Erin Finn asked her Twitter followers what hairstyle she should sport for the NCAA Championships: Bring back the bun or keep the ponytail she’s been styling as of late. The ponytail won out — 56 percent to 44 — and Finn’s braid trailed behind her as she outraced all of her competitors. Except for one. Again.
In the senior’s 5,000-meter race, Finn jostled for position with Notre Dame’s Anna Roher and Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer. The trio outpaced the rest of the competition as Finn found herself in third place with one lap remaining. She ran her final 200 meters in just over 35 seconds to take second with a time of 15:27.36.
Her performance helped the No. 21 Michigan women’s track and field team tie with Purdue, Baylor and Florida for 14th place in the championships. Oregon finished first with 84 and Georgia was second with 51. But Finn, for the second year in a row, finished second in her individual competition.
“I’m still not where I’d like to be, but I did what I could,” Finn said in an interview after the race. “In retrospect, I might have tried to take it over a little early … I feel like (former Boise State long-distance runner) Emma Bates — always the bridesmaid never the bride.”
Added coach Mike McGuire: “She runs with a lot of heart. She’s been the bridesmaid a few times now, but we’ll get her (first place) eventually. She has three more opportunities in front of her and I know she’s going to make the most of them going forward.”
Despite her disappointment, Finn says she’s “worshipping Christ with this beautiful gift he’s given me." And Friday’s finish puts her in a league of her own. She’s the first woman ever to run the 5,000-meter twice under 15:30 in the NCAA Championships. Last year, she ran a 15:23 in the event.
The distance medley relay team of freshman Jade Harrison and seniors Jamie Morrissey, Jaimie Phelan and Gina Sereno also competed on Friday. Morrissey ran the 1,200-meter leg, giving Harrison the baton in third place. Harrison ran the 400-meter distance in just over 53 seconds, which gave Phelan a second-place start in her 800-meter leg. Phelan was in third place with 400 meters to go, but ended strong, overtaking first place to hand off to Sereno to anchor. Halfway into her 1,600 meters, Sereno still had the lead, but in a packed race, finished fifth in 11:04.74.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the three of these girls,” Sereno said. “ … I held on to the lead as long as possible and unfortunately came up short, but it’s still an amazing experience.”
The Wolverines were the only team to have two top-five finishes on Friday. Michigan had only one race left on Saturday — Sereno in the 3,000-meter.
Several runners battled for position in the front pack, including Sereno for the majority of the race. Sereno remained with the leaders until just half a mile remained. She fell behind to finish 13th in 9:21:67 — still good for second team All-American honors.
“I’m really proud of their efforts,” McGuire said. “They competed hard, and that’s what we look to do going in.”
The indoor track season has come to a close, and with the outdoor season looming, these NCAA Championship competitors bring back a wealth of experience to a team that finished tied for 20th last season.
For her own part, Finn took to Twitter again to share her post-race activities — eating two cinnamon rolls while reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” It is simply a matter of time until she gets another shot at finally getting to the top of the podium.