STATE COLLEGE — At the Big Ten Indoor Championships this past weekend, the Michigan women’s track and field team watched as host school Penn State stepped up to protect its home track, beating out runner-up Ohio State by a 23-point margin.

Michigan placed eighth out of 10 overall, but the Wolverines managed to be competitive in almost every event.

Redshirt senior Shana Vinson and freshman Jillian Smith made names for themselves in State College, one for the first time and one for the last.

Competing in the last indoor track meet of her collegiate career, Vinson placed third in the 400-meter run. Her time of 53.86 is both an NCAA national provisionally qualifying time and a Michigan indoor school record.

“I feel like it means everything,” Vinson said of breaking the record. “I’ve been trying so hard this season and I figured that I’d have to do it here, if I did it anywhere because we have a lot of good competition in the 400. Yesterday, I didn’t know if I was going to get in the fast heat but I did and I’m thankful because it helped me a lot. I’m glad for my progress and I’m just ready for outdoors.”

Smith took first place in the 800-meter run, with an NCAA provisional time of 2:08.12. As a freshman, Smith said, she never imagined winning an individual event at the conference championships.

“I didn’t expect to come out and do anything that big at Big Tens but me and my teammate (freshman Rebecca Addison), we both made it to finals,” Smith said. “We were just rooting for each other to do well. It was great to win as a freshman, because it’s just such an exciting meet with your team there cheering for you.”

Vinson, Smith, and Addison were all members of the first-place finishing distance medley relay team, along with junior Danielle Tauro. This was the seventh consecutive year that Michigan has won a DMR race at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, and this year’s first-place squad also hit a NCAA provisional time.

While Michigan had hopes to place in the top half of the conference, they were simply beaten by better teams this past weekend. Despite tough competition across the conference, other Wolverines with solid performances included Tauro’s second-place finish in the one-mile run, redshirt junior Charnee Lumbus’s fifth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles, and redshirt sophomore Allison Liske’s fifth-place finish in the shot put.

It was important for the Wolverines who had prior experience competing at Big Tens to help keep the freshmen calm this weekend, because consistently strong performances from their younger athletes is exactly what the team is looking for in the upcoming outdoor season. Michigan’s team slogan — “be as one” — took on an even greater meaning at the conference championships.

“(Be as one) is just a friendly reminder that when you do go into an event, especially for our underclassmen, you’re not doing it by yourself. You’ve got a block ‘M’ probably beside you, or in the next heat, or in the next event. You’re not just competing for yourself, but your competing for that block M, something greater than yourself.”

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