When you think of an All-American track and field athlete, what comes to mind?
Is it someone who has spent their entire life committed to perfecting their craft? Early mornings and late nights spent on the track, crafting the perfect training routine? What if it was someone who hadn’t competed on a track throughout their entire high school career?
Well, that is the legend of Claire Borchers.
The senior opted to play soccer in high school rather than compete in track and field, only running in the fall for her cross country squad. While her peers were becoming nationally recognized track stars, Borchers was trading in spikes for cleats and running around chasing a soccer ball.
But at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, none of that mattered. As she rounded the last lap of the 3000-meter steeplechase, Borchers reached deep and tapped every last drop of fuel she had left in the tank.
For most of the race, Borchers was solidly positioned at the back of the pack, not wanting to exert any unnecessary energy too early in the contest. She played to her strengths and waited for her moment to strike. As she entered the final lap, the senior was sitting in seventh place, narrowly in contention for All-American honors as the top-eight finishers earn the title.
Knowing the glory that comes with a late-race surge, Borchers saw her collegiate career flash before her eyes before turning on the burners. She advanced an additional two spots before entering into the final stretch of the tight race, good for fifth in the field.
Then in a desperate battle for recognition, glory, fame or whatever coveted feeling that comes with athletic achievement, Borchers surged to a fourth-place finish, narrowly beating out Val Constien of Colorado at the finish line.
“I was really zoned in, just kinda one straight at a time” Borchers told MGoBlue.com. “But still I was just realizing that I still had something in the tank, and that’s one of the best feelings that you can have in a race. I was definitely stressed, physically a bit, but when you have that gear it’s fun to just channel it.”
After it was all said and done, Borchers had run the fastest final lap of any athlete in the race, topping the field with a time of 72.09 seconds and truly embodying the ferocious spirit that Michigan distance runners have come to represent.
It’s no doubt that Borchers drew inspiration from 2017’s NCAA Outdoor Champion in the 1,500-meter — and the Wolverines’ first — Jaimie Phelan. Through her relentless running style and late-race power, Phelan reigned supreme over her peers and created a culture of success at Michigan. Phelan has also inspired the likes of this year’s NCAA Champion for Michigan — senior Ben Flanagan.
“I just thought about Jamie Phelan for the first part of my race,” Borchers said. “I mean, I watched that race when she sat in the back and had that amazing kick, and not that I was expecting to have that kind of amazing kick, but I knew a lot is possible if you can just keep your head on your shoulders.”
Also competing for the Wolverines in Eugene, Ore. were seniors Aaron Howell and Haley Meier and fifth-year senior Sarah Zieve.
Despite displaying an admirableperformance in the heptathlon, Howell finished 18th and just 100 points shy of All-American honors. While her place may not have been where she wanted it, Howell did add an Honorable Mention award and personal bests in the javelin throw and 800-meter run to her resumé.
As Michigan heads back to Ann Arbor to begin preparation for next season, it can hold its head high. The Wolverines who competed left everything on the track and can be proud when reflecting back on the 2018 outdoor season.