Women’s track and field can’t get on a roll, takes fourth at Big Ten Championships

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By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 18, 2014

Michigan went to West Lafayette to win a Big Ten championship and thought it had the pieces to do it. But the proverbial ball didn’t bounce its way.

The women’s track and field team had individual bright spots, but the team just couldn’t gain any momentum from race to race, accumulating 86 points and tying for fourth despite being the second-highest ranked team before the weekend.

“As a team our performance was mediocre at best,” said Michigan coach James Henry. “Our effort was outstanding, the preparation and hard work was there, we just couldn’t get on a roll and get the points we needed. Sometimes in basketball, you have the shots and do everything you need to do to win, and the ball just doesn’t fall in the net. That’s what happened to us this weekend.”

Despite the disappointment, the Wolverines took home three individual titles. Freshman distance runner Erin Finn shattered Big Ten records in the 10,000 and 5,000-meter runs by 13 and six seconds, respectively.

“(Finn) had the best performance by a freshman, and maybe one of the best individual performances I’ve seen in a long time,” Henry said.

In the shorter distance races, sophomore sprinter/hurdler Cindy Ofili took first in the 100-meter hurdles for the third individual title, and added points with third and fifth-place finishes in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, respectively. The three finals all were within 84 minutes of each other, making Ofili’s 20 points all the more impressive.

“Cindy stepped up big for us,” Henry said. “She was able to stay out there and keep racking up points for us. Her and Erin were by far the leaders for us this weekend, and will continue to carry us.”

Added Ofili: “Getting the personal record in the hurdles felt great, and I think I did a good job overall. Today was a little hard on my body and the places I got weren’t what I wanted in the end, but I improved off of last year, and that’s always a good thing.”

Beyond Finn and Ofili, the rest of the field was what Henry called ‘average.’ Despite scoring 18 points in 13 events, the Wolverines were shut out in eight other events, allowing other teams to capitalize on Michigan’s lack of depth.

“We try to tell them, ‘When it’s over, it’s over,’ ” Henry said. “We’ll have an opportunity to build from this meet and not just make good out of this, but make great out of this.”

The first chance for the Wolverines to do that come in less than two weeks, at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds May 29-31, where the top 48 competitors in each event will try to qualify for the NCAA Championships in June. Though the official seeding won’t be announced until Thursday, Michigan will send around ten athletes giving the Wolverines’ best athletes a chance to hone their skills even more.

“Now it’s what we call ‘me time,’ ” Henry said. “It’s time for them to think about themselves and compete in their best events, not just the ones that help the team succeed against the Big Ten.”

Added Finn: “As a team, we’re looking to get more experience for next year and use these races to prepare us to score more points down the road. We want as many qualifiers that we can get, and get a lot of girls really ready to lead this team next year and beyond.”