For the first time this season, the Michigan women’s track and field team didn’t compete for Michigan — sort of.
The Wolverines, coming off a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, began the outdoor half of their season in the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Challenge in Tempe, Ariz.
The meet — which also included Nebraska, Penn State and Indiana on the Big Ten side — still featured teams competing like normal. However, instead of gaining points exclusively for their team, they also gained points for their conference. The Big Ten won the meet, 391-298.
“It was still really fun to cheer on the Big Ten, who you are normally competing against,” said senior Emily Wee. “It’s a fun idea. It’s a fun way to score things.”
Michigan used the meet to allow a few younger runners to gain experience, as well as setting benchmark times for the outdoor season. Michigan junior Erin Finn and senior Cindy Ofili, two of Michigan’s best runners, notably did not compete this meet.
“Our goals were focused on getting a good start, getting in some good weather and getting some good performances,” said coach James Henry. “I thought they accomplished all three.”
Fifth-year senior Shannon Osika had one of the best performances on the day for the Wolverines, finishing first in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:20.08. The first-place finish garnered 10 points for the Big Ten.
Sophomore Claire Kieffer-Wright was also victorious, finishing first in the high jump with a height of 1.75 meters.
Michigan’s best event on the day, though, was the 800-meter run. Junior Jaimie Phelan finished second in the event with a 2:07.59. Just behind her was senior Danielle Pfeifer, who finished third just 0.31 seconds later. Rounding up the group for the Wolverines was senior Gina McNamara, who finished fifth with a time of 2:08.46. In total, Michigan scored 18 points in the event.
“When you have more than eight, 10 kids perform at a very good level, then it was a team performance,” Henry said. “I thought we had a team performance this past weekend. I thought many of our kids performed well.”
The meet also allowed some underclassmen to gain some more experience. Freshman Emma Bauer and redshirt freshman Elizabeth Prieskorn made their career debuts in pole vault and javelin. Sophomore Meghan Marias, who set a personal best at the Big Ten Championships in the 60-meter dash, continued her momentum by finishing fourth in the 100-meter dash.
It was important for Michigan not to have a lapse following a great performance at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
“It’s like playing a game,” Henry said. “We’re the only sport that has three Big Ten Championships and three NCAA Championships. The cross-country team did an excellent job in placing sixth, then our indoor season did an excellent job placing sixth. We start one game, then we finish one game, then we start another. The hardest part is keeping the kids healthy, since it’s such a long season. Now we’re into season three.”