Colorful “Go Blue” and “Michigan Wolverines Big Ten ’09” signs hung conspicuously in the stands of the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse this weekend.
Last week, the No. 4 Michigan women’s track and field team threw a poster-decorating party as a chance to loosen up before their biggest meet of the season so far – the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Bloomington.
“I think for the most part, everybody went in relaxed,” senior co-captain Casey Taylor said. “Everyone had the same goal in mind. We were all happy and excited to be there.”
The Michigan contingent in the stands, mostly composed of parents, was slightly outnumbered by the hometown Hoosier crowd.
But despite their enthusiastic cheering, after two days of competition the Wolverines did not rank as high as they hoped.
The squad placed third in the meet with 121.5 points, behind first-place Minnesota (129) and second-place Penn State (125).
Last season, the Wolverines came in second in the Big Ten Championships, just behind Minnesota and ahead of Penn State.
“We always expect to be in the top three and to be in position to win,” Michigan coach James Henry said.
Since 2005, Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan have all placed in the top four at the Big Ten Championships, swapping places every year.
In 2005 and 2006 respectively, Michigan took the title. In 2007 and 08 Minnesota came in first.
“Minnesota and Penn State were both favored, and we were just hoping we would be able to get in front of them,” Henry said. “It has been a three-team race for years, and it just so happens that Minnesota and Penn State got the better of us today.”
A championship was looking promising after the first day of the competition, when the Wolverines were tied for first with Minnesota.
Michigan was led by impressive performances by senior co-captain Tiffany Ofili, the top scorer in the entire meet with 31 points, and senior co-captain Bettie Wade (28 points), helped the Wolverines.
“A lot of stuff that was stressed (in our team meetings last week) was to make sure we had fun and to go as hard as we could because every point was going to count,” Wade said. “Overall, we tried our best and gave it our all and ran our hearts out.”
The Wolverines are now instead gearing up for nationals on March 13-14 in College Station, Texas.
“As a captain, I feel it’s important to stay positive and keep our head up,” Taylor said. “It’s a time people can beat themselves up. But all four captains are keeping their heads up, just looking forward towards nationals and the outdoor season.”