Once you enter your senior season of collegiate track and field, you probably understand which event you specialize in. That is unless you’re senior Kurt Reichenbach. Then you know which seven events you specialize in.
On Saturday, Reichenbach had a successful showing at the SPIRE Invitational in Geneva, Ohio, taking first place in the heptathlon. Reichenbach was one of 13 Michigan athletes who set career-bests over the weekend against competition from the Big Ten and SEC.
While Reichenbach had a standout individual performance, his teammates were working together to make history.
Though the 4×400 relay team of redshirt junior Nick Neuman, sophomore Ali Arastu, junior Aaron Taylor and senior Matthew Campbell finished in second, they broke a 27-year-old record with their time of 3:09.28.
Michigan coach Fred LaPlante didn’t appear surprised when the team broke Michigan’s second-oldest indoor track and field record.
“To run fast, all the elements need to be there … good competition, a good facility and having guys ready to go,” LaPlante said. The first two elements were there for sure … then leadoff Nick Neuman kept us in there, and the others guys kept it going. It was the kind of race where you just get to flow with the other team and once you just get in there, you believe you’re going to stay in there.”
The pole-vault tandem of juniors Jack Greenlee and Austin DeWildt took first and second, respectively. While both set career-bests, Greenlee stole the show with his clearance of 17 feet, a personal goal of his.
Greenlee’s performance places him near the top of the Big Ten leaderboard heading into the championship meet in two weeks. And Greenlee may have his teammate DeWildt to thank though, for pushing him during meets.
“We have some friendly competition, but we really just want to each other to do well,” Greenlee said.
Also performing well for the Wolverines was redshirt sophomore Ethan Dennis with his second-place finish in the weight throw. For Dennis, who has been having a standout season, his throw of 64 feet, 3 inches was somewhat disappointing considering his longer throws in the past.
“It was a rough meet,” Dennis said. “I let myself get out of it mentally early on, and once it happened it was a little bit too late.”
LaPlante didn’t seem to be as upset as Dennis, though.
“He’s healthy, and we’re confident he’s ready to hit a much bigger mark than he has,” LaPlante said. “Really, I would call this an average day. On an average day, he’ll still beat a lot of guys.”
A pair of stars, though, failed to make an impact on the big stage. Redshirt sophomore Bradley James could not make it any higher than 6-foot-8 in the high jump, which has been the height he has normally entered in at this season.
LaPlante was full of wise words to inspire James for the remainder of the indoor season.
“I said to him, ‘Even Hank Aaron struck out a few times, but that’s just the way it goes,’ ” LaPlante said.
Aaron actually struck out 1,383 times.
Not only was it a rare off day for James, but also for sophomore Herman Washington, who qualified for the finals in the 60-meter hurdles but failed to finish after clipping the very first hurdle.
But for Reichenbach, who has been participating in various events throughout the season, the victory was worth the wait.
“When you’re doing seven events over two days, you have to be consistent,” Reichenbach said. “You have to take it one event at a time. You have to focus on the event that you’re doing at that moment. If you’re thinking about the other events while you’re doing a different event, it messes with your head.”
Michigan will take Reichenbach’s attitude with them the next two weekends as they host the Silverston Invitational this Saturday and then compete at the Big Ten Indoor Championships on Feb. 24-25.