By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 27, 2012
The spring NCAA championship season is upon us, and the Michigan men’s track and field team is a part of it.
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This past weekend, the Wolverines were represented by nine individuals in addition to the 4x400-meter relay team at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds at the University of North Florida.
Coming into the meet, Michigan’s performance at the Big Ten Outdoor Championship pushed the team 39 spots to No. 31 in the USTFCCCA Division I national rankings. The Wolverines placed ninth at the conference meet while four athletes gained All-Big Ten accolades.
“The idea is to be consistent and to advance,” said Michigan coach Fred LaPlante. “They’re advancing to the elitist level.”
The team’s goal from a week ago is now a reality.
Fifth-year senior Craig Forys in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, sophomore Ari Arastu for the 400-meter hurdles, and the 4x400-meter relay team all qualified for the NCAA Championships.
“The fact that they all made it is not easy,” LaPlante said. “And to add to the success, our guys that didn’t make it all improved on their performances and their rankings. It really doesn’t happen very often and we really performed well.”
Forys and Arastu are both making their second straight trip to the national meet after qualifying for the NCAA Championships on the second day of competition. Forys finished second in his heat for the 3,000-meter steeplechase and placed third overall with a time of 8:38.86, just a two weeks after winning the race at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Meanwhile, Arastu took third in his heat and sixth overall in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 50.44.
“I am definitely happy with my performance,” Arastu said. “I’ve had faster times before, but I mean, the whole goal is to make it to the national meet and I did, so I look forward to going and continuing to compete.”
It wasn’t easy for Arastu, who struggled during the indoor season.
“The main thing was getting faster times,” Arastu said. “And once outdoor season came around I was in better shape, it was warmer, we got to work on the outdoor track and my 400 meter times got lower, and that translated to my success.”
On Saturday, the last day of competition, the 4x400-meter relay team looked to join Forys and Arastu at championships.
And they did.
The relay team — comprised of of senior Nick Neuman, junion Aaron Taylor, redshirt junior Matthew Campbell and freshman Philip Washington — clocked a season best of 3:06.15 to finish eighth overall, earning a trip to Des Moines, Iowa for the championships.
“The performances themselves are going to vary in what happens in the next 10 days from now, but the fact that you can qualify for the next meet is great,” LaPlante said. “They’re standing out there with the best.”
Forys, Aratsu and the 4x400-meter relay team will compete in the NCAA Championships from June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article used a photo that inaccurately identified Zach Ornelas as Craig Forys.