April Saturdays have seen many a track and field meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, but last Saturday the venue served as the setting for a restored meeting between two of the country’s most notable rivalries Ohio State and Michigan.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines are known most for meeting on the football field on the second to last Saturday in November. However, the two schools used to face one another in track and field, dating back to the days when the great Jesse Owens was rewriting record books. In recent years, dual meets have been on the decline and both Ohio State and Michigan have followed suit.
Robert Gary, who was named Ohio State’s seventh men’s head coach just two seasons ago, has worked to create more of a team culture in what is considered a more individualized world of track and field.
Gary saw an opportunity to drive home the team concept with a dual series with Ohio State’s most storied rival “that team up north.”
“The guys came out with a good sense of the renewed rivalry and were really competitive being at home,” Gary, who guided the Buckeyes to a 110-93 team victory Saturday, said. “I was very proud of the way they competed. I am equally proud of all the support that made the event much, much more exciting than a usual invitational.”
Saturday, fans were treated to the true essence of a collegiate rivalry and it was apparent the Buckeyes were determined to collectively defend their home turf.
At the throws area, distance runners supported their teammates with painted chests and spirited chants. Later, the throwers returned the favor as senior Lenny Jatsek was seen offering trackside “motivation” during the 3,000-meter run, won by Buckeye Chad Balyo. How could Balyo not win? Imagine a 6-5, 325-pound man screaming at you to run faster. Motivated? Uh, yes.
The meet culminated with the 4×400-meter relay and the Gary-instilled team culture shined.
For three and a half minutes, OSU marching band drums rolled, spikes swiftly pittered-pattered, sunshine bounced off batons as they passed from hand-to-hand and maize and blue and scarlet and gray split on the infield border like oil and water. No doubt, this was one of the most unique scenes the nearly decade-old stadium has seen.
The OSU marching band resonated throughout the race, but as the relay neared its climax, voices began to drown out the instruments as Buckeyes and Wolverines brought home their fellow student-athletes with resounding cheers.
Michigan’s Andrew Wechter sealed the relay win, pulling away from Ohio State’s Stephen Robinson down the stretch. Despite the loss in the four-lap event, it was Ohio State that earned the right to take a fifth trip, victoriously carrying “The Dual” pennant around the track with Brutus Buckeye running alongside as the band played on.
The day came to a close with high fives, chest bumps, a sea of smiles and an “O-HI-O” to finish off Carmen Ohio the OSU Alma Mater.
“This is the biggest home meet we have ever had,” Anthony Cole, Ohio State senior sprinter who claimed first in the 200 meters, said. “The band, cheerleaders, Carmen Ohio, the (Buckeye) Battle Cry was all great. It got us pumped up.
“The rivalry is always alive with football and we are bringing it around to the track. We have a really strong fan base and they were just happy to step up and support us. It was awesome.”
~ Pat Kindig, OhioStateBuckeyes.com