As the gun went off on Saturday for the first race of the Wolverine Invitational, the University of Michigan Indoor Track and Field Arena was already buzzing with activity. Athletes were moving on all sections of the floor as the high jump, shot put, long jump, pole vault and hurdling events all began.
The Wolverines broke many records over the next four hours, including back-to-back throws in the women’s weight throw event. Senior Bailey Baker broke the school’s previous record with a throw of 19.28 meters, which was upped by .25 on the next throw by senior Kayla Deering. Junior Andrew Liskowitz also broke the school record for men’s shot put. Other personal records were broken in the men’s weight throw, both the women’s and the men’s 60-meter hurdles, and the women’s 3000-meter events. This performance even surpassed Michigan coach James Henry's expectations.
“I was expecting some broken performances in the essence of sometimes the kids get nervous on their first time out, but to get those kinds of performances makes me more optimistic,” Henry said. “Even though the first step is the most important, we’ve got a lot more steps to go.”
Out of seven teams and 35 events, Michigan ended up with 21 athletes finishing in the top three, six of whom won their event.
The Wolverines had a strong start in both the men's and women's 60-meter hurdles. After taking four of the top five times in the heats, junior Roland Amarteifio crossed the finish line first with sophomore Sierra Hendrix-Williams coming in third. On the women’s side, only freshman Michaiah Thomas qualified for the final, finishing sixth.
The Michigan men continued to succeed in the following track events, particularly dominating the mile event in which the Wolverines had the six fastest times, including first and second-place finishes by freshmen Gabe Mudel and Dominic Dimambro. While the women could not crack the top five in the mile, they succeeded more in the short distances with junior Jade Harrison coming in first in the 200-meter dash.
Possibly the most exciting moment of the meet came in the penultimate event, the women’s 4×400 meter relay. With roughly 500 meters left to go, junior Julia Hall was able to move into second place, which had been occupied by Michigan State in the earlier part of the race. Michigan surprised the crowd again in the last 200 meters when freshman Aurora Rynda overtook Eastern Michigan for first place, quickly putting distance between herself and the rest of the pack.
Henry attributed Michigan’s overall strong results and the new team records to the strategic training.
“We prepped ourselves quite well,” Henry said. “We do an excellent job prepping ourselves for our program. We’ve been prepping since September so this is a chance to do our first competition and I would call it a dress rehearsal. It was a good dress rehearsal.
“There’s so many steps to the Big Ten so we’ve got a 10 step process and this is just step one. Some of the kids stumbled on their first step and some of the kids did well on their first step. We’ve just got to evaluate and take it one step at a time.”