Women’s track and field impresses at home

Patrick Barron/Daily
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By Danny Vargovick, For the Daily
Published January 20, 2014

The No. 13 Michigan women’s track and field team accomplished exactly what it wanted to in its second non-scoring competition, dominating the Red Simmons Invitational, a meet named after the program’s first head coach.

“We wanted to get some good marks,” said Michigan coach James Henry. “We wanted to get some good starts. For everybody, that was our first home meet, so we wanted to post some good marks, and I think we accomplished that.”

Michigan competed against Bowling Green, Concordia, Detroit Mercy, Eastern Michigan, Marygrove, Notre Dame and Siena Heights, as well as some club team members. The Wolverines, the top-ranked team in the Big Ten, had no trouble against their unranked opponents.

Fifth-year senior Kiley Tobel finished first in the pole vault with a mark of 4.25 meters, breaking her previous school record of 4.22. Tobel’s mark beat the second-place finish by 0.60 meters as Michigan took first, second and third in the event.

Tobel was relieved to break her personal best and school record again.

“Getting that mark out of the way takes a lot of the pressure off and gives me a little bit of confidence going forward,” Tobel said. “I always want to set it higher and leave my mark here, so just getting that done, especially so early in the season already, makes me happy and makes me a little bit hungrier.”

Henry certainly couldn’t be happier with the two-time captain.

“If you looked for a Michigan Wolverine, there would be a picture of her, because she’s a great kid, great individual, great student, great team person and great athlete, and that’s what a Michigan Wolverine is,” Henry said.

Sophomore Cindy Ofili was the other key performer, taking first place in the 60-meter hurdles, 60-meter dash and 200-meter dash. Her time of 8.27 seconds in the hurdles beat Jade Barber of Notre Dame by a mere 0.006 seconds, while her times of 7.56 in the 60 and 24.45 in the 200 won by 0.7 seconds and 0.93 seconds, respectively.

Ofili’s success was certainly not unprecedented. She took first place in the 60-meter hurdles and dash last week at the Grand Valley Open and found success in the preliminaries Saturday as well. Four of the eight qualifiers for the hurdles were Wolverines, and senior Erin Busbee joined Ofili as qualifiers in both the hurdles and dash.

Michigan’s bread and butter has been the mid-distance races, and it dominated the mile, taking the top four spots with the top three breaking the five-minute mark. Senior Megan Weschler finished first with a time of 4:54:50.

Freshman Jaimie Phelan placed first in the 600-meter run with a time of 1:34:76, and three of her teammates finished fifth through seventh in the event. Freshman Erin Finn won the 3,000-meter run with a time of 9:15:82, with Wolverines also taking third and fourth.

“We always can use youth with our veterans, so we’re always excited about the young kids coming in and being able to contribute right away,” Henry said. “We will need that to be in contention for Michigan State and further down the schedule.”

After a dominant performance in the non-scoring portion of the schedule, the Wolverines will get a well-deserved rest. Michigan won’t return to action until Feb. 1 in its first scoring meet against Michigan State.

“We’ve been training really hard,” Henry said. “It’s been a long training cycle for the throwers, hurdlers, sprinters and jumpers, so we just need to rest and focus on the Spartans in two weeks.”