Rust? What rust?
In his first meet of the outdoor men’s track and field season, Michigan senior distance runner Lex Williams was in mid-season form. He showed no rust at all despite not even competing during the winter. Williams took first in the 10,000-meter run at the Stanford Invitational on Friday at 28:34:28. The time was a career best by almost two minutes, the second best time in Michigan’s storied history, and the fastest time in the nation this year.
“Usually when you haven’t had a meet in a while you just like to get the first one out there and see where you’re at with your training,” Michigan coach Fred LaPlante said.
Williams obviously didn’t get that memo.
In previous years, Williams’s time would have guaranteed him a spot at the National Championship meet, but due to rule changes he’ll have to see if his mark holds up throughout the season. However, with such a fast time and the rest of the season to improve upon it, qualifying seems merely a formality.
“If you’re qualifying for nationals there’s no longer a qualifying standard,” LaPlante said. “They divide the country in half at the Mississippi river, and the top 48 marks of the year qualify for the National Championships. There’s no guarantee until about two weeks before Nationals that you’ve made the meet, which is much different than in the past.”
While Williams’s scorching run highlighted the meet, the rest of the Wolverines also fared well. Junior tri-captain Craig Forys took 13th in the second section of the 5,000-meter run with a time of 14:17.52. Fifth-year senior Tony Nalli and redshirt freshman Bobby Aprill ran in the second section of the 10,000-meter (Williams was in the first), and they came in 27th and 30th, respectively. Nalli ran a career-best 30:29.29 and Aprill ran the event for the first time as a Wolverine.
But Stanford was not the only action for the Michigan’s men track and field team this weekend, with the field athletes, hurdlers, and sprinters traveling to Rice University for the Victor Lopez/Bayou Classic on Saturday.
At the Rice meet, senior thrower Sean Pruitt stole the show with incredible performances in all three throwing events. Pruitt won the 29-athlete discus field at 52.77 meters and took second place in the shot put and hammer throw, at 17.42 meters and 58.43 meters, respectively. He was only a one tenth of a meter away from the shot put lead. His marks will certainly give him a chance to qualify for nationals in all three events.
“There aren’t many guys who can actually do all three of those at a nationally high level,” LaPlante said.
The rest of the field athletes for the Wolverines were no slouches either. Junior Robert Peddlar came in second in the long jump at 7.43 meters, unsurprising after his Big Ten Championship during the indoor season. Freshman John Freenlee came in third in the pole vault at 4.8 meters, and freshman Simon Wenet finished sixth in the discus at 50.77 meters. Peddlar’s jump was especially impressive.
“Robbert Peddlar had a lifetime best,” LaPlante said. “Usually the first meet of the year you don’t start off with a lifetime best, so that’s a great sign. He came out firing pretty well.”
LaPlante has high hopes for his athletes, especially Pruitt and Peddlar.
“We want to have our guys ready at the Big Ten Championships and perform well there,” LaPlante said. “We hope they qualify for the National Championships and if they get there, become All-Americans. Certainly for those two guys, that would be their goals.”
The sprinters and hurdlers also had success. Junior Carl Buchanon took seventh in the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles, as well as running on the sixth place 4×400-meter relay squad. Sophomore Aaron Taylor came in 12th in the 100-meter dash, and junior David St. Amant took eleventh in the 400. The lone distance runner at the meet, sophomore Nick Thomas, finished in ninth in the 1,500-meter run.
The Wolverines will return to the track next weekend at the Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C. The meet starts Friday afternoon and ends on Saturday.