Champions aren’t made in a day. According to Michigan women’s track coach James Henry, they can’t qualify in a day either.
“Our goal for everyone is just to make it to the next round, whatever that means,” Henry said. “Whether it’s the semifinals, the finals, or our races at the NCAA Championships, we just want to do what we can to make it to the next round. We can’t focus on anything else.”
The journey to the next round begins Thursday for 13 Michigan women’s track and field athletes. Traveling to Jacksonville, Fla. for the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds, the Wolverines will look to punch their tickets to the NCAA Championships in two weeks.
Michigan will send 13 athletes in nine events, but its best chances to advance — an opportunity given to the top 12 finishers in the final heat — are in the 10,000-meter run, 3,000-meter steeplechase and 100-meter hurdles, where freshmen distance runner Erin Finn, senior distance runner Alex Leptich and sophomore hurdler Cindy Ofili are seeded third, fourth and fourth, respectively.
In total, six athletes in four events currently sit in a top-12 seed, putting them in a position to qualify if the times hold true.
But even the high seeds may be lower than they should be. After a long year of cross-country (for five of the 13), indoor track and a full outdoor track schedule, Henry feels his athletes are as rested as ever.
“More than anything, this team is well-rested and ready to compete,” Henry said. “It’s the end of two, three long seasons, so rest is at a premium. Most of them have competed at this level before, and I think the combination of rest and experience bodes well for us.”
Since the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago, the athletes have undergone more individualized practices in a portion of the season Henry refers to as “me time.”
The goal for higher and lower seeds alike is simply to make it to the next round. But according to Henry, the success of the team as a whole will be dictated by how well the highest seeds perform and can build excitement for the entire team.
“The irony of it all is that as they go individually, they go as a team,” Henry said. “They’re practicing more on their own now, but if they can individually do their thing, everyone else will be right there and respond in their own races.”