggling with hamstring problems all year long, posted a career best in the 60-meter high hurdles. His time of 8.00 seconds took second place behind LaShawn Alexander of Toledo.
“Applewhite was a nice, pleasant surprise. He hasn”t run the hurdles in quite a while because of injury,” Michigan coach Ron Warhurst said. “Confidence is the biggest thing going into Big Tens. Confidence is everything.”
Freshmen Nathan Brannan was held out of the weekend”s meet. He will be available for the Big Ten meet, and he has already qualified provisionally for the NCAA meet in the 3,000-meter and the mile.
Now all eyes turn to the Big Ten Championships. The team can no longer train to get stronger and faster. The key is to prepare everyone mentally to put forth their best performance.
“It would be nice for everyone to get a (personal record) and their season best at the Big Ten meet. You would really hope that would happen, but sometimes it doesn”t,” Warhurst said.
The Big Ten championship meet will take place in Minneapolis on Feb. 23-24. The Wolverines will rely heavily on their freshman class to contribute some points next week. The team is in position to finish anywhere from first to fourth depending on how well a freshman compete on such a grand scale.