The pistol fired, sending the runners into motion at the Wolverine Invitational and signaling the beginning of the indoor track and field season for both the Michigan men’s and women’s teams.
Out of 30 final events on Saturday, the Wolverines had 25 individuals land podium finishes in 18 events — six of which were first place. The unscored invitational featured Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Buffalo, Miami (Fla.) and professional non-collegiate athletes. Among them were notable runners Melissa Bishop-Nriagu — a Canadian Olympian who ran at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics — British Olympian Tiffany Porter and Olympic hopefuls Mason Ferlic and Shannon Osika, both former Wolverines.
“So we invite those kids in, those young men and women in, when we’re not having a scored meet,” Michigan co-head coach James Henry said. “We want our kids to aspire that, ‘I want to be there’ and, ‘I’m right next to an Olympian,’ and they’re out there in the meet and they see this is what it’s like. . . . So we want them here so they can aspire to be a part of that.”
But Michigan didn’t need to look far for inspiration. Both senior thrower Briana Nelson and junior thrower Courtney Jacobsen broke the previous school record of 19.53 meters in the weight throw.
Additionally, multiple athletes recorded personal records, including high jumpers Jada Wimberly and Katt Miner — a junior and a senior, respectively.
“Me and Jada wanted to be really relaxed today and not stressed about anything,” Miner said. “Our goal was just to make bar and just try to be consistent. And it just went way better than we both expected. But I think that’s just because we weren’t stressed about height or anything at all today.”
Wimberly placed third by jumping over a 1.70-meter bar, besting her previous indoor record of 1.66 meters. Miner shattered her 1.71 indoor record by clearing a 1.80-meter bar and claimed first in the high jump event.
“I think other meets, we put pressure on ourselves to make certain bars,” Miner said. “We end up just kind of getting really tense and not fluid through it, so moving through them was really nice. And then, when we got to higher heights, we were just kind of like ‘OK, let’s keep it going.’ ”
Other first place finishers included sophomore Eric Harris in men’s pole vault, freshman Amanda Schaare in women’s shot put, sophomore John Meyer in men’s shot put, sophomore Colton Yesney in the men’s 3,000-meter run and both the men’s and women’s teams in the 4×400-meter relay.
Additionally, freshman distance runner Ericka VanderLende placed second in the mile, only behind Nike-sponsored runner and Tokyo 2020 Olympic hopeful Shannon Osika. After a successful cross country season, VanderLende chose to work on her get-off and focused more on speed work during the winter. Despite the change going into her first indoor season, she still managed to finish favorably in her event.
At the end of the meet, Henry gathered both teams together and had the athletes share not only their successes, but their disappointments and failures as well.
“I want the kids to hear all levels of how well we’re doing so you can take that and become better,” Henry said. “So if someone wet the bed, use that to get better. If someone had an average day, use that to get better. If the throwers or whatever had a great day, use that to step up.
“So all action is a positive reaction.”
The goal is to get better. That’s why Henry has been having his athletes practice this self-reflection for over 30 years and why he’ll have them do it after every meet this year.
“It’s a process for all of our kids,” Henry said. “If you do well, it’s a process. If you do bad, it’s a process.”
The results of the Michigan men’s and women’s track and field teams’ first meet make one thing clear — each Wolverine is in a different part of the process. Some broke school and personal records. Some ‘wet the bed.’ And some didn’t even make it to the starting block on Saturday.
But one part of the process is clear — they are all expected to get better.