For 14 consecutive years, the Michigan women’s track and field team’s distance medley relay has qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships. After the relay’s performance this past weekend, it seems likely that number will grow to 15.

Competing at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind., the relay — consisting of senior Jamie Morrissey, freshman Jade Harrison, redshirt junior Jaimie Phelan and redshirt junior Gina Sereno — finished in a seemingly unspectacular fifth place. 

In reality, though, the race was extraordinarily competitive, and the relay’s fifth-place finish was an important accomplishment. The Wolverines’ finishing time of 10:58.02 is nine seconds faster than the team’s previous best in the event this season. The time is also significantly below the NCAA Indoor Championships’ qualifying time of 11:05 the past two years, all but ensuring the team’s relay will again be represented at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Michigan assistant coach Mike McGuire credited the relay’s success, both this year and historically, to the runners’ athletic ability and the ability of upperclassmen to coach younger runners, who will later be in that same position themselves.

“We’ve had good athletes, which is very important,” McGuire said. “But also important, we’ve had experienced runners who have helped prepare the younger runners. We have Jaimie Phelan this year, who has run the relay in past years. But we also have a freshman, Jade Harrison, who doesn’t have that experience.”

The meet Saturday was also important for No. 16 Michigan as it was the Wolverines’ final meet before the Big Ten Indoor Championships next weekend. While a handful of runners competed, quite a few athletes tuned up for next weekend’s championships by sitting the weekend out.

“A lot of our athletes rested this weekend to prepare for next week’s meet, which can be just as important as running,” McGuire said. “Different factors go in to deciding whether or not to run – the event, the athlete’s thoughts, the coaches’ philosophy.”

While the distance medley relay was possibly the most noteworthy event of the day, it was not the best finish by a Michigan athlete. Sophomore Lauren Rodriguez finished second in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.76 seconds, while freshman Meagan Malloy finished third in the weight throw — the winter equivalent of the hammer throw — with a distance of 16.21 meters.

Redshirt freshman Meg Darmofal and fifth-year senior Kira Garry also had success on the day with fourth and sixth-place finishes in the 3,000-meter run and the 1-mile run, respectively.

With less than a week until the team heads south to Geneva, Ohio for the Big Ten Indoor Championships, McGuire is hoping the team does one simple thing.

“I just want to run a good meet,” McGuire said. “Penn State and Purdue will be the favorites this year, but last year we just ran a good meet and ended up winning.”  

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