May 22, 2014
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
Erin Finn is more than the average freshman. She resembles a 15-year-old and acts like she's 30. Finn is a kid at heart but has the maturity of a runner well beyond her age. She's a 5-foot-3, 100-pound mighty mite with a passion for training and competing. When the Wolverine distance runner puts on her track shoes during the week for practice, she averages 50 to 70 miles a week.
In competition, Finn won four of the five individual Big Ten titles in races she competed in. In the fall, she captured the cross country title. Then she won the 5,000-meter indoor race in the winter season and won both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter titles last weekend at the outdoor meet in West Lafayette, Ind.
On Tuesday (May 20), the University of Michigan freshman accomplished what no other women's track and field competitors have been able to do thus far. Along with holding the title of Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Year and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year for the indoor track season, Finn was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Championships, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the Big Ten Athlete of the Year for the outdoor track season.
Her winning performance in the 10,000-meter race at the Big Ten Championships was one for the ages. In her first-ever attempt to run the 10,000-meter race, Finn led wire to wire. Not only did she set new U-M and Big Ten meet records with a time of 32:41.65, she lapped the entire field. With a little more than one mile remaining in the race, Finn passed the fourth-, third- and second-place runners, finishing 1:18.37 ahead of the runner-up. U-M distance coach Mike McGuire said he has never seen anyone in his 24 years of coaching do this at the conference meet.
Two days later, Finn came back to set another Big Ten mark, going 15:48.90 in her 5,000-meter win.
What makes Finn such an incredible distance athlete? She is not a speed merchant but has a natural body build and leg strength for distance running.
She also has what exercise physiologists call slow twitch fibers. This allows Finn to utilize oxygen better than the average person. It is like having a hemi-engine or turbocharger in your body that allows a runner to sustain and hold a fast pace for a longer period of time.
Her professional approach to athletic training also carries over to academics. Finn, a biochemistry major, is already off to a fast start in the classroom with a 3.9 grade-point average. And while many students will take a spring semester hiatus, she is still pushing herself in the classroom, taking classes while competing in the toughest portion of her three seasons.
Her career aspirations are more important than her goals in track. Finn wants to become a physician like her parents, and her course of study is aligned to get ready for medical school.
Even with her early success on the track and in the classroom, she is not looking ahead. Finn says she might brag to her mom about her collegiate success to date but after that she stops.
She is also quick to credit others with the support they have given her to become one of the best student-athletes at Michigan. From the coaches to the trainers to her heroes, she knows everyone has had a hand in helping her get to where she is now.
What's even more interesting is that her heroes are now her teammates. Brook Handler and Shannon Osika were Michigan high school cross country champions. Handler graduated from Rochester High School, Osika is a Mott High grad, while Finn graduated from West Bloomfield High. She looked up to them going back to middle school, and now the three outstanding MHSAA distance runners from Oakland County are friends wearing the Maize and Blue.
Finn is not finished learning. She has the presence to know what she's done and what she needs to do.
Now she is preparing for the NCAA postseason meets. These are the best of the best in the nation, and the difference between winning and being an also-ran is slim. A tactical runner can take home the gold, and Finn knows that. As she prepares for the upcoming races, she is eager to develop a strategy and learn from her coaches and those she will race against. It is one more step in Erin Finn's career development.
It's something special for an 18-year-old to have this type of maturity and mindset. And it is going to be something special to watch Erin Finn continue to improve over the next three years.
Good luck in the postseason, and Go Blue!