Things did not go according to plan last year for the Michigan women’s track and field team — the Wolverines knew they had to do something to fix it.
Michigan entered the Big Ten Indoor Championships on Saturday with only one goal after coming off a disappointing eighth-place finish last season — improvement. They knew they had the talent. They knew they had the skill. All they needed were the victories when it mattered.
In Michigan coach James Henry’s eyes, as the No. 13 nationally ranked team left West Lafayette the next day, they were Michigan again. To be Michigan meant to win. It meant to place near the top of the conference, and to continue a tradition of excellence. All of this was met when the Wolverine’s finished this weekend with a fourth-place finish at the Championship meet. This finish was the 16th time in Henry’s 27- year tenure as head coach that the team has finished in the top four.
The Wolverines not only improved, but also went above and beyond their expectations, with 13 athletes putting up points on the board, which allowed Michigan to finish with 68.5 points.
“Last year was an anomaly,” Henry said. “Things went wrong and they just kept going wrong. We let that competitive season get away from us. Hopefully that won’t happen for another 20 years. It’s good to get that (winning) feeling back with this group of kids.
“We needed a performance like (this past weekend) to feel that we are a first division program.”
Fifth year senior captain Alisha Cole attributed the change in the athletes to their ability to come together as a team and draw strength from their teammates; working together to become a stronger “track family,” which has been dubbed the theme of the season.
All four of Michigan’s Big Ten Champions came from its mid-distance team that has been unstoppable all season. The distance-medley relay, comprised of senior captain Danielle Tauro, Cole, and sophomores Rebecca Addison and Jillian Smith won its eighth-consecutive Big Ten title after breaking a Lambert Fieldhouse record with a time of 11:17:34.
“It meant a lot for us,” Cole said. “We were defending a title that we’ve owned for a long time so I think that they’re going to continue it for a lot more years. I think it could be a while before that one leaves Michigan.”
With the DMR’s victory, Michigan was also able to set a new Big Ten record for consecutive wins in an event. In addition, Tauro became the second Wolverine in the program’s history to be part of four Big Ten Champion DMR teams.
Smith repeated her performance from last year to be crowned champion in the 800-meter run. Addison soon followed suit when she seized her first individual title following her victory in the mile run.
The title of Big Ten Indoor Champion ultimately went to Ohio State. The Buckeyes finished 36 points ahead of runner-up Penn State and more than 50 points ahead the Wolverines.
“At Big Tens, the competition is always high,” Cole said. “When you’re out there, the excitement level is just a lot higher then other meets. When you’re warming up and you hear the crowd yelling, it’s really exciting.”
At this point in time, Michigan plans to use the momentum gathered from this past weekend to propel them into their outdoor season.
“When you have that many good things happening, it’s hard to get down,” Cole said. “We’re just really happy right now and we’re feeling good as a team. We think we can do even better for Outdoor Big Ten Championships and we’re just really excited for what the rest of the year has to bring.”