The Michigan women’s track and field team captured the program‘s fourth-ever Indoor NCAA Championship in the distance medley relay event Friday at the Randal Tyson track in Fayetteville, Ark.
Led by its three seniors, the relay team has a potent mix of experience, talent and confidence, and it‘s proven to be one of the most successful teams in Michigan history. The relay won the Big Ten Championship in Geneva, Ohio, two weeks ago and set a program record by running the fastest time in the nation last week in South Bend, Ind., with a time of 9:56.66. The four athletes once again outdid themselves this week by re-breaking their fastest time in program history with a race time of 9:56.46 to win the Indoor NCAA Championship.
The Wolverines’ national championship relay team consisted of senior Rebecca Addison running the 1200-meter portion, freshman Maya Long running the 400-meter, senior Jillian Smith racing the 800-meter leg and senior Amanda Eccleston closing out the relay with the crucial 1600-meter leg.
“It was really exciting after qualifying last weekend with the best time in the nation,” said assistant coach Mike McGuire. “The girls came in with a real focus, it was really exciting having three seniors out there and I think it was a really great way to end their careers.”
As the distance coach, McGuire has a lot to do with the success of the relay team. He’s been working with distance and relay runners at Michigan with head coach James Henry for the last 21 years. McGuire is also the head coach of the Michigan cross country team of which Rebecca Addison and Jillian Smith are captains, so the experience and chemistry needed for success are there.
All of the recent success, combined with the experience of the three seniors and the coaching staff, proved to be key in winning the championship in the face of the nerves.
“You go in feeling ready to a degree because we won the Big Ten in the event with a nation-best performance,” McGuire said. “But it’s also a National Championship so there’s some nervous energy you have to deal with.”
Despite the nerves, the Wolverines distance medley relay team won in decisive fashion, edging runner-up Villanova by a second and a half.
“Rebecca Addison’s leadoff was a little touch and go early on because she was in the back of the pack,” McGuire said. “But she did a really good job of rallying, particularly in the last lap to hand off as a close third. Maya’s 400-meter leg kept us in about the same spot, Jill Smith moved us up into the lead on her third leg which was 800 meters. Amanda just did an outstanding job anchoring, running as fast as she did, leading the whole way was as good of a performance as we’ve ever had.”
Also competing Friday for Michigan was junior Erin Busbee who finished sixth overall in the long jump with a mark of 6.33 meters. The mark earned her first-team All-American honors at her inaugural NCAA Championship. In the mile, sophomore Shannon Osika finished 14th and was awarded second-team All-American honors with a time of 4:43.43.
The Wolverines finished in 15th place in the National Indoor rankings tied with both UCLA and Florida State with a total of 13 points. No. 1 Oregon dominated the field with a total of 56 points eclipsing runner-up Kansas by 12 points. The win marked the fourth-straight Indoor NCAA Championship for Oregon.
Michigan is now looking forward to taking its indoor success into the outdoor season which starts next week. Part of the team will head to Tampa Bay, Fla. to face South Florida while the rest of the team will head to Orlando to take on Central Florida.