College track programs usually have three teams competing every year at different times- with the cross-country team in the fall, the indoor track and field team in the winter and the outdoor track and field team in the spring.
Although track may be best known for individual accomplishments, something needs to be said about a program that has won Big Ten championships in four straight seasons.
The Michigan women’s track and field team has done just that. In 2002, the Wolverines won the indoor title, then the outdoor title and finally the cross-country title. So far in 2003, the Wolverines have continued their remarkable streak, winning the Big Ten championship in the indoor competition earlier this month.
Now, as the Wolverines embark on the outdoor season, their dream of capturing the illustrious “Triple Crown” seems well within reach. Even though the Wolverines have won four straight Big Ten championships, the “triple crown” refers to three straight championships within the same school year.
The team is confident, determined and focused about accomplishing the prestigious goal, a feat that Michigan has not reached since the 1994-95 season.
“We have depth in every event this year, so we are in for the title. We want the Triple Crown, and we want it really bad,” said senior tri-captain April Phillips.
This Wolverine squad is fresh off a Big Ten championship in the indoor season and has three school record holders competing in the upcoming outdoor season – April Phillips in the shot put and hammer throw, senior Vera Simms in the 400-meter hurdles and junior Melissa Bickett in the discus.
While there are several differences between the indoor and outdoor seasons, those differences seem to only better the chances of another Michigan title.
Phillips’ specialty is the hammer throw, and it is solely an outdoor event. She believes she is better at the hammer than the shot put because the hammer requires more skill than strength.
“Hammer is a more technically based sport, it doesn’t have a lot to do with your size and your mass,” Phillips said.
Bickett, like Phillips, also gets to compete in her best event, discus, only during the outdoor season. Bicket was All-American in the discus last year, and posted the furthest throw in the country on her way to a stellar sophomore season.
Adding Phillips in the hammer and Bickett in the disc will only help the team.
“Not only will we have the same events that we did during indoors, but we have extra events that we will be able to score points in,” said Bickett on the move outdoors.
Bickett competes in the shot put during the indoor season, but is at her best with the discus and plans on devoting a lot of time this season to her specialty.
“I focus a lot more on discus, I’ll throw discus every day,” said Bickett on the approach she will take during practice.
Another reason the “Triple Crown” is Michigan’s for the taking is senior Rachel Sturtz. Sturtz recently broke her own school record in the 800-meter run and will most likely play a major role in the Wolverines’ success this spring.
Keeping all the pieces of the puzzle in place is Michigan coach James Henry, who was recently named Great Lakes Regional Indoor Coach of the Year. Henry is building a track and field dynasty, and it looks like pretty soon, the 2002-03 Wolverines could have the “Triple Crown” to show for it.