To compete well in the battle before the war that”s the goal that Michigan women”s track and field coach Henry James has set for his team this weekend at the USTCA Collegiate Challenge in State College. His hope is that the team can gain some valuable experience for its return to Penn State and the Big Ten Championships in two weeks.
“I want the young ladies to feel the adrenaline and the butterflies,” James said. “(I want them) to feel the emotion of competition, so the second time around it will not be a new environment for them.”
The meet will also give Michigan an opportunity to face some strong Big Ten competition as Indiana, Michigan State and Penn State will also be competing at the meet.
The Wolverines have good reason to be optimistic about their chances of finishing well against their conference rivals. Michigan took first place in four events at last Saturday”s George Mason Patriot Games in Fairfax, Va. The Wolverines were led by junior April Phillips, who swept two throwing events the weight throw and the shot put for the second week in a row.
Phillips was among five Wolverines who set personal highs last weekend, as she broke her own school record in the weight throw. James thinks that the team”s strong showing is a good sign as they build towards the Big Ten Championships.
“As a coach, you can”t ask for more than what they”ve already done,” James said. “These young ladies, pretty much across the board, are walking away with performances that they”ve never done before.”
Their success can also be attributed to the surprisingly quick impact of the team”s large freshmen class. Last Saturday, newcomer Stephanie Hirtle ran Michigan”s fastest 800 meters this season at 2:10.28, her first ever appearance in the event. Fellow freshman Rachel Igbawua also placed second in the high jump behind senior Nicole DeNamur.
“We always hope that the (freshmen) can make an immediate contribution, but we don”t expect that to happen,” James said. “So, being that it is happening, it”s a bonus.”
And while he remains confident about his team”s chances this weekend, James knows that they still have two weeks to prepare themselves for the war.
“If we come back wounded, we”ll lick our wounds and go back at it again,” James said. “We”re expecting a good battle, but I”m expecting a better war.”