Friday, January 30, 2009

First scored meet Saturday for men's track

Chippewas travel to Eastern Michigan for weekend tri-meet

Issue date: 1/30/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Abraham Mach watched a few of his teammates warm up Wednesday at practice, unsure if he was going to run in today's tri-meet at Eastern Michigan University.

"I wouldn't be a good guy to talk to," Mach said at the time. "I don't even know if I'm running this week."

Head coach Jim Knapp initially said the All-American would not compete in today's scored meet - the only scored event of the men's track regular season - but that was before talking to him.

After the senior eventually convinced him to run, Knapp smiled and said, "See how easy I am?"

Mach and the Chippewas will travel to Ypsilanti for a competition against EMU and the University of Detroit-Mercy, and this time around, they will compete for points.

"There is a buzz," Knapp said about the scored meet. "Everybody is conscious of where they're placing - not that they wouldn't normally be, but it puts things into focus a little bit more.

"There's a barometer there with the score on the board. Sometimes people just don't know what's going on."

The team is coming off of a solid performance at the Red Simmons Invitational, highlighted by junior Marcus Briedinger's first-place finish on the pole vault. He cleared 16 feet, 2 ¾ inches.

Briedinger doesn't take a different approach to a scored event versus a non-scored event.

"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "Just staying mentally focused, that's the only thing that you can do now."

Assistant coach Troy Irvine, who recently competed in pole vault and decathlon at the University of Maine, agrees.

"Basically, we look at meets as preparation for the MAC," Irvine said. "Each meet is a stepping stone where we look to improve one thing versus another."

In terms of numbers, the Chippewas will be facing an uphill battle from the outset. According to Knapp, EMU - which was picked second in the preseason media poll - is one of the largest teams in the country.

"They're a very solid team," he said. "We know them well. A very good, solid team with big numbers. They'll have three guys in every event."

Although the team is resting some regulars, including junior distance runner Riak Mabil, Knapp insists the team needs to stay focused.

"We need to be mentally tougher than we've been, and that comes from focus," he said. "And that's why we're going down there."

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