That was the difference for the Michigan women’s track and field team at the Big Ten Outdoor Championship yesterday.
First place in the day’s last event, the long jump, would give the Wolverines the outright Big Ten Title. Second place would mean sharing the title with Illinois.
Sophomore co-captain Bettie Wade jumped a career best six feet. But Iowa’s Peaches Roach matched her to force a jump off, which Roach would win.
“If the Iowa girl would have missed (her last) attempt and (they) went to the next attempt, Betty would have got her,” associate head coach Mike McGuire said. “It couldn’t have been any closer.”
Said Wade: “I couldn’t quite pull it through to get the win. But we both jumped high, so I was happy.”
Michigan still won its first Outdoor Championship since 2004 and the first shared title in Big Ten history.
After the high jump the Wolverines didn’t know whether they had won and waited in anticipation for about a half an hour.
“For a while there, no one was really sure if we had done it,” said graduate student Anna Willard, who is using her final year of eligibility after coming to Ann Arbor from Brown.
When the final score was announced, Michigan and Illinois tied for first with 129 points, Penn State finished third with 121.50, and favorite Minnesota placed fourth with 106.
Heading into the final day of the Championship, Minnesota had a commanding lead with 62 points, while Michigan stood at third place with 37 and Illinois at seventh with 23.
“Minnesota just had some performances that didn’t work out for them, and we had some performances that did,” Michigan coach James Henry said about the turnaround. “That’s the way it was across the board.”
In her first and last Big Ten Outdoor Championship, Willard became the first Wolverine to ever win three individual events. She took first in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 1500- and 5,000-meter runs,
“I just wanted to do the best as I possibly could, and that meant tripling,” Willard said.
Sophomore Tiffany Ofili won the 100-meter hurdles for the second straight year (13.14) and fifth-year senior co-captain Katie Erdman won the 800-meter (2:05.17).
Wade helped the Wolverines even more earlier with first place in the heptathlon, Michigan’s first win in the event since 1998.
The Wolverines gained 37 points yesterday in the middle-distance races, including 21 in the 1,500-meter. Willard won (4:15.93) and Erdman finished second, .02 seconds behind Willard.
“One of our goals was to do as much damage in the 1,500 as we could,” Erdman said. “It was a great feeling to finish that race side by side with her.”
As pleased as he was with the 1,500-meter, Henry thought many of the other wins were also key.
“Well, what we always say, is that the middle-distance and distance is our ‘bread and butter,’ but I’ve also told the other areas, they’re the ‘meat and potatoes,’ ” Henry said through the athletic department. “Balance is our bottom line, balance occurred for us and it helped us through this championship.”
One second, one inch, one point could have tilted the score and the Championship either way.
“When you get to 129 points, it’s a matter of a lot of people coming through and getting a point or two more than they were projected,” McGuire said.
Every point mattered yesterday, and all those points added up to a Big Ten Title, even if it’s shared.