It is never a good sign when a mechanic says your car has a 50-50 chance of making it home. But that was the situation that senior pole vaulter Craig Theissen and his 11-year-old car faced last weekend. He and 31 other members of the Michigan track teams had made the 868.3-mile journey from Ann Arbor to Fayetteville, Ark., to cheer on their teammates at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
“I gave it more of a 20-80 (chance of returning),” Theissen said. “We drove back with our fingers crossed.”
The road trip to Fayetteville for the indoor championships has become a track team tradition.
“The groups have been traveling for three or four years, and, recently, it has become huge,” senior David Batani said. “We realize how important it is to support one another, whether it is field events, distance or sprints.”
The Wolverines recognize how lucky they are to have talented teammates that compete in the national meets.
“We have seen nobody make nationals and now we have seen national champions,” Batani said. “Our role is to support our teammates.”
The volume of the cheers coming from the Michigan section demonstrated the encouragement they gave their teammates.
As the runners ran down the homestretch, the Arkansas fans went crazy with “Go Hogs!” chants. But as they made the turn down the backstretch, cheers of “Let’s go Blue! Let’s go Blue!” reverberated through the stadium. When the competitors made the turn down the home straightaway, the cycle repeated itself.
More than 3,000 fans made the noise in support of Razorback athletes. The noise in favor of Michigan came from fewer than 100 people.
“We embarrassed them in a lot of ways because we are so ridiculously rambunctious,” senior Nick Meter said.
The team’s repertoire of cheers included the standard Michigan chants like “Let’s go Blue” and “The Victors.” They also cheered the names of the Michigan athletes and, this season, introduced the “olé” soccer cheer.
“To hear their fight song or words of encouragement can give them that confidence to succeed,” Senior Craig Thiessen said of the athletes competing. “Not only for themselves, but for everybody else that is there representing them.”
The athletes appreciate the support that their teammates provide. In fact, senior Nate Brannen sent an e-mail to his teammates and thanked them for their support.
“(With the team’s support), it almost feels like that is a home meet for us,” Brannen said. “It makes it a little easier for the athletes.”
The Wolverines traveled down to Arkansas as a team and paid their own way, emphasizing a growing trend on the track team — erasing the lines between sprinters, distance runners and field athletes to create a team atmosphere.
“It’s an indication that the team came together as a team this year,” coach Ron Warhurst said.