The Michigan women’s track and field team found itself amid top competition Saturday at the Big Ten Championship. The Wolverines squared off against nationally ranked opponents in nearly every event and in some cases took on harder challenges than they’d even anticipated. Coming off of a disappointing seventh-place finish in 2012, an improvement to third was welcomed warmly in such a competitive field.

The Wolverines’ solid third-place finish can largely be attributed to outstanding performances in both the mile run and the distance medley relay. In the mile, the Wolverines accrued a total of 22 points led by fifth-year senior Amanda Eccleston’s first-place finish with a time of 4:40.66, good for 10 points.

“I think Amanda was the overall athlete of the meet for us, just a great individual performance” said Michigan coach James Henry.

Also, finishing fourth, fifth and sixth in the mile, were sophomores Brook Handler and Shannon Osika and junior Megan Weschler, respectively.

“(It was a) really good performance by our team as a whole, especially to have four girls score in the mile — that was really exciting,” Eccleston said. “We knew that Shannon was going to step up, and I think that helped the other three of us move along pretty well, then with about a lap to go I thought I had a chance to go for it, so I decided to hang on and make a move at the end.”

Osika would again prove her mettle in the Wolverines’ only other first-place finish, the distance medley relay. This relay win was an astounding 10th in a row at the Big Ten Championship for the Wolverines. The relay team, composed of Osika, and seniors Meg Bellino, Jill Smith, and Rebecca Addison would account for another 10 of the team’s 89 total points.

“We had a really strong 1,200 leg,” Smith said. “Shannon did a really good job of getting us out in front. She handed off to Meg Bellino, who it was her first time running. I just tried my best during the 800 to hang on with the Minnesota girl and I felt really strong throughout.”

Although the athletes were able to seal the relay win, they gave up some rest time to do so. The relay team was stacked with with Michigan’s top middle- and long-distance runners. All of these athletes were already participating in individual events, so the extra run might have taken a toll on them. But they saw it as a worthy sacrifice though to ensure a relay win.

Besides the two first-place finishes for the Wolverines, another top finish included freshman Cindy Ofili’s second-place finish in the 60-meter hurtles, where she was able to set a new personal-record time of 8.22 while gaining the team another eight points. As a young competitor, Ofili impressed many with her notable work mentality and production for her first time on such a big stage.

Also crucial was redshirt junior Kiley Tobel’s second-runner-up finish in the pole vault in as many weeks. She hit a height of 4.15m, gaining eight points. Later in the day, senior Ada Unachukwu would place third in the triple-jump with a distance of 12.79m, adding another solid six points to Michigan’s total.

Even with all of these outstanding performances the Wolverines were still unable to keep up with Illinois’s 115 points. Bolstering the 15th-ranked Fighting Ilini’s championship point total was their first-place finishes in four events, including the 60-meter hurdle, 60-meter dash, pole vault and 4×400-meter relay. Nebraska trailed Illinois with a total of 112 points.

“You never know what’s going to happen at a meet like this, there’s so many talented runners,” Eccleston said.

Michigan’s third-place finish signaled an improvement from its fifth-place finish the year before, but as to be expected at the conference championship, there was no lack of talent to compete with.

“The girls did all they possibly could do,” Henry said. “I thought they competed well, and they gave it their best. You have to remember there were nine other teams were doing that same exact thing. With that said, I couldn’t be more happy for our girls’ performance.”

Next week, the Wolverines will continue their season by heading to South Bend, Ind. for the Notre Dame Alex Wilson Invitational, where a trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships might be on the line.

—Corrections Appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Michigan finished fifth in the 2012 Big Ten Indoor Championships. A previous version of this article also incorrectly quoted Jillian Smith as saying Samantha had a strong 1,200 leg, and later incorrectly referred to Meg Bellino as “Megan.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.