Balance — that’s what Michigan women’s track and field coach James Henry is trying to achieve this season. With 16 top-three finishes in 11 different events, the 14th-ranked Wolverines appear to be on their way to achieving Henry’s goal.
“It’s hard for me to talk about one or two athletes and say, ‘She’s the person that just did it,’ ’’ Henry said. “I’m pleased to know that we don’t have such a program where one athlete ‘just does it.’ ”
Michigan opened its season Saturday at the Hillsdale Invitational, a non-scoring meet featuring a variety of Division II teams. Setting official times for the first time this season, the Wolverines created a benchmark to improve upon for the rest of the season.
Michigan wasn’t focusing on beating any times going into the meet, though. Rather, the Wolverines’ focus was beating the competition and shaking off the early-season rust that many of the student-athletes had. In doing so, Michigan was able to take home first place in eight different events.
Though some of the track and field team members have already competed this year as part of the cross country team, most of the Michigan runners have been waiting since September to finally race.
As balanced as Michigan’s roster was, there were a few standout performances for the Wolverines. Sophomore Claire Kieffer-Wright, who also is a member of the Michigan volleyball team, won the high jump with a final cleared height of 1.74 meters, while junior All-American Erin Finn won the 3000-meter run by more than 30 seconds with a final time of 9:13.41.
In addition, redshirt senior All-American Shannon Osika turned in a strong performance in the 1600-meter, winning the event with a time of 4:42.10. Osika was also part of an experienced Michigan 4×400 relay team, which also included redshirt senior Laura Addison, redshirt junior Gina McNamara, and redshirt senior Danielle Pfeifer. The group narrowly edged out Hillsdale for another Wolverine victory.
The most important result of the meet, though, was something that didn’t happen.
“The kids came out unscathed,” Henry said. “We got solid marks and we’re all healthy.”
Now that Michigan knows its starting point, the team is aware of where it can finish.
“Being in a position to win a championship and finishing in the top three,” Henry said. “That’s our team goal, and if things go to our favor, we’re hoping to be in the position to improve upon those two goals.”