April 3, 2013
Coach LaPlante Interview
Saturday, April 6 -- vs. California, Virginia (Berkeley, Calif.), 9:30 a.m. PDT
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After a week off from competition, the University of Michigan men's track and field team will compete against California and Virginia in a scored triangular meet on Saturday (April 6) at the University of California. Field events will begin at 9:30 a.m. PDT, while the running events will get underway at noon PDT at Edwards Stadium.
Several Wolverines will make their outdoor season or career debut in the tri-meet, as the second day of competition at the Florida State Relays (March 22-23) was rained out after completing just two events.
The idea behind organizing the tri-meet with Cal and Virginia was to bring together three of the top academic and athletic public institutions in the nation for a competitive, scored event.
The tri-meet will mark Michigan's first and only head-to-head competition of the outdoor season. The Wolverines competed in a dual meet during the indoor season, where they defeated Michigan State, 88-74, at Grand Valley State. Michigan last competed in head-to-head outdoor competition with The Dual vs. Ohio State being contested each year from 2008-11.
The tri-meet will mark the first of two trips to California for the Wolverines this season. Michigan will return to California in two weeks for the annual Mt. SAC Relays (April 18-20).
Thirteen of U-M's distance runners will open the season after not making the trip to Florida State. It will mark the first outdoor competition since the 2011 Big Ten Outdoor Championships for junior/sophomore Nick Kern (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer), who will join senior Zach Ornelas (Cedar Park, Texas/Vista Ridge) in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Ornelas finished 14th at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in the steeple a year ago and advanced to the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds, while it will be Kern's first collegiate steeple competition.
Sophomore/freshmen Mason Ferlic (St. Paul, Minn./Mounds Park Academy) and August Pappas (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea) will each make their collegiate outdoor debuts in the 5,000-meter run. Ferlic and Pappas each excel at the longer distance races, as they were members of U-M's travel squad during the 2012 cross country season. Junior/sophomore Mark Beams (Vicksburg, Mich./Vicksburg), who also excels at the longer distances which are not contested indoor, will also appear in the 5,000-meter run. Beams finished 10th in the 10,000-meter run at the conference meet a year ago and was Michigan's first finisher at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships, which is a 10K race.
Junior Ali Arastu (Northville, Mich./Northville) will make his season debut in the 400-meter hurdles. Arastu opened the season in the 400-meter dash at Florida State, recording the eighth-fastest time in the nation and top time in the Big Ten at 46.80. During the 2012 outdoor season, he earned All-America second team honors after finishing ninth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. At the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, he finished runner-up and met the U.S. Olympic Trials automatic 'A' standard with a career-best time of 49.43. He went on to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he finished 23rd overall.
The 2012 Big Ten outdoor pole vault champion, senior Jack Greenlee (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier), will open his final season this weekend after being rained out at Florida State. His career-best height of 5.26 meters (17-3), which won the Big Ten meet, currently ranks third on U-M's all-time performance list.
WOLVERINE IN THE RECORD BOOK
There are currently seven student-athletes and one relay that rank in the top five on Michigan's all-time outdoor performance list.
Fifth-year senior Bobby Aprill (Dexter, Mich./Dexter), senior Jack Greenlee (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) and junior Ali Arastu (Northville, Mich./Northville) are representing the Wolverines as tri-captains for the 2013 season. Each captain was chosen by the team and coaches to represent the different event areas-- Aprill (distance), Greenlee (field) and Arastu (sprints).
2012 in Review: Michigan finished ninth at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships a year ago and sent two student-athletes, as well as the 4x400-meter relay to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Recent graduate Craig Forys finished second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Ali Arastu placed ninth in the 400-meter hurdles and the relay finished 19th. Three members of that relay team will return this season, including Aaron Taylor, Matthew Campbell and Philip Washington.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
On adding the steeplechase and 10K for outdoor season ... "We always get excited for outdoor to roll around -- indoor is really fun, but outdoor track is really where it's at because we get to specialize in our events with the steeple and the 10K. We feel like indoor is preparation for outdoor. Nick (Kern) and I are really excited to run the steeple this weekend. It's a fun event and one we really enjoy competing in, given that it's pretty painful. We're looking forward to starting off out in California just like last year -- I started out at USC and it went really well, so it's definitely a fun first race because it opens your eyes that outdoor is here and you're doing events that you haven't been able to do in a long time."
On what allows him to excel in the steeplechase ... "I guess for Nick (Kern) and I, experience is key. I've been doing the steeple since my sophomore year of high school, so this is something that I've really come to enjoy and have refined my skill at. Nick on the other hand, has some of the best form, probably the best form, on the team. Coach Gibby has us do a lot of drills in the off season to prepare -- we start quite early. As soon as cross country is over we start doing flexibility drills over hurdles. For me experience is key and for Nick, he has worked really hard to get the form down."
On the scored tri-meet helping to bring the team together... "It's kind of crazy, in outdoor we kind of go all over the place here pretty soon -- for example in a couple weeks, some of us will be going to Mt. SAC, and others will be going to Eastern Michigan. It's more of an individual sport for part of the season, but meets like this help everyone come together. If you ask most of the people on the team what there highlight during indoor was, it would be jogging the victory lap at the dual versus Michigan State. It's a great thing to see everyone from all the different specialties come together -- the throwers, the distance runners, the sprinters. It's really great to start off the season with everyone in the same place working together before we get into our specialized meets to try and get regional times."
On starting the season with a scored meet helping to motivate the team ... "I think it's beneficial for us to start the season with a scored meet, because the reality of it is, we're in the Big Ten and it's probably the best conference out there. No one shows any mercy once you get to the Big Ten meet so I think it's good to start with something that's going to be a pretty tough competition. Cal and Virginia both have some pretty good teams, so guys are going to have to be on their 'A' game right off the bat."
On student teaching while being a collegiate student-athlete ... "The School of Education is a pretty immersive program here. They put you in a school to work with kids at the age level you want to teach from the first semester in the program. Last semester during cross country, I was driving an hour, twice a week, to work with middle schoolers in West Bloomfield. This semester I'm lucky to be a little close at Saline High School, where Nick Renberg and Alex Leptich, from the women's team, both went to school. It's really great experience, the professors are great and I'm learning a lot actually getting to teach lessons to middle schoolers and high schoolers, but it's definitely a really hard thing to balance. I have a lot of expectations on both sides. I'm making it work, but I'm definitely excited for school to be over for the semester so I can focus on track a little more."
Michigan recently signed 10 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to compete for the Wolverines beginning in the 2013-14 season. [ Wolverines Ink 10 to National Letters of Intent ]
A LOOK AHEAD
Saturday, April 13 -- at UNC Joe Hilton Invitational (Chapel Hill, N.C.), 10 a.m.
Wed-Sat., April 17-20 -- at Mt. SAC Relays (Walnut, Calif.), 10 a.m./1:30 p.m./10 a.m./9 a.m. PDT
Contact: Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423