Cliff Keen Arena
Jan. 29, 2013
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
There is a lot of hype associated with our highest profile sports ... national rankings, highly sought-after recruits, daily coverage in the sports media, and hourly mentions in the social media. We appreciate it all, as these teams are very important to our department and university.
That doesn't mean our other sports aren't important or fun to watch, it just means that sometimes our fans need to be reminded about them. That is why a couple of this past weekend's events for two of our Olympic sports need to be noted.
Let's start with track and field.
Decades ago, dual meets were a staple of college track and field, and now the U-M track programs are giving us a look at why team vs. team competition in this sport is so engaging. It started a few years ago with the U-M/Ohio State dual meet and now it is continuing with our intra-state rival Michigan State.
Saturday evening, at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., the Michigan men's and women's track and field teams each battled MSU. It was the first dual meet between the two men's teams since 1982 and the first ever U-M vs. MSU dual meet on the women's side. The Michigan teams swept both dual meets. The 21st-ranked U-M women's team defeated No. 24 Michigan State, 89-73, while the Wolverine men beat the Spartans, 88-74.
Yes, it is wonderful that the Maize and Blue won the two meets, but maybe more important was how all of the student-athletes and the crowd reacted. There were nearly 1,100 (paid) fans in attendance, and because of the format and the competitiveness of the two teams, the crowd and the student-athletes were going wild. Everyone was into each event as U-M and MSU were battling as if it was the national championship meet.
Then there were the great individual performers.
Freshman Cindy Ofili (yes, the sister of Olympian Tiffany Ofili Porter) was the only student-athlete to win two events for U-M, taking the 60- and 200-meter dashes.
On the men's side, Ethan Dennis set a U-M record in the weight throw, but the big-time toss occurred in another event as Cody Riffle threw the shot 19.25 meters (63' 2"), breaking a 31-year-old school record set by Steve Adams in 1972.
That same evening in Cliff Keen Arena, our No. 3-ranked men's gymnastics team knocked off No. 2 Stanford, 439.75-429.35. Syque Caesar, an Olympian on the Bangladesh team, set an NCAA record on the parallel bars, scoring 15.90 to eclipse the previous mark of 15.85 set in 2008 by Tim McNeill of the University of California.
And Sam Mikulak, our first Michigan gymnast to make the U.S. Olympic team, made his first appearance of the season.
These athletes and teams are special, and they deserve all the recognition we can give them.