When the average person hears about track and field, he or she might think of the many sprints, relays and other running events that epitomize the competition in the sport. Some athletes, though, are not satisfied with these one-dimensional events; they need a second element to provide more of a challenge.

These athletes are hurdlers, and junior Vera Simms is one such athlete. Simms and freshman pole-vaulter Elizabeth Boyle highlighted a successful weekend for the Michigan women’s track and field team, who had kicked off the 2003 outdoor season at the Florida State Relays, held at the Mike Long Track in Tallahassee, Fla.

Simms showed why she is the defending Big Ten champion and the school record holder in the 400-meter hurdles by crossing the finish line in first place, clocking in at 58.43. Her performance was good enough to set a new school record, topping her previous best of 58.50. It also earned her a trip to the NCAA regional qualifying meet. Simms helped the sprint medley relay to a first-place finish as well.

Boyle, who broke the school record in the high jump during the indoor season, repeated the feat this past weekend. Boyle finished first in the event with a mark of 12’6,” and she’ll be joining Simms at the regional qualifying meet.

“I was really pleased with both of them, especially Elizabeth for being a young person,” coach James Henry said. “I never expect anyone to break a record this early (in the season). They’re both a part of our overall plan to improve and develop a balance this season.”

The Wolverines took advantage of the warm weather by adding four more event victories, giving them a total of seven for the meet. Sophomore Tracy Egnatuk and senior April Phillips finished in first place in the 800-meter run and the shot put, respectively. Michigan placed seven runners in the top eight spots in the 1,500-meter run, with Lindsey Gallo crossing the finish line first. Gallo also helped the 800-meter relay team win its event.

Although Henry says that it’s too early to tell, the early success of the Wolverines might be a good indicator of how they’ll perform in the postseason. Michigan is the defending Big Ten champion, and its hoping to keep the title this year in order to complete the rare “Triple Crown” championship of cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field.

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