For Michigan women’s track and field coach James Henry, January was supposed to be a month of consistency, with improvement coming in February. Saturday, at the Notre Dame Invitational, the Wolverines jumped the gun on his plans.
“It wasn’t necessarily expected, but it was something that was accepted,” Henry said.
Michigan finished the day with a total of 144 points, 33 points more than second-place Louisville and good enough to win the team’s first scoring meet of the year. Finishing behind the Cardinals were Michigan State, Notre Dame, Western Michigan and DePaul.
The 14th-ranked Wolverines were victorious in six different events, with 15 career personal-best marks set by Michigan athletes. Highlighting the meet was senior Cindy Ofili, who won the 60-meter dash, 200-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles, giving Michigan 30 points on the day.
“I was really happy with my performance,” Ofili said. “I wouldn’t say I was entirely surprised because I know training has been going really well and very smoothly, but it’s early, so I wasn’t expecting to run as fast as I did.”
Ofili’s best performance on the day was the hurdles, which she won with a career-record time of 8.04 seconds. Ofili won by 0.54 seconds and, even more impressively, earned the top time in the nation in the event by 0.07 seconds. Junior Sami Michell also garnered six points for Michigan with a third-place finish in the hurdles.
The Wolverines’ most dominant event of the meet was the mile run, where only one point separated Michigan from a complete sweep. Junior Erin Finn led the way for the Wolverines with a career personal-best time of 4:40.38, the fourth-best time in the nation. Three of the four other Michigan runners who placed second through fifth also set career personal bests, and one lone point, earned by a sixth-place finish by Michigan State runner Katie Landwehr, stopped Michigan from finishing the sweep.
“The atmosphere was a very positive one,” Ofili said. “We were all very hungry from last year. We came up short and we didn’t win the Big Ten Championship, we came in second. We know that this year, we have a very good shot of getting it as a team. We’re all really excited and ready to go.”
Michigan also had a pair of one-two finishes in the 600-meter and 800-meter runs, as well as a runner-up finish in the 400-meter dash, to help propel the Wolverines to a victory on the day. Redshirt sophomore Jaimie Phelan set a career-best time of 1:30.48 in the 600-meter run to win the event. In the 800-meter run, redshirt senior Devon Hoppe set the 21st-best time in the nation, 2:09.73, to win the event.
The worst events on the day for Michigan were the field events, which garnered just nine points on the day. Henry, though, doesn’t believe the field events are a cause for concern.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the weak spot on the team, it’s just part of the team that hasn’t developed yet,” Henry said. “They’re still working on things, and you can’t have a perfect program. We’re hoping to get there when it counts, and I’m expecting them to step up when it counts, and that’s at the end of February.”