The Wolverine

June-July 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS: MEN'S TRACK track and field team was unusually giddy for a squad that had just finished ninth at the Big Ten Outdoor Champion- ships May 11-13. But below the surface of the final tally, the Wolverines enjoyed breakthrough performances — two individual victories and two runner-up efforts — providing momentum for both next season, and, in the present, for the NCAA East Preliminary Round May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. "It's been a few years since we've had someone on top of the podium, and to see teammates win, the confidence runs through the entire team," fourth-year head coach Fred LaPlante said. "When someone on your team succeeds, just one of the guys in the locker room, you start to believe in yourself, believe you're capable of more. "We've been in a little rut the past few years [placing 10th, Wolverines Grab Momentum Heading Into NCAA Regional On the bus ride back from Madison, Wis., Michigan's men's ninth and ninth from 2010-12 at the Big Ten Outdoor Champi- onships], so to have those kind of accomplishments, it perked guys up. We don't have enough bullets in the gun right now for it to add up on the scoreboard the way we want it to, but most of our kids will be back next season, and we've changed our approach to be more competitive going forward. Michigan hadn't claimed an individual league title since 2009, but that streak came to an end on day one of the Big Ten Outdoor Championships when junior Jack Greenlee cleared 17-3 (5.26 meters) to clinch the pole vault crown. The victory was the school's first in the event since 2000. "This kid was a total walk-on, but he kept plugging away, plugging away, improving a little more every week — while balancing business school — and it was great to see him get the win," LaPlante said. Sophomore Ethan Dennis, meanwhile, took second in the hammer throw on the first day of competition with a toss of 205-9 (62.71 meters). The performance was redemption for Dennis after he finished ninth in the weight throw at Big Ten Indoor Championships in February. "He really bombed at the indoor meet, and it's hard to come back from that," LaPlante said. "Hammer is an obscure " event, and you spend most of your days practicing off to the side, no one really paying attention to you. But then you get to the Big Tens, and there's a crowd, and it can be intimidat- ing. So for him to put the past in the past, and to respond to this challenge, it just was really great to see. On day two, fifth-year senior Craig Forys set the Big Ten meet record in the steeplechase event with a winning time of 8:28.90, smashing the nation's best time (8:36.41) heading into the weekend. In the process, Forys gave the Maize and Blue two indi- vidual conference champions for the first time since Adam Harris (100- and 200-meter dashes) and Carl Buchanon (400-meter hurdles) crossed the finish line in first place dur- ing the 2009 outdoor league meet. The Howell, N.J., native's performance has instantly ele- " vated expectations for the NCAA regional and NCAA Cham- pionships. He will head to the regional the No. 1 seed in the country. "The steeplechase is such a different event that it can go a lot of ways, but there's no doubt that Craig will be in the hunt for a national title, 72 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2012 think about nationals. He has to focus and get through regional first. It's like making the Big Dance in basketball " LaPlante said. "Step one is we can't Junior Jack Greenlee earned U-M's first Big Ten title in the pole vault since 2000, clearing 17-3 to clinch the crown. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS — you're not just in the Final Four. But if he runs like he's capable, he should make NCAAs, and then he'll have a shot. Forys' time qualified him for the U.S. Olympic Trials, where " he'll be joined by sophomore teammates Ali Arastu, who recorded the nation's second-fastest time (49.43) in the 400-meter hurdles with his second-place effort at Big Tens. Unfortunately, Nebraska's Miles Ukaoma broke the finish line first, in a time of 49.23. Arastu's time ranks No. 2 in the U-M annals behind Neil Gardner's 48.30 (1996), and sets him up for possible All- America honors. "You saw the potential, but he took it to a whole new level — that's an eye-popping time," LaPlante said. "Ali is figuring it out, honing his approach, and, again, if he runs like he's capable, he'll be a factor. NCAA regional when the field is announced May 17. The NCAA Outdoor Championships take place June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa, and should serve as another stepping-stone for this program on its way back up the ladder. "We're Michigan, and finishing ninth is not acceptable, but we're really close," LaPlante said. "I expect, and I believe, A total of nine Wolverines are expected to qualify for the " we'll be in the hunt next season to be one of best teams in the conference. " — Michael Spath

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