After an emotional start to the meet — a race was
dedicated to a fallen Wolverine — the Michigan men’s
track and field team ran with heart all day long. There might not
have been a team score for Saturday’s Red Simmons
Invitational, but race after race it became apparent that this
year’s squad is something special.

Janna Hutz
Rondell Ruff, pictured in front, finished fourth (1:53.18) in the 800-meter run this past weekend. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

Spectators were treated to a special start to the meet, as
Canadian Olympian and Michigan alum Kevin Sullivan ran alongside
Olympic-hopefuls junior Nate Brannen and sophomore Nick Willis in
the Kris Eggle Invitational 3,000-meter run. Sullivan was in town
to run in honor of his former teammate, Eggle, who was killed while
protecting the United States-Mexico border. This was the first race
of the indoor season for Brannen and Willis, and perhaps they made
it look easier than it really was.

“I felt good, but it is hard,” Willis said.
“Mentally, I’m not used to the pain right
now.”

Willis fought through the pain for a win, edging Sullivan by a
mere .07 seconds, with an NCAA provisional time of 8:00.28.

Though Brannen finished fourth in the 3,000-meter run, his
performance in the 4×400 relay left coach Ron Warhurst in awe.

“(Brannen) ran 48.4 (in the 4×400-meter relay) and 8:02
(in the 3,000-meter run) — that’s pretty
amazing,” Warhurst said. “There’s not too many
guys in the country who can do that.”

Another familiar Wolverine returned to the track Saturday as
well. Junior Braylon Edwards finished fifth in the 60-meter dash,
and is confident things will only get better from there.

“I felt a little tight,” Edwards said, “But
once I get into it for a bit, I’ll be alright.”

Edwards also expressed lofty goals for his team, which will host
the Big Ten Championships next month.

“I want to win everything I can,” Edwards said.
“To come and win the Big Ten would be big. Michigan
hasn’t won it for a while.”

The Wolverines also took two of the top four places in the
800-meter run, with sophomore Andrew Ellerton taking first and
junior Rondell Ruff taking fourth. Warhurst was pleased with
Ellerton’s efforts in taking control of a race.

“The (800-meter run) went well — it was the first
time (Ellerton) was really taking the pace and pushing it,”
Warhurst said.

With Brannen and Willis redshirting for the outdoor season, much
of the middle-distance burden will fall on Ellerton. A victory on
Saturday might have been just what he needed.

“The last 400 was tough,” Ellerton said. “It
makes it a little easier, and gives me confidence.”

Other Wolverine event winners included freshman Jeff Porter in
the 60-meter hurdles, junior Nathan Taylor in the 200 dash,
freshman Stann Waithe in the 400-meter dash and freshman John
D’Arcy in the 600-meter run.

Michigan also boasted several field event winners. Senior David
Malonson won the long jump by a convincing margin, and freshman
Michael Whitehead won the triple jump.

Michigan will now prepare for next week’s Boston
Invitational, when several Wolverines will have a chance to compete
against some of the country’s most elite runners.

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