Lacking the stars from last season, the Michigan women’s track and field team wasted no time in showcasing its young and determined squad with a convincing season-opening win on Friday. The team kicked off the season at the Akron Opener in Ohio, competing against Akron and Buffalo. The Wolverines defeated runner-up Akron by a 20-point margin.
Michigan finished first in six events. To seal the victory, the 4×400-meter relay team took first in the last event of the night, with a time of 3:54.80.
Michigan coach James Henry said he was impressed with his team’s showing, in what he called a “non-pressure meet.”
“We have a very solid team,” he said. “We don’t have any, as we’re calling it, ‘queen bees.’ We have a lot of experience mixed in with a lot of young kids, and that mix should make it a good and exciting year for us.”
Noteworthy performances for the Wolverines included redshirt senior Shana Vinson, who took first in her main event, the 400-meter dash with a time of 55.98. Long jump and high jump runners-up — sophomore Tofunmi Akeredolu and redshirt senior Christina Solomon — also turned in solid performances.
Despite the strong individual performances, several Wolverines passed the spotlight to others and praised their teammates for such a solid opening meet.
Vinson, one of the team veterans, said the season opener is a good measuring stick for the rest of the season.
“Considering we lost a bunch of people last year, we had a lot of freshmen come out and really put a stamp on the track,” Vinson said. “I was really pleased with how they competed because we had team goals to go out there and just run our best.”
One of the impressive freshmen, Jillian Smith, won the 800-meter event, posting a time of 2:10.89. Smith said that the freshmen will be impressive this year, since they’re aware of the opportunities for younger teammates to step up.
“It’s exciting to see ‘the little guys’ doing well in some of the beginning meets,” Smith said. “There is a lot of promise in this team.”
Friday’s shot put runner-up, redshirt sophomore Allison Liske, also addressed the unique makeup of the 2010 team.
“We’re going to have some new all-stars on our team that are really going to shine in the Big Ten as well as in nationals,” Liske said. “I think that across all of the events, were going to have girls step up and some runners and distance girls come out that I don’t think Michigan has ever seen before.”
With the first meet of the season under their belts, the Wolverines get back to practice on Monday in preparation for their next event, the PSU Northeast Challenge on Jan. 16. With the talent pool at the Challenge deeper than that at Akron, the team faces the first true hurdle of its season on Saturday.
However, the rookies and veterans on this team won’t shy away from competition.
“We have a couple races under our belt right now, just from this weekend, so we need to improve for next week,” Smith said. “They’re going to come ready to compete, so we just have to put our game faces on.”