The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ohio State - Michigan Dual Meet

Results & recap from Uof M website
Let's Run discussion

Today I drove up to Ann Arbor to see the first meet in the revival of this series. The most striking thing about the University of Michigan campus is the historic feel of the place, athletic facilities included. Be it Yost Ice Arena or Mendelssohn Theater, most buildings on campus either date from the turn of the century or are built to look that way. Even Ferry Field's water barrier for the steeplechase is made of the same brown bricks that everything else is.

Well, maybe not everything. The indoor track building is notably bland and institutional and notable in its lack of bricking. This cinderblock and steel facility is nice on the inside, but its exterior ugliness combined with Ferry Field's ridiculously small seating capacity leaves the spectator with the impression that the athletic department doesn't give a shit about track.

The knock on Michigan athletics is that tradition and history is all they've got; even the football program has only one national championship since the Truman administration. This respect for the past is prominently displayed in a series of trophy cases in the track building.
The hype around this meet was that it would revive a rivalry between two great programs. The truth is that neither of these programs are great anymore, at least not by the standards of Big Ten sports. Michigan was once the dominant program of the midwest if not the entire nation, but it had already peaked by the time the NCAA began holding a championship meet, and won only a single title in 1923. Its last great competitor was shot-putter Charles Fonville in the late 40s. Ohio State's program has produced many great individuals (Jesse Owens, Glenn Davis, Dave Albritton, Butch Reynolds) but the team as a whole was never a power in the conference, let alone the nation.

Anyway, there was big hype for this meet. I've never seen cheerleaders at a track meet:
and the promotional flyers promised free admission, free pizza, and free t-shirts. What I really wanted was free information. The Michigan website said nothing about an event schedule; heat sheets were posted on a bulletin board and not available anywhere else; and event results were momentarily flashed on the scoreboard but not posted. And as is painfully usual, useful information about what's happening in field events was nonexistent.

Still, it's hard to ruin good races. The race of the day was the men's mile
in which OSU's Jeff See outkicked Lex Williams for a close win. This was one of the few bright spots for the Buckeyes, who got spanked by a 90-71 score. It was going to be an uphill battle anyway, but Elon Simms tripping up in the 600m combined with Anthony Cole's slip at the start of the 60m ruined any chance they had.

Was it a good meet? The fans thought so. A standing-room-only crowd got very loud and apparently had a good time. I've said it before and I'll say it again: track & field is an inherently interesting sport, and if you give people a chance to see it they'll like it. The facility is saddled with a bad sound system and scoreboards not meant for dual meets, but the two together kept us fairly well updated on how each individual event fit together as part of a team battle. I'll be back next year, and so will at least a thousand others.

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