There are not many people on Michigan’s campus who can say they are able to run a mile in four minutes, but according to Michigan track and field coach Ron Warhurst, freshman Nick Willis – a kid straight out of Lower Hutt, New Zealand – can do just that.
This fall, Willis earned All-America honors in cross country, finishing in 24th place at the NCAA Championships. Along with that title, he was the 2001 Athletics New Zealand Junior Athlete of the Year, and holds the 2001 U.S. Scholastic indoor mile title. Although Warhurst believes sophomore Nathan Brannen has more speed than Willis, he insists Willis will be a great miler.
“They’re both down to earth and genetically talented,” Warhurst said. “Plus, I’m a great coach!”
Brannen’s list of credentials includes his Ontario Federation of Schools Athletic Association cross country title in 1998 and ’99 and taking second place in the Canadian Junior Championships of 2000.
Michigan also has many other secret weapons, such as its jumpers: Jeong-Hwan Kang and Adam Kring. Field events assistant coach Ricky Deligny said Kring can jump 7 1/4 feet. Deligny also believes sophomore Darren Adams, who specializes in the 200-meter dash, “is a good all-around athlete.” Another unheralded Wolverine is 24-foot long jumper David Malonson from Lynwood, Calif.
Not only does Michigan have amazing jumpers and runners, but the Wolverines also boast top-notch throwers, such as Brad Hoffman, a freshman shot putter.
“He has great potential,” Deligny said.
Hoffman threw a 12-pound shot in high school, but now he must adjust to the college standard 16-pounds to be successful.
Hoffman will be participating in the season’s first meet, the Jack Harvey Invitational (named after a former Michigan head coach), tomorrow, starting with field events at 9:30 a.m.
Although the other participating teams – Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, IUPUI, Toledo, Detroit Mercy and Sienna Heights – will not use a full roster of athletes because the invitational is a non-scoring meet. It should be an exciting event that will whip the athletes back in shape after a relaxing holiday break.