Former Olympian Red Simmons, one of the pioneers of Michigan women’s track and field celebrated his 98th birthday in high style this weekend.
Simmons, the coach of Michigan from 1978 to 1981, enjoyed his namesake, the Harvey-Simmons Invitational, from the finish line at the Indoor Track Building on Saturday.
Simmons sat, green flag in hand, smiling at the success of his team. The meet officials honored the track legend with a birthday cake before events got underway.
The Wolverines had their cake and ate it too.
Freshman Danielle Tauro got things started in the mile with her first-ever win as a Wolverine.
The freshman crossed the finish line in 4:50, just two seconds off the NCAA provisional qualifying time.
With the level of competition spread thin, Tauro ran uncontested much of the race.
“I’m not used to going out and running a really fast time by myself,” Tauro said. “I’m happy with the 4:50. It’s a good start.”
Tauro’s first-place finish was one of 11 Michigan victories in the 15-event non-scoring meet.
Red Simmons may have been on-site, but the Wolverines’ opposition seemed to be missing.
Competitors from intra-state teams Central Michigan, Detroit Mercy, Ferris State and Eastern Michigan joined the Wolverines, but the visitors didn’t make their presence felt.
The Wolverines easily grabbed victories, consistently demonstrating their focus and speed despite the limited competition.
Junior Geena Gall won the 800-meter run with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 2:07.
The meet’s 800-meter race was named after former Olympian and Michigan coach Francie Kraker Goodridge.
“We take special pride in that event because it’s named after Francie,” Michigan associate coach Mike McGuire said. “We wanted to make sure we put our best Michigan representative in there.”
Gall stepped up to the start line ready for action. The Grand Blanc native pushed the pace from the start and ran tall and strong in front of the large home crowd.
Tiffany Offili added to the victorious campaign and made great strides from her performance at last week’s Akron Invitational.
The junior co-captain captured three titles, including a win in the long jump (19-10). Offili’s performance was a 2-foot improvement from her jump at Akron.
“She’s just tapping her potential as a top-notch long jumper,” Michigan coach James Henry said.
Offili attributed her progress to changes in her steps down the runway. With her steps in place, Offili connected from the takeoff board and landed for her farthest jump this season.
“I’m definitely pleased, but I have a lot of work to do,” Offili said. “I’m not comfortable by any means.”
The Wolverines will host the Michigan Intercollegiate this Friday and Saturday at the Indoor Track Building.
Daily Sports Writer