The days are growing warmer, and with that comes the outdoor season for the Michigan women’s track and field team.
The Wolverines traveled to Florida for the USF Bulls Invitational on Friday and the UCF Black and Gold Challenge on Saturday to compete in their first two meets of the outdoor season. Michigan picked up a total of 25 top-five finishes on the weekend — 10 on Friday and 15 on Saturday.
The transition from the indoor to the outdoor season can be difficult, so Michigan coach James Henry just wanted his team out there competing.
“This was more of a transitional meet,” Henry said. “There weren’t any performance expectations.”
The indoor-to-outdoor transition can be especially difficult for hurdlers since they have to run longer distances. The 60-meter hurdle in the indoor season gets replaced by the 100- and 400-meter hurdles. But junior Amber Smith and freshman Cindy Ofili showed no signs of struggling with that distance.
At the USF Invitational, Smith placed second in the 100-meter hurdle with a time of 13.65 seconds, while Ofili placed third at 13.84 seconds. The two switched places the next day as Ofili placed second with a personal-best time of 13.74 seconds while Smith placed third at 13.76.
Smith also had a strong showing in the 400-meter hurdle on both days, placing first on Friday with a time of 1:01.44 and third on Saturday (1:02.53).
Senior thrower Erin Pendleton performed well in her first two outdoor meets, placing second in the discus and fifth in the hammer throw in both meets.
Pendleton is growing through a transition of her own, as this is her first outdoor season competing without her older sister, Emily Pendleton, as a teammate. Emily graduated from Michigan in 2012 but is still practicing with the team while competing as an unattached athlete due to her decision to go pro, much to Erin’s pleasure.
“(Emily) has a really good impact on the team since she is trying to go professionally,” Erin said. “It brings the level up, and everyone in practice wants to do better.”
Henry also believes that Emily’s presence has been good for Erin.
“(Erin) has matured and has done a good job in stepping into a leadership role,” Henry said. “She might be a little sister in the real world, but she is a big sister to this track team.”
Henry hopes that Erin’s leadership will have a positive influence when it comes to training, which could play a big role for the team as it shifts from the indoor to the outdoor season.
Michigan has high aspirations for the outdoor season after its 15th-place finish in the NCAA indoor championships.
When asked what their goals were for the team this season, Erin said, “to win Big Ten.”
Smith went even further, saying “the NCAA championships.”