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U-M head coach James Henry sits down in this Q&A interview (July 22, 2013).
Coach James Henry talks about the upcoming women's track indoor season that begins Jan. 11 at the Grand Valley Bob Eubanks Open.
Head coach James Henry is in his 31st season at the helm of the Michigan women's track and field program. Henry's teams have garnered 164 NCAA All-America honors and 190 All-Big Ten honors, taking 189 Big Ten titles, nine individual national championships and four national championship relay titles. In the classroom, Henry's athletes have earned 409 Academic All-Big Ten honors, eight Big Ten Medals of Honor (awarded for the highest demonstration of scholarship and athletic ability), three NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships and 14 Capital One Academic All-America honors.
At the 2012 London Olympic Games, three former Wolverines, as well as one U-M graduate student represented Michigan. Tiffany (Ofili) Porter (100 meter hurdles, Great Britain), Geena Gall (800 meters, USA) and Nicole (Edwards) Sifuentes (1,500 meters, Canada), as well as Uhunoma Osazuwa (Heptathlon, Nigeria), who currently trains with Henry, each competed for their respective countries.
During the 2014 season, Henry produced the program's most Big Ten champions since 2009 (8), capturing six individual conference titles and the program's 11th straight distance medley relay crown. Cindy Ofili doubled as the indoor 60-meter hurdle and outdoor 100-meter hurdle champion, while freshman Erin Finn won the indoor and outdoor 5,000-meter run and outdoor 10,000-meter run and Erin Busbee took home the indoor long jump gold medal. Finn became the first athlete in Big Ten history to be named Big Ten Athlete of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Athlete of the Championships in the same season. Under Henry's guidance, U-M sent three individuals and the distance medley relay to the NCAA Indoor Championships and five athletes to the national outdoor meet. Ofili earned All-American first team honors in the 60-meter hurdles (6th) indoors, while Erin Finn (10,000m, 6th) and Brook Handler (1,500mm, 6th) also garnered First Team All-America recognition outdoors. Henry also helped U-M's first heptathlete reach the NCAA Outdoor Championships since 2009, as Aaron Howell recorded a 16th-place finish to earn All-America second team accolades. Fifth-year senior pole vaulter Kiley Tobel capped her career as a Capital One Academic All-American.
Henry's 2013 squad produced its best Big Ten team finishes since 2009, placing third at the indoor conference meet and fourth at the outdoor event. Fifth-year senior Amanda Eccleston captured the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500-meter run titles and also ran the anchor leg of Michigan's NCAA champion distance medley relay, which set a new school record (10:56.46). Rebecca Addison, Jillian Smith and freshman sprinter Maya Long joined Eccleston on the winning relay. The Big Ten DMR (Shannon Osika, Meg Bellino, Smith and Addison) captured the program's 10th-striaght conference crown. In addition to U-M's DMR winning the national title, junior multi-event athlete Erin Busbee finished sixth in the long jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships to propel the Wolverines to a tie for 15th place -- its best team result since 2009. Following the 2013 season, Addison and Smith were named to the Capital One Academic All-America first and second teams, respectively. Addison became the first Wolverine to earn a spot on the first team since 2006.
In 2012, Addison and Tobel spearheaded Michigan's success. Addison won the third straight Big Ten indoor 800-meter title for U-M, as Jillian Smith captured crowns in 2010 and 2011. Addison and Smith were also members of Michigan's ninth-straight Big Ten distance medley relay title. Addison and Tobel were each First Team All-Americans in their respective events at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Tobel set new school records in the indoor and outdoor pole vault, while Addison capped the season on the Academic All-America third team list.
Smith and Addison teamed up at the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships, winning the 800- and 1,500-meter titles, respectively, and were also members of the winning distance medley relay team, leading U-M to a fourth-place finish. That duo carried through to the NCAA Indoor Championships, as they were each All-Americans in the 800-meter run and DMR, helping U-M place 18th as a team.
In 2010, Henry's newest recruit, freshman Erin Pendleton contributed immediately, winning the Big Ten outdoor discus title and was named conference freshman of the year for her efforts. Pendleton (discus) and Shana Vinson (indoor 400 meter) each set new Michigan records in 2010 that still stand today.
2009 was perhaps Henry's best year at Michigan, as he led the Wolverines to an 11th-place showing at the NCAA Indoor Championships and a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Tiffany Ofili capped her career with five national titles, winning the 60-meter hurdles (indoor) for the second consecutive season, while winning the 100-meter hurdles (outdoor) for the third year in a row. Geena Gall, a 10-time All-American, won her second consecutive national title in the 800-meter run (outdoor), as both seniors capped their career in grand fashion.
The 2009 senior class left its mark on Michigan women's track and field, winning seven national championships with 23 All-America citations. The group accounted for 14 Big Ten championships, earning Athlete of the Year or Championships, six times. In addition to the class' athletic achievements, the group was recognized as Academic All-Big Ten honorees, 32 times.
In 2008, Henry guided the Wolverines to a third-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships and a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Maize and Blue earned three national championships, as Ofili took the 60-meter hurdles (indoor) and 100-meter hurdles (outdoor) crowns, while Gall earned top honors in the outdoor 800-meter run. Under Henry's guidance, U-M also earned eight Big Ten titles in 2008.
Following the completion of the 2008 collegiate season, 12 current or former Wolverines competed in their respective nation's Olympic trials. Nicole Forrester (1996-99) (Canada) and Anna Willard (2007) (USA) went onto compete in the 2008 Beijing Games.
Henry began his coaching career in 1981 as an assistant with the Michigan men's and women's track and field teams, working with U-M's first women's track coach, Red Simmons and then Francie Kraker Goodridge, who assumed the helm in 1982.Henry has been a part of every Michigan team that has won a Big Ten title since the Wolverines captured their first crown in 1982 -- an indoor championship. In 1985, legendary U-M Athletic Director Donald Canham hired Henry as the third head coach in the history of the program. Henry guided Michigan to seven top-30 finishes at the NCAA Championships in his first five years at the helm, adding 10 All-America honors to the resumes of his student-athletes in the process.
The seed for Michigan's success in women's track and field was planted when Henry added Mike McGuire and Arnett Chisholm to his coaching staff in 1990. McGuire, who competed in cross country and track for the Wolverines, returned to Ann Arbor after two seasons as an assistant track and field coach at Kansas, while Chisholm moved to the women's side after working as a volunteer assistant with the Michigan men's track and field program.
Henry's moves began to pay dividends in 1994 with the program's first Big Ten outdoor title, triggering a string of success that included the program's first triple crown in 1994, and another triple crown in 1998. Henry's 1998 Wolverine team captured both the indoor and outdoor Big Ten crowns as well, while also producing Michigan's first individual NCAA champion (Katie McGregor in the indoor 3,000-meter run) and its second national champion distance medley relay team.
In 2002, Henry's squad swept the Big Ten indoor and outdoor championships for the third time during his tenure, earning him conference coach of the year honors. Henry guided the 2003 Wolverines to the third and fourth consecutive Big Ten team titles, as the Maize and Blue captured both the indoor and outdoor league crowns for the second straight year. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for the second straight year.
In 2004, Henry guided U-M to its third straight Big Ten outdoor championship -- the fourth in seven years (1998, 2002, '03), earning coach of the year honors along the way, while the Wolverines secured a second place finish in the Big Ten indoor championship. U-M captured seven Big Ten individual crowns and one relay title, as well as nine NCAA All-America honors, including three for Lindsey Gallo and two for Katie Erdman. Six U-M records were broken in 2004, including the 1,500-meter, which had stood for 21 years. Six U-M athletes competed in the Olympic Trials with 1996 graduate Courtney Babcock competing for Canada at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Off the track, Gallo was the 2004 and 2005 CoSIDA Women's Track & Field Academic All-American of the Year, while Melissa Bickett earned an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
Henry earned the 12th Big Ten Coach of the Year award of his career in 2006 and was named the USTFCCCA Indoor Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year for the second year in a row, following U-M's 14th Big Ten title and its seventh title in the last nine chances. Henry's squad took the 2006 Big Ten indoor title -- the program's eighth -- while finishing second in the Big Ten Outdoor Championships as the Wolverines narrowly missed out on winning their fourth triple crown. Michigan posted its third-best finish in program history at the NCAA Indoor Championships (13th place) and the second best finish in program history at the NCAA Outdoor Championships (13th place).
In 2007, Henry won the USTFCCCA Indoor Track & Field Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year. He led the Wolverines to second place at the Big Ten Indoor Championships and the program's fourth-best finish (ninth) -- at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Henry's team tied for first place with Illinois in the 2007 Big Ten Outdoor Championships and posted a program-best third place at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Five U-M records were broken in 2007 -- Nicole Edwards' indoor mile (4:36.08) and Tiffany Ofili's 60-meter indoor hurdles (7.43) set new marks as did Ofili's outdoor 100-meter hurdles (12.80), Anna Willard's outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase (9:38.08) and Erdman's 800-meter run (1:59.35). Edwards and Ofili topped those records in 2008, while Erdman and Willard's record still stand today. Ofili and Willard each won NCAA outdoor titles in their respective events that year.
A 1980 Michigan graduate, Henry earned a bachelor's degree in education, while lettering four years on the Wolverine track and field team (1977-80), specializing in the long jump. Henry was the first U-M athlete to long jump 25 feet and his collegiate-best jumps still stand as Michigan's fourth-best indoor and third-best outdoor performances. He won the 1980 Big Ten long jump title, and helped U-M to the 1978 indoor, 1978 outdoor and 1980 outdoor Big Ten team championships. A three-time record holder at the Central Collegiate Championships, Henry qualified four times for the NCAA Championships.
Active in a number of Washtenaw County community organizations, Henry resides in Ann Arbor with his wife, Michelle, daughter, Kamilah, and son, James II.
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