Traveling to California for the Stanford Invitational this past weekend, the mid-distance and distance members of the Michigan women’s track team showcased the potential they hope to build on for the rest of the outdoor track season.
At the season-opening invitational, the mid-distance and distance members ran events a bit longer than usual. Fifth year senior Aurora Rynda usually races the 800 meters, but she raced the next longest event — the 1500 meters — at Stanford.
“Everyone raced an event up,” Rynda said, “And that shows that we have a lot of strength. Throughout the season, people are going to start specializing in their individual events.”
Even without that specialization in California, the Wolverines showed their team’s depth with strong performances in events they don’t normally run.
Senior Samantha Tran highlighted these performances with a second-place finish in the second heat of the 5000 meter race. With a time of 15:52.65, she put on an impressive performance, especially when compared to the strength of the field before her.
“There were a lot of good teams and women racing,” Rynda said. “It’s exciting to be challenged a little bit and to have a good start to the season.”
Tran showed her strength in the second section with a new personal record, almost 13 seconds faster than her previous best.
Following Tran were five Michigan runners in subsequent sections of the 5000 meters. Senior Ericka VanderLende followed Tran’s time with the only other sub-16:00 performance. With the rest of the Wolverines coming in under 16:40, there looks to be a strong foundation built for the rest of the season.
In the 1500 meter race, Rynda was Michigan’s best finisher, running in section four and finishing with a time of 4:20.28 for a new personal record. Her success early in the season might hint toward future accomplishments.
“It’s always good to get a personal record at the season opener,” Rynda said. “It just shows where you’re at in the season and keeps you excited for the races to come. It’s definitely exciting.”
Graduate Cassie Kearney also raced the 1500 meters, winning section seven with a time of 4:28.36. This performance was less than two seconds off her personal record, a gap that she’s capable of closing throughout the season — further exemplifying the Wolverines’ distance potential.
Following Kearney in section seven were two of her teammates, both within ten seconds of her time. That depth speaks to the efforts exerted at the start of the season, showcasing a strong foundation that can be built upon.
“(These results) show that we have a lot of depth,” Rynda said. “And we have a lot of talent in our group. (It shows) how capable we are of winning the Big Ten championship (for outdoor track).”
The strong showing in the 5000 and 1500 meter races continued into Michigan’s last mid-distance event. The 800 meter race featured two Wolverines — senior Amber Gall ran a 2:15.08 in section four and senior Lauren Fulcher ran a 2:14.04 in section six.
Although these times saw middle-of-the-pack finishes against strong competition in the Stanford Invitational, such performances continue showing the potential to be built upon as meets continue.
“Consistency is really going to be the name of the game going into the season,” Rynda said. “Putting myself in more challenging races to see how much faster I can get (will be important).”
Remaining consistent in training and competing throughout the season will play a large role in Michigan’s success outdoors, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down.