Sometimes you have to leave to fully appreciate just how good you have it.
That’s what high jumper Stephanie Linz realized after she left the women’s track and field team and transferred to Oakland University her junior year to play volleyball before returning to Michigan this year.
After a quiet freshman campaign at Michigan during which she redshirted the indoor season and finished 15th in the outdoor Big Ten Championships, Linz developed into a consistent jumper as a sophomore. She was named to the All-Big Ten second team and finished second in the Big Ten Championships. She also won the NCAA Regionals with a career-best jump of 5-10 1/2 and finished seventh in the high jump at the NCAA Championships. After the season, Linz earned All-American honors.
But Linz did not adjust very well to the big program at Michigan. Although most Michigan freshmen take time to acclimate to college life and Michigan coach James Henry’s program, Linz was having trouble adjusting, and decided to experience the other side of the spectrum.
“She was really quiet and reserved,” Henry said. “During her freshman and sophomore year, she wasn’t quite comfortable because she didn’t think that she fit in. She didn’t have a large team in high school, and she was pretty shy here.”
When Linz informed Henry she was leaving, he didn’t take the news personally.
“I was disappointed, but my philosophy is that I recruit you one time,” Henry said. “If Michigan isn’t the place for you, then I’m not going to talk you out of leaving.”
Then, after a year at Oakland, Linz decided to return to Michigan. Unable to transfer during the winter term because of class scheduling, Linz had to wait until this year’s fall term to transfer back to Michigan and rejoin the track and field team.
“I really missed it here,” Linz said. “Oakland was a smaller school, and I got to meet a lot of nice people. Still, I missed the big-school atmosphere.”
Henry was not surprised when she decided to come back.
“I was confident that she would come back,” Henry said. “I was confident that she would realize what she was missing. She needed to leave in order to see how good things are here at Michigan.”
After training all summer with a newly implemented weight routine, Linz has returned to the high jump as a stronger athlete.
Last weekend, in the first meet of the season, Linz won the high jump with a height of 5-8. With that clearance, she almost qualified for the NCAA Regionals at this early stage in the season.
Even with a strong start, Linz is working toward two overall goals: to jump six feet and win the Big Ten Championships in either the indoor or outdoor competition.
Henry has confidence in Linz’s athletic ability in and what she should accomplish this season.
“She’s picking up where she left off,” Henry said. “I want her to be where she was when she left. She was an All-American in track, and she can return to that form. It’s still a reward at the end of the rainbow, and we’re working on technique and being consistent.”
Linz returned to Michigan with more than focus and determination to excel in the high jump. She came back an entirely different person in her coach’s eyes.
“Now, she’s totally different this year — she has changed her whole approach,” Henry said. “She’s helped to create a sense of companionship among the high jumpers.”
As for the remainder of the season, Linz isn’t worried about what will happen. She’s just happy to be back.
This Friday the Wolverines will travel to Lexington, Ky., to compete in the Kentucky Invitational.