Unlike Michigan’s Indoor Track Building, the Norton Healthcare Sport and Learning Center in Louisville doesn’t use bright colors. Both the infield and surrounding track are a monotone gray, mirroring the roof and lending a cold, industrial feel to the event. The royal blue that encloses the infield in Ann Arbor might have helped to distract fans from a mediocre field performance in the Simmons-Harvey Invitational on Jan. 21.
But Saturday’s meet offered no such protection. While the runners and hurdlers found success late, the Lenny Lyles Invitational was not as kind to those on the infield. Michigan won seven events, and six came on the track.
Hurdlers dominated the first day, taking two wins in the prelims and finals. Senior Joshua Zeller continued to shine for the men, winning his second 60 meter hurdle dash in as many weeks and finishing a tenth of a second ahead of the second place runner. The England native has expressed his intent to finish as an All-American in the 60 hurdle, and thus far he is on track.
In the women’s 60 hurdles, junior Aasia Laurencin set the facility record and won both her prelim and final race. Her prelim time of 8.20 seconds was not only a facility record but a personal one as well. She set a personal best by just five hundredths of a second, building on her win in last week’s Simmons-Harvey Invitational.
“I was very grateful to hit a new PR,” Laurencin said. “My training is paying off really well.”
The Southfield native also achieved a personal best in the 200 dash, clocking in almost a half second faster than her previous record, but nonetheless finished in the middle of the pack.
While Laurencin saw personal success in the 200 dash, all eyes were once again on sophomore Savannah Sutherland, who joined Laurencin in setting a facility record. Sutherland’s 23.66 was another personal record, besting her time from earlier in the season at the Michigan Invitational. Sutherland and junior Ziyah Holman sandwiched two Purdue runners between them; the top four were the only runners under the 24 second mark.
Outside of a solid 200 dash, Holman added another win to her season total in the 400 run. The Maryland native came out slower than normal, but her second trip around the shortened track was six tenths of a second quicker than Austin Peay runner Kenisha Phillips en route to Holman’s third meet in a row with a win. The women runners built on a solid foundation in Louisville, and clearly have their hopes set high.
“Our goal is to win (the) Big Ten (championship) as a team,” Laurencin said. “Coach Sullivan … and Coach Rejeski have been telling us that we can … bring the title back.”
The men’s team mainly found success in distance events. The highlight of said success was fifth year Cole Johnson and sophomore Henry Johnson’s one-two finish in the 800 run. The former broke the facility record and took home his first win of the new season. Cole won his second 800 run in as many meets, improving on last week’s PR by almost a full second.
The 3000 run was the men’s final win; graduate student Tom Brady took first in a competitive field that saw three runners record times under eight minutes. Brady, who earned Second Team All-American honors in the 3000 run as a sophomore, clocked only his second sub-eight time in the event since those honors were bestowed.
As they have all season, the throwers and jumpers struggled in Kentucky, with only one winner emerging from the meet. Sophomore Riley Ammenhauser shattered the competition — and the facility record — by landing 0.23 meters beyond her closest competition and winning the event for a third meet in a row. Her 13.13 meter jump easily cleared the 13 meter mark, a distance she hasn’t hit in any previous indoor or outdoor event.
Ammenhauser was the one bright spot in the infield Saturday; Michigan field participated in 16 events in the Lenny Lyles Invitational and only won one, good for a 6% win rate. As scoring meets creep ever closer, the field will have to pull its weight if the team as a whole expects to perform well. That seems to be the group’s goal going forward.
“When it hits Big Tens and scoring meets … it doesn’t matter what time I run, I just run for the team,” Aasia Laurencin said.
If the field can rake in some points when these meets arrive, the Wolverines could build on the impressive performance they put on in last week’s Simmons-Harvey Invitational. They have the potential to dominate their opponents.
After all, they tied Pittsburgh for the most event wins at the Lenny Lyles Invitational with seven. But only one win in the field reveals how unbalanced the scoring profile of this seemingly stable team is, though.
Spotting the deficiency of this team is easy. Rectifying it? Less so.