While the Simmons-Harvey Invitational signaled the beginning of the 2017 indoor season for the Michigan men’s and women’s track teams, it also marked the final collegiate competition in the U-M Indoor Track Building after 43 years in use. Going forward, the Wolverines will compete in the Stephen Ross Athletic Complex when it is completed in fall 2017.
“I’ve been here since 1976,” said women’s coach James Henry. “There are a lot of things that I’ve seen here, and there are a lot of great, great memories.”
The women’s team came out strong, notching four event titles and 15 personal records on the day. The Wolverines dominated in the first event of the competition, taking the top four spots in the high jump, with junior Claire Kieffer-Wright taking the victory after clearing a height of 1.7 meters.
“It’s a good place to start for me, to shake off the rust,” Kieffer-Wright said. “There’s more to come, but I think tomorrow waking up I’ll feel good about what I did today.”
Other impressive performances in the field events came from Michigan’s throwers. In the weight throw, freshman Courtney Jacobsen tied for first place with a throw of 17.94 meters. She eventually lost the tiebreaker, though resulting in a second place finish.
In the shot put, the Wolverines claimed three of the top seven spots, with junior Kayla Deering setting a personal record with a throw of 13.46 meters, good for second place.
Michigan excelled in the track events as well. Six Wolverines set personal bests in the one-mile contest, including junior Erin Finn, whose time of 4:39.76 placed her in third.
The Wolverines also came away with victories in the 60-meter, 400-meter, and 600-meter events. In the 60-meter race, freshman Torisa Johnson won with a time of 7.54 seconds. Racing 400 meters, freshman Jade Harrison led the entire way, finishing in a time of 55.88 seconds. In the 600-meter contest, freshman Julia Hall won in 1:35.65, an impressive 6.46 seconds ahead of the second-place competitor.
“I’m happy because it was my first college race ever,” Hall said. “It’s back to training, because I want to do better, but overall I’m excited about the start of the season and happy about where it started.”
While recognizing that improvements still need to be made, Henry was impressed with the unity and hard work his team displayed.
“Across the board, in every single event, we had kids have personal bests,” Henry said. “If this is any indication of how we’re going to do, I’m excited for the next meet and beyond.”
Not to be outshone by their female counterparts, the men’s team claimed victory in five events, and set seven personal records on the day.
“After you get through the first meet, there’s going to be a lot of adjustments,” said men’s coach Jerry Clayton. “But overall it was a solid first day.”
The Wolverines’ first victory came in the shot put, where junior Grant Cartwright’s best throw traveled 18.32 meters, a full 1.53 meters ahead of the second place finisher.
“You kind of look at each meet as a building block,” Cartwright said. “I felt like, as a team, we did a pretty good job of putting down a good foundation for our season today.”
Also in the field events, sophomore Joe Ellis finished first in the weight throw with a distance of 21.05 meters, while Cartwright set a personal best with a toss of 20.09 meters, good for second place. In the pole vault, Michigan’s competitors finished fourth through sixth, with junior Kevin Haughn, senior Steven Bastien, and sophomore Nicholas Burkhalter each setting personal records in the event.
The Wolverines had a strong showing in the track events as well, where senior Drake Johnson won the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.97 seconds.
“For him (Johnson) to break eight seconds the first time out,” Clayton said. “On the track, that was probably our most outstanding performance there.”
In the 800-meter race, sophomore Matt Plowman finished in first with a time of 1:56.06. In the mile run, sophomore Kevin Hall came in first, clocking in at 4:15.39.
“Although I’m happy that I won, and it’s a good start, there’s definitely a lot more to do,” Hall said. “More than anything, it’s just a motivator for the rest of the season.”
While both teams recognized that this meet served more as a stepping stone for the rest of the season, the competitors and coaches alike were happy to perform well as a final farewell to their longtime their longtime facility.
“Can we rest on today? No,” Clayton said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to accomplish what we need to by (Big Ten Indoor Championships). But is it possible? No question.”