Competing at its final meet of the season, the Michigan women’s track and field team had four athletes earn All-American honors on its way to a top-20 finish. Despite the strong performance, though, not all of the races went as well as planned.
Five Wolverines competed at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., in three different events, with the first events taking place Thursday.
While four of the Michigan runners had preliminary races that day, sophomore Gina Sereno competed in the lone race of the 10,0000-meter run. Due to its length, the event does not have a preliminary run, and the only run is for the championship.
With little room for error, Sereno ran a career-best time of 33:35.16 to capture 13th place — good enough for All-America honors. Sereno’s time was almost exactly a minute behind the championship performance.
After an uneventful day Friday for the Wolverines, three runners returned to the track for final races Saturday.
Fifth-year senior Shannon Osika and redshirt sophomore Jaimie Phelan both qualified for the 1,500-meter run Saturday, making two of three Michigan runners qualify for the finals after fifth-year senior Devon Hoppe narrowly missed out on advancing.
The event was arguably the Wolverines’ best on the day, with Osika taking fourth place and five points with a time of 4:12.23, just three seconds behind the victor. Phelan also earned one point for the team with her eighth-place finish of 4:15.61.
“It was an awesome experience,” Osika said. “It was my first race at Hayward Field and it was a very high energy facility. There were a lot of fans and it was even better getting to experience it with my two teammates Devon and Jaimie. To be able to run the prelim with Devon and the final with Jaimie was a really cool experience.”
The most anticipated event of the weekend for Michigan featured one of the Wolverines’ most-decorated runners of all-time: senior Cindy Ofili.
Ofili won the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March, and currently holds the seventh-fastest time in the world in the event for 2016. After narrowly winning the 100-meter hurdles at the Big Ten Championships last month, Ofili seemed to be the odds-on-favorite to take home the 100-meter hurdles crown.
With an incredibly strong wind of +3.8 behind Ofili — well above the +2.0 threshold for records to count — Ofili managed to get out to an early lead. But she was moving too fast and could not keep up the pace, ultimately dropping all the way down to fourth with a time of 12.81 seconds. The finish still provided the team with five points, but after such a stellar regular season, losing the final race by 0.27 seconds was not how most envisioned the race going.
“That was the biggest positive wind that she’s had in her life, and she wasn’t quite sure how to handle that,” said Michigan coach James Henry. “She probably had the best race of her life, and all of that accumulating, it seemed to her that the hurdles were getting to her too soon and they were too close and she just could not navigate it.”
Still, the year was a memorable one for the team. Michigan took home both the Big Ten Indoor Championship and Big Ten Outdoor Championship, and even came in second in the Big Ten Cross Country Championship. A sixth-place at the NCAA Indoor Championship followed by this weekend’s results marks the first time since 2009 that the Wolverines have finished in the top 20 of both championships.
“In the end, we always want to be in a position to win,” Henry said. “But to come out as a winner it made me very happy that the girls listened and that they worked hard, and I’m just so thankful for the senior class to go out the way it did because these kids that are graduating have been some of the best students and some of the best athletes. More importantly, they have been some of the best people that have come to the University of Michigan, and I am so happy to have coached them.”