Six well-prepared athletes, two intense days of tough rivalry, and a chance to prove what makes them better than the competition.
With an Indoor Big Ten Championship title under their belt, Michigan’s Katie Erdman, Lindsay Gallo, April Phillips, Rachel Sturtz, Stephanie Linz and Vera Simms of the women’s track and field team will be heading off to the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
“We’ve had a great season so far, and we were rewarded with the Big Ten Championships,” associate head coach Mike McGuire said. “Ultimately we’ve got cream of the crop athletes, and a well-balanced championship team. You can’t ask for much more.”
After a tough winter season and a grueling practice schedule, the athletes are primed for the Championships. This is the best chance to prove their endurance and stamina.
“The first-year freshmen have had a huge impact on the team this year. Rebecca Walter’s presence has made a name for the middle-distance program, and Katie Erdman has done the same for the long-distance program,” McGuire said. “It will be great seeing them mature as runners over the course of the future seasons.”
Erdman was named Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year after becoming the first Michigan freshman runner ever to win an individual title at the indoor championships. Erdman won the 600-meter run to capture the award, setting a school record in the process. This weekend Erdman will only compete in the long distance relay.
“This meet will be more individually oriented than the Big Ten Championships because only six girls will be competing,” said McGuire. “But our goal is for each of them to finish in the top 10 and score some points for us. It is definitely attainable.”
As set by NCAA officials, the top eight finishers in each event will also be named to All-American status. The Wolverines have qualified athletes in four events this weekend; the shot put (April Phillips), high jump (Stephanie Linz), 800-meter run (Rachel Sturtz) and long distance relay. In each of these events, all the athletes are on the edge of becoming All-Americans, each currently seeded ninth.
Taking the field events, senior captain Phillips will be making her second showing at the NCAA Championships in the shot put and sophomore Linz will be competing in the high jump.
The only individual runner will be senior captain Sturtz, who will be making her first and last appearance at the championships in the 800-meter run.
The long distance relay will be composed of Erdman, Vera Simms, Sturtz, and Lindsay Gallo.
“I think we’re more excited than nervous for this weekend,” Gallo said, “This will be the first NCAA Championship appearance for all of us on the relay, and we want to make the trip worth while. Our goal is to become All-Americans in the distance relay.”
As the Wolverines compete at the NCAA Championships this weekend, it will conclude their indoor season. But the outdoor season is right around the corner, and hopefully another Big Ten Championship team win, to go along with the previous two (cross country and indoor track) and labeling the Wolverines as The Big Ten Triple Crown Team of the Year.