It isn’t a popular tourist destination. But this weekend,
Fayetteville, Ark., will become the center of the collegiate track
and field world. The nation’s best athletes will converge on
the town of 58,000 for the NCAA Indoor Championships and provide
some of the highest-level competition the sport has to offer. And
in the midst of it all, five Michigan women will attempt to assert
their position among America’s finest.

“We’re all pretty excited,” sophomore Katie
Erdman said.

And they have reason to be. Erdman leads off the
Wolverines’ distance medley relay team, which also includes
senior Carly Knazze, junior Theresa Feldkamp and redshirt junior
Lindsey Gallo. The squad holds the nation’s seventh-best time
in the event (11:11.58).

Last year’s medley relay, which included Erdman and Gallo,
managed a 10th-place finish (11:19.61), two spots short of
All-America status. Michigan’s semi-revamped relay team
presents a formidable challenge to its opponents.

The boisterous crowd at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track
should provide an extra adrenaline boost for the Michigan
runners.

“It’s so fun because it’s packed,”
Erdman said. “The spectators are set up higher up from the
track a little bit — it’s really loud out
there.”

Three Wolverines will compete at the meet as individuals. Erdman
enters the 800-meter run with the nation’s seventh-fastest
time this year (2:05.38) and an unblemished indoor season at stake.
Gallo will race in the one-mile run, in which she holds the
eighth-fastest time in the nation (4:40.91). Junior Jennifer
Kulchar rounds out Michigan’s individual field, hoping to top
her previous best of 1.81 meters in the high jump.

Michigan’s athletes will have to rely on their experience
to keep their nerves under control.

“Last year, I was pretty worked up about (the NCAA
Championships),” Erdman said. “I was pretty nervous
about everything.”

But a year later, Erdman and Gallo know what to expect at
nationals. None of the Michigan athletes are strangers to
pressure-filled situations — all five were state champions in
high school.

While the competition will be fierce, Michigan will arrive in
Arkansas with a positive attitude. Free of title expectations, the
athletes aren’t feeling pressure.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Erdman said.

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