Michigan has record-breaking day at the SPIRE Invitational

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By Brandon Handelsman , For The Daily
Published February 16, 2014

With just two weeks before the Big Ten Indoor Championships, the Michigan women’s track and field team continued its strong start to the 2014 season at the annual SPIRE Invitational.

The 18th-ranked Wolverines recorded personal bests across the board over the two-day meet in Geneva, Ohio, which is also the site of the Big Ten Indoor Championships. Michigan raced well, winning six events against both Big Ten and out-of-conference opponents.

“We’re just trying to get better every day,” said Michigan coach James Henry. “This was another good warm up for the upcoming conference championships.”

Though it was a banner meet for the entire team, sophomore Cindy Ofili’s record-breaking day shined above the rest. Continuing her dominant sophomore campaign, Ofili set school records in the 60-meter dash and 200-meter dash on Saturday, placing second in both events, finishing in 7.40 and 23.86 seconds, respectively. Her record-breaking 60-meter dash was particularly meaningful, as her sister Tiffany Porter set the previous record in 2008. Ofili was also victorious in the 60-meter hurdles, clocking in at 8.20 seconds.

“Tiffany was probably the best female athlete Michigan’s ever had,” Henry said. “It’s very impressive that Cindy was able to break her record.”

The Wolverines also took first place in the distance medley relay on Friday, setting a SPIRE Institute track record of 11:00.20. The team, featuring freshman Jaimie Phelan, sophomore Maya Long, sophomore Danielle Pfeiler and junior Brook Handler, defended Michigan's 2013 title.

“I learned so much from last year’s (DMR) team,” Handler said. “Having the legacy from last year really got us going because we wanted to keep up the tradition.”

Handler and Phelan also placed first and second, respectively, in the 800-meter run on the following day. The one-two punch both set personal-best times, crossing the finish line in stride at 2:06.16 and 2:06.38, respectively.

Among the other notable performances was freshman Erin Finn’s debut win in the 5,000-meter run. The freshman set a track record of 15:57.32.

Another freshman making headlines was Aaron Howell, who was the runner up in the pentathlon to Toronto's Maddie Buttinger's. She won the first two events, the 60-meter hurdles and high jump, and scored 3,887 points overall.

Senior Kiley Tobel’s win in the pole vault gave Michigan a victory in the field as the senior cleared 3.98 meters to win the event.

These strong early season performances bode well for the Wolverines going forward. The team has one more tune-up meet at the Silverston Invitational at home before they return to SPIRE Institute for the final championship meet of the indoor season, where they will look to continue their winning, record-setting ways.

“This gives us a lot of confidence in next week’s and the following week’s meets,” Handler said. “Hopefully we can accomplish our goals there.”