One of the newest and best indoor track facilities in the country now resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This weekend, we'll get to see some of the best collegiate distance talents in the state of Michigan toe the line and give us an early-season glimpse at what their winter of racing may look like for the next two months.
Here are a few things you should watch for this weekend...
VanderLende & Veterans Entered in Mile
Rejoice distance fans! One of the country's most elite freshman talents is set to toe the line this weekend in a Michigan singlet. After a long cross country season where the Wolverines heavily leaned on VanderLende's scoring potency, it wouldn't have been crazy to see her redshirt this season. That, however, does not appear to be the case.
The frosh from Big Blue is entered in the mile for Saturday with a seed time of 4:49 (despite her 1600 meter PR being 4:41). Even better, she'll be side-by-side with experienced Michigan veterans like Anna West, Maddy Trevisan, Kathryn House, and Jena Metwalli. Add in Nike pro Shannon Oskia as well as former Eastern Michigan runner Natalie Cizmas, and you get a field that could potentially have a couple finishers run under the 4:40 barrier this weekend.
Top Men's Milers for Michigan Entered Unattached
One of the top candidates to break the four minute barrier this season was Michigan's Ben Hill who ran a personal best of 4:01 last winter and 3:44 the following spring. Hill was one of the more underrated milers in the BIG 10 last year, displaying great consistency and respectable tactics. Unfortunately, he is running unattached this weekend which leads us to believe that he may be redshirting this season.
The same can be said for star freshman Nick Foster who competed for Michigan this past cross country season. Foster, despite being a respectable scorer for the Wolverines this past fall, is arguably just as good (or better) on the track. He ran 4:03 for the mile at the Brooks PR Invitational last spring and was one name who held explosive potential for this indoor track season. Like Hill, it appears that he will be redshirted this winter.
Joining Hill and Foster with the unattached status will be Gabe Mudel who appears to be a stronger threat in the longer distances compared to the mile. His 14:24 5k (as a freshman) from last spring shows plenty of promise, but it appears that he may be taking a redshirt season.
Competing unattached doesn't automatically mean that an athlete is redshirting that season, but that has typically been the case in the past.
Michigan's Underclassmen Women Crowd 800 Meter Field
The Michigan coaching staff will be looking to see what the future of their middle distance squad will look like this weekend with a total of 13 women set to contest the half-mile in a Michigan singlet. All but four of them are either freshmen of sophomores.
The results likely won't be fast enough to warrant any major attention, but this could be an important race for the purposes of a DMR. With top-tier miler Hannah Meier out of eligibility, the Wolverines will likely need to reshuffle the three other returners from last year's All-American distance medley relay in order to stay competitive amongst other top programs.
The emergence of a strong middle distance piece would be crucial for Big Blue's hopes of returning to NCAA's in the DMR, especially if they want VanderLende pursuing individual glory in the postseason.
Ryan Robinson Makes His Michigan Debut...Sorta
The former Michigan State front-runner transferred to arch rival Michigan back in the summer of 2018. However, due to in-conference transfer rules, he was required to sit out for a year before he could compete for the Wolverines.
It was expected that Robinson was going to make his debut for Michigan this past fall...and he did! He ran at the Michigan Open where he placed 16th. That, however, was the first and only time we saw Robinson competing with a block 'M' on his chest. He did not run another race for the rest of the cross country season.
So yes, Robinson has technically already made his debut for Michigan, but it was in their own backyard with the only competition being each other. That will pretty much be the case yet again on Saturday as he is set to toe the line in the 3000 meters with a seed time of 8:00.
Even so, it feels like a fresh start for the former Michigan State runner who has been absent from racing for quite some time now. Will this be the start of his first complete season in over a year?
Notable Absences + Unattached Entries
We should also note that 2019 XC All-American Devin Meyrer is entered in the 3000 meters as well, but is running unattached. Is he another name who will be redshirting this season? Additionally, fellow All-American and teammate Jack Aho is not listed in the entries.
On the women's side, 2018 standout freshman (now sophomore) Anne Forsyth will be competing unattached this Saturday in the mile. Teammate Camille Davre is not listed on the performance list.