Junior Vera Simms is taking steady strides toward her postseason goal of claiming the Big Ten title in the 400-meter hurdles. Simms was recently named Big Ten Athlete of the Week (March 24) for her remarkable performance on the track in the Florida State Relays. At the non-scoring meet, she set a new school record with a time of 58:43, breaking her previous personal-best time of 58:50.

“I was coming off of a good indoor season, so I expected to run well,” Simms said. “Hopefully, I can stay healthy and keep improving.”

Her performance was good enough to earn her a first-place finish and a trip to the NCAA regional qualifying meet in Columbus.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Michigan coach James Henry said. “It wasn’t expected. She’s never run that fast before. She’s well ahead of where she was last year.”

Simms, the defending Big Ten champion in the hurdles, admits that her form needs to improve. She plans to work out the kinks in time for the postseason, when she hopes to help the Wolverines defend their Big Ten title and complete the season sweep of cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field.

“I hope I can do as well as last year or better,” Simms said. “It’s a goal of mine to go to the NCAA Championships.”

After a week off, Simms and the Wolverines will be back in action tomorrow at the Yellow Jacket Invitational in Atlanta. Michigan will face strong competition from a number of Southern teams, including host Georgia Tech, Alabama and Florida State. The non-scoring meet will help the Wolverines improve and make adjustments for Big Ten competition. These early season meets provide the younger athletes with experience and a chance to develop their skills. At the same time, veterans like senior captain April Phillips try to use these “low pressure” meets to prepare for the postseason and earn qualifying marks for the NCAA Championships.

“The competition will be as good as it was, if not better, at the Florida State Relays,” Henry said. “We want to have a good contest and improve.”

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