Five Wolverines qualify for NCAA Championships

Monday, May 30, 2016 - 12:17am

Competing for the first time since winning the Big Ten Outdoor Championship, the Michigan women’s track and field team had a simple goal in mind: get as many athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships as possible.

So when the Wolverines opened competition at the NCAA Outdoor East Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday, they did just that with five athletes qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 9.

In the 10,000-meter run, redshirt sophomore Gina Sereno — who won the Big Ten Outdoor Championship in the event two weeks ago — put up a fourth-place finish overall, despite being the No. 22 seed, with a time of 34:24.10 to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships next weekend. The qualifying process for the 10,000-meter run consisted of only one run with the top 12 runners advancing, thus not allowing much room for error.

The meet was different than most in that only a few athletes took part in it. Just 13 Michigan athletes traveled to and competed in the meet, which is just one-fifth the size of when the entire team travels.

“It’s a lot different,” said Michigan coach James Henry. “It’s not a lot of athletes, so you don’t feel that team camaraderie, and our team and athletes are not in every single event. It’s more of an individual thing, but we had a large enough group of ladies there to feel as much a team as possible.”

The Wolverines had a quiet Friday with most Michigan runners taking part in heats. The busiest event on the day was the 3,000-meter steeplechase, in which the top 12 times advanced to Eugene. Sophomore Claire Borchers very nearly qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, but finished in 13th with a time of 10:08.47 — 0.6 seconds out of advancing. Redshirt Sophomore Sarah Zieve and fifth-year Senior Anna Pasternak also took part in the event, with Zieve setting a personal best time.

The next day was completely different, though, with four Wolverines advancing to the Eugene.

In the 100-meter hurdle, senior Cindy Ofili — who holds the eighth-fastest time in the world in that event — won her heat with a time of 12.86 seconds to automatically qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Arguably the best event of the weekend for Michigan came in the 1,500-meter run with three athletes competing, including redshirt senior Shannon Osika, a Big Ten Outdoor champion. Competing alongside her in the same heat was fifth-year senior Devon Hoppe, and in a different heat junior Jaimie Phelan. All three runners finished in the top five of their respective heats, which gave them all automatic bids to Eugene.

“I was fortunate enough to have Jaimie and Shannon to be able to do everything with – to warm up with, cool down with, do all of our runs with,” Hoppe said. “Even though it’s very individually focused, we have to do what we can to make sure that we all feel supportive as well.”

The five Wolverines qualifying for the championship meet is the most since 2009, and with Michigan’s goal of getting as many athletes to the championship as possible now over, the runners can set a new goal to focus on: outrun their competitors.