By Simon Kaufman, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 3, 2013
Track and field events come down to strides.
And the Michigan women’s team made such strides as it picked up 11 top-10 performances on Saturday to close out the second and final day of competition at the Meyo Invitational at Notre Dame.
It was the Wolverines’ 11th year competing in the event, which hosted athletes from 80 different schools as well as professionals this year.
Michigan had two first-place finishes on Saturday — redshirt senior Amanda Eccleston and freshman Cindy Ofili. Eccleston took the top spot in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 9:25.27, and Ofili finished first in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.26. After posting her time, Eccleston rose to sixth in the Big Ten standings.
“I haven’t really ran many 3Ks, so my goal was just to stay up in the front and then hopefully be able to finish hard,” Eccleston said. “That’s what happened. I really had a strong last lap and was able to take the girl (in front of me) down at the end.”
Ofili’s time in the 60-meter hurdles was a new personal record, and was good enough for the top spot in the Big Ten and the 11th-best ranking in the nation. Junior teammate Amber Smith also qualified for the 60-meter hurdle finals on the first day of competition and placed fourth with a time of 8.33 — a personal best for her and third best in the conference.
“I was really happy with my result of the 8.26,” Ofili said. “I didn’t really expect it at the time. I mean, I knew I was going to run fast, but I was really surprised when I saw it on the big screen. … I was happy that I was able to come and get the win, but I was really happy with the (personal record). It was a good race, it felt very clean.”
Ofili nearly qualified for the finals of the 60-meter dash on Friday, but missed the cut by one spot with a time of 7.66. She didn’t let it keep her from doin well in the hurdles, though.
“All I did was just keep my focus and my composure. I just continued to remember my goal which was to win and to run faster,” said Ofili. “Just doing that, honestly, is what pumped me to do well on both days, I felt.”
Redshirt junior Meg Bellino and sophomore Devon Hoppe also posted personal bests competing in the 800-meter run and mile run, respectively. Bellino’s time of 2:09.14 put her in seventh place out of a field of 74 runners. Also competing in that event was Geena Gall, a former Wolverine, who won the race for Nike. Hoppe finished sixth in her competition with a time of 4:54.69.
In the Meyo Mile, Michigan had three competitors finish in the top five. Sophomore Shannon Osika crossed the finish line as the runner up with a time of 4:40.28, unable to defend her win at the event from last year. Behind her, senior Rebecca Addison took fourth (4:45.62) and senior Jillian Smith finished in fifth place (4:46.85).
On the field, the Wolverines didn’t place anyone in the top-20 in the shot put, but redshirt junior Kiley Tobel cleared 4.05 meters to finish fourth in the pole vault.
Michigan hopes to take the momentum into the SPIRE Invitational next weekend. Michigan coach James Henry referred to the upcoming weekend as a dress rehearsal for the Big Ten season.
“We made big strides (this weekend),” Henry said. “We made improvements and we got the necessary work done in terms of developing the balance of a program. So mission accomplished in that regard.”