If you’re a fan of ESPN, you might have seen it before.
It’s the commercial that says: “There are over 360,000
NCAA student-athletes and just about all of us will be going pro in
something other than sports.”

Vera Simms is the perfect candidate for this commercial.

Simms, the senior quad-captain of the Michigan women’s
track and field team, will graduate in two weeks with a degree in
mechanical engineering. Next year she will attend graduate school,
leaving behind a successful career in both academics and
athletics.

Before she graduates, Simms faces a few challenges in the last
month of the season. Simms has been battling knee injuries, as well
as foot problems — both have limited her running at practice
and meets. She has tried different rhythms to adapt to these
injuries.

Over the weekend at the Mt. SAC Relays, Simms had a
disappointing showing.

She ran the 400-meter hurdles in 1:01.48 to finish in 22nd
place. As the current school record-holder in the event with a time
of 58.18, she is determined to end her college career on a more
positive note.

“I got out of it mentally and had a very bad run,”
Simms said. “I need to remember the things that I have been
working on for the past four years and get back into the rhythm for
the race.”

Four years ago, Simms left behind the warm beaches of Hawaii for
the brutally cold winters in Ann Arbor, and she has yet to regret
the decision. She found the winters easy to adjust to and was
overwhelmed with a sense of school pride.

“I’m going to miss going to the meets and running
for a school that everyone recognizes and respects,” Simms
said.

“I love hearing people shout ‘Go Blue!’
wherever we compete.”

Simms’s school spirit developed as soon as she started
running with the program. The track and field team has a big
sister-little sister program to help form bonds between the young
runners and the veterans. While Simms found the training at
Michigan difficult at first, she was inspired by her big sister and
a group of upperclassmen. Their dedication to the team motivated
Simms and pushed her to excel.

Now, the tables are turned, and Simms is in the position of
leadership.  Simms hopes that her ‘little sister’
— freshman Kiana Stringfield — will follow in her
footsteps.

“As a captain, I’ve tried to help people stay
focused,” Simms said. “I’ve learned how to
organize a group of girls that come from different backgrounds and
have different views and help them work together.”

While Simms is the first to praise teamwork, the most valuable
thing she learned applies to the individual.

“I’ve realized that, to be a good athlete, you
can’t wait for a coach to tell you what to do, you just have
to do it yourself,” she said.

This Thursday, the team will participate in the Drake Relays.
While the Wolverines did not attend this meet last year, the event
has had a sold-out crowd of 18,000 people for the past 38 years
— the longest streak in U.S. track history. Distance and
spring relays are the main focus of this meet. The rest of the
Wolverines will head to Pennsylvania for the Penn Relays.

As for Simms’s future, even with graduate school in the
picture, she plans to keep running.

“It’s hard to say if I will compete next year, but I
just can’t imagine stopping,” Simms said.

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