As Cindy Ofili lined up at the start line at the British Championships, she didn’t take her eyes off the 100-meter hurdles course.
She didn’t glance at her older sister, Michigan alum Tiffany Porter, who now runs professionally for Great Britain. And she didn’t glance at Michigan coach James Henry, who has been at the helm of her training through her entire Michigan career and throughout the summer.
She stared straight ahead and ran.
The rising senior sprinter and hurdler crossed the finish line to place second 12.96 seconds later, right behind her sister (12.83).
“Honestly, even though she is my sister, she was my competitor,” Ofili said. “In between rounds we shook hands, but other than that, we focused on ourselves. She’s one of the best in the world, so I know that I’m making progress by running with her. It’s a great experience and it was very special running against each other in the finals.”
It’s this discipline and focus that affirmed Ofili’s standout junior year. She went undefeated in the 100-meter hurdles through the outdoor season and finished runner-up at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. With her final time of the season, 12.60, she broke her personal record by .21 seconds and the school record by .13 seconds — a record previously set by Porter seven years prior.
Her time also stands as the seventh-fastest time in the world for the 100-meter hurdles.
In the same day as her qualifying 100-meter hurdle race at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, she broke a second school record in the 100-meter dash, finishing in 11.39 seconds.
Earlier in the season, she defended her title in the indoor 60-meter hurdles, clocking in at 8.15. She was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week six times between January and April and received the prestigious Michigan Chapter Wilma Rudolph Award, among other athletic and academic achievements.
“Every athlete at this stage is experienced and skilled,” Ofili said. “So you see a lot of similar mindsets. I’m definitely excited and I feel very accomplished. I did things I didn’t even imagine doing. I feel accomplished, but I still feel very hungry and very motivated for this coming year.”
She currently holds the school record for the indoor 60-meter and 200-meter events, as well as the outdoor 100-meter dash and 100-meter hurdles.
A large part of her motivation also stems from her coach.
Henry has been the head coach for the Michigan women’s track and field team for 31 seasons. At the 2012 London Olympic Games alone, he had three former athletes competing, including Porter, as well as one graduate student.
“My sister had a similar relationship with (Henry) as I do now,” Ofili said. “He loves us both and treats us like we’re great athletes. The thing about (Henry) is that he’s always had more confidence in me than I have had in myself. He’s always told me I had greatness. He knew I had this in me all along.”
The four-time Big Ten Champion is preparing for her senior year “hungry” for the upcoming competition. Between now and the start of the collegiate season, she will compete in China at the IAAF World Championships, already having clinched her bid alongside her sister at the British Championships.
She is also enjoying her new role on the international stage as a soon-to-be professional, and states that it’s an “eye-opening experience.”
Going into senior year, Ofili recognizes that she’ll be facing heightened expectations to perform and to succeed. She copes with the pressure by telling herself that her time as a Wolverine is a journey, and that with Michigan behind her, she hopes this is just the beginning.