Placed at the end of track meets, the 5,000 meters is usually more relaxed than the other events as the meet winds down. But that wasn’t the case at the Big Ten Women’s Indoor Track Championships yesterday in Bloomington.

After exchanging the lead with host Indiana for most of the championships, the Wolverines found themselves down by a half point going into the 5,000 meters, the second-to-last event.

Distance runners Rebecca Walter and Andrea Parker responded to the pressure by finishing second and fourth, respectively. More importantly, they tallied 14 points for Michigan, clinching back-to-back indoor titles for the Wolverines prior to the mile relay, in which first place only receives 10 points. Michigan added a point in the relay to finish the race with 129.5 points to Indiana’s 115.

Assistant coach Mike McGuire said he was relieved that after an up-and-down championship, it didn’t come down to the final event.

“Anytime you are passing a baton, it is a nail-biting experience,” McGuire said.

McGuire said he was confident that Michigan’s long-distance runners would outperform the Hoosiers, but there was still cause for concern. Walter could have been tired after finishing third in the 3,000-meter race the day before. Also, the Hoosiers had an excited home crowd and a bitter taste in their mouth after losing to Michigan last season in the closest Big Ten Women’s Indoor Championship ever.

With the support of teammates, coaches and parents, Walter and Parker put those fears to rest.

“I have never been at a track meet with this much intensity and support from the team members,” Walter said. “I could hear them the whole way.”

Said Parker: “It was crazy. It was really great to have the parents and the teammates cheering. I heard roars of people cheering and people yelling ‘Go Blue.’ I could just feel the energy and the noise.”

What about the Indiana runners?

“I didn’t even see them” Parker said of the three Hoosiers. One finished 11th, one finished 12th and one didn’t finish.

Michigan also had three individual Big Ten champions in Rachel Sturtz, Katie Erdman and April Phillips. Sturtz won the 800-meter run, setting a school and meet record in the process, while Erdman won the 600-meter run, setting a meet record in a preliminary round. Phillips won her second consecutive shot put title with an NCAA automatic distance of 54-2.

Along with Walter, Stephanie Linz (high jump) and Vera Simms (400 meters) aided the team with runner-up finishes.

The Wolverines are now just a Big Ten Outdoor Championship short of the prestigious “Triple Crown,” that consists of Big Ten titles in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. Michigan is the reigning champion in each but did not win all three in the same calendar year as required to win the Triple Crown. Michigan hasn’t won the crown since the 1993-94 season.

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