After traveling to Florida, North Carolina, California and Iowa in the last six weeks, the women’s track team finally got to compete at home in last weekend’s Len Paddock Invitational at Ferry Field.
“We love hosting the Len Paddock Invitational each year and letting Michigan track and field fans come out and see us perform,” Michigan coach James Henry said.
The Wolverines did not let their fans down in their final preparation for next week’s Big Ten Championships. Five Michigan athletes posted NCAA regional qualifying marks, including three seniors who were competing in their final home meet.
On Friday night, senior Andrea Parker won the 1,500-meter run with a personal-best time of 4:27.68. Parker has shown her versatility in the distance events this season and has earned a regional qualifying time in three events — the only Wolverine to accomplish that feat this season.
“It’s a great feeling being able to run qualifying times in the steeplechase, the 5,000 and in the 1,500,” Parker said.
Senior Lindsay Gallo rabbited the opening kilometer of the 1,500- meter run before stepping off the track. Parker, Detroit Mercy’s Andrea Karl and Michigan freshman Alyson Kohlmeier — who competed unattached — joined Gallo at the front of the race.
After Gallo walked off, Parker took control of the race. She maintained a slight lead over Kohlmeier and Karl throughout the last lap and used a burst of speed down the final stretch to gain more separation and reach the regional qualifying mark. Parker edged Kohlmeier by seven tenths of a second and beat the regional qualifying time by just over one tenth of a second.
After suffering from mononucleosis, tonsillitis, a circulatory-system disorder and other setbacks in previous years, Parker is having the best season of her career, and she hopes to have a storybook ending.
“This season has been everything I could have hoped for,” Parker said. “After all my of injuries in the past, to come out and have the season that I’m having was the best possible outcome.”
Three other Michigan athletes also posted regional qualifying marks in field events.
Senior Ashley Eckel won the hammer throw competition with a season-best and regional qualifying throw of 178-10 — 13 feet farther than her closest competitor. Eckel was also Michigan’s highest finisher in the shot put with a third-place throw of 45-1 3/4, but she has not posted a regional qualifying score in the shot put this season. Last year, Eckel qualified for the NCAA regional competition in both the shot put and hammer throw.
Sophomore Bridgette Maynard won the discus throw and improved upon her regional qualifying score with a personal-best toss of 164-5 — more than six feet better than her previous best.
“It was very exciting to get the result I did today,” Maynard said. “I’m peaking at the end of the season with Big Tens and regionals coming up, and I’m looking forward to the next few meets.”
Junior Jennifer Williams competed in five events and won the high jump competition with a regional qualifying height of 5-8 3/4. It was the fourth time this season that Wiliams has posted a qualifying mark in the event.
“I have been pleased with my consistency in the high jump this season,” Williams said. “Usually I’m up and down from week to week, but this season I have been able to be consistently good.”
After winning the conference championship in cross-country and indoor track, the team hopes to complete the program’s third triple crown at next weekend’s Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Columbus.