March 1, 2014
Site: SPIRE Institute (Geneva, Ohio)
Event: Big Ten Indoor Championships (Day 2)
U-M Team Result: 2nd Place of 11 Teams (104 points)
Next U-M Event: Fri-Sat., March 14-15 -- at NCAA Indoor Championships (Albuquerque, N.M.), 10 a.m./11 a.m. MST
GENEVA, Ohio -- The University of Michigan women's track and field team was unable to hold on to its first-day lead, finishing runner-up to Penn State at the Big Ten Indoor Championships on Saturday (March 1) at the SPIRE Institute.
Led by Big Ten titles from sophomore Cindy Ofili (Ypsilanti, Mich./Huron) and freshman Erin Finn (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield), the Wolverines maintained their first-day lead for the majority of the second day but fell behind by a half point heading into the 4x400-meter relay and were unable to complete the comeback in the final event. Penn State won the Big Ten championship with 114.5 points, while U-M took second with 104 points -- its best finish since 2008 (2nd).
Setting a new SPIRE Institute record, Ofili dominated the 60-meter hurdles with a personal-best time of 8.08 seconds and secured 10 points for the Wolverines. On the distance front, Finn shattered the 25-year-old school record (15:56.73) and her own SPIRE facility record (15:57.32) in the 5,000-meter run, with her time of 15:52.11. Pulling ahead in the third lap, she ran away with the race and never looked back, out-performing the second-place finisher by nearly 30 seconds.
Ofili started the day off in the 60-meter dash, where she earned six points with a third-place finish in a time of 7.43 seconds. In her last event, Ofili returned to the track for the 200-meter run where she improved upon her own school record, running 23.69, and placed fourth for an additional five points.
Senior Erin Busbee (Cleveland, Ohio/Collinwood), who won the long jump title yesterday, joined Ofili in the 60-meter hurdles, where she placed third in a career-best 8.24 seconds, earning six more points for the Wolverines.
In the mile finals, the Wolverines accumulated 16 points with all three Michigan runners placing in the top six. Junior Brook Handler (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester) had the second-best performance in the event with a time of 4:37.79 and received eight points. In fourth place was senior Megan Weschler (Wyandotte, Mich./Roosevelt), who had a career-best for the second day in a row, finishing the race in 4:43.12 and notched five points. Senior/junior Alex Leptich (Ann Arbor, Mich./Saline) also had back-to-back personal-record days with today's time of 4:46.64. Leptich placed sixth overall and chipped in three points towards U-M's total.
Freshman Jaimie Phelan (Kitchener, Ont./St. Mary's) and sophomore Danielle Pfeifer (Cincinnati, Ohio/McAuley) combined for 13 points in the 800-meter run finals. Phelan took home second place with a time of 2:06.73, while Pfeifer grabbed fourth place in 2:07.58.
Up next, select Wolverines will move on to the NCAA Indoor Championships that will take place Friday and Saturday, March 14-15, in Albuquerque, N.M.
N O T E S
Cindy Ofili won the fourth Big Ten 60-meter hurdle title in program history and first since 2009. Her older sister Tiffany (Ofili) Porter owns the other three titles (2007, '08, '09).
Erin Finn's conference title in the 5,000-meter run is the program's sixth overall and first since Erin Webster in 2007.
Erin Finn's performance in the 5,000-meter run was off the 29-year-old Big Ten record by just two seconds.
Cindy Ofili -- 200m run (23.69, school record), 60m hurdles (8.08)
Erin Busbee -- 60m hurdles (8.24)
Erin Finn -- 5,000m run (15:52.11, school record)
Anna Pasternak-- 5,000m run (16:57.79)
Megan Weschler -- mile run (4:43.12)
Alex Leptich -- mile run (4:46.64)
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach James Henry
On maintaining the lead for the majority of the meet ... "I think it shows we are balanced and that we've improved and evolved throughout the season. I think we did an excellent job. We just ran out of bodies and Penn State just did a better job in the end."
On all the Big Ten titles and the DMR team... "We are proud of our DMR team. They did a great job with that and now, of course, we are continuing to make that a tradition. Eleven years is outstanding. I was also very pleased with Cindy Ofili. I would say the biggest pleasant surprise was Erin Busbee pulling out a championship in the long jump and taking third in the hurdles. Cindy to me was the stellar performance throughout the whole meet. I was really pleased."
On Cindy Ofili keeping focus and continuing to improve... "It's really hard because she's out there on an island and there are two or three athletes out there from every team. She just did so well. It was a pleasant surprise, as I said, to have Erin (Busbee) in the finals with her was great. But she is such a focused athlete that she can handle all circumstances. I am just excited that she is maturing and developing. That young lady is going to continue to get better."
On the program's improvement over the past few years ... "We are getting back to our normal selves and that is being in a position to win a championship. We were in a position to win a championship and I was very proud of our ladies. A few things didn't go our way, but it's exciting to know that we are back to being Michigan and back to being in a position of winning the championship. We did that and I would consider that a success."
U-M Sophomore Cindy Ofili
On this team's performance this weekend ... "It was a huge deal for us. It was so exciting. Everyone was so pumped up to perform well. Everybody did a great job. Some people didn't perform as high as they wanted to, but we had others who stepped up and did things that we didn't expect. Overall I think our team ran, jumped, threw really well. I think our team chemistry this weekend was amazing. We were cheering and had a lot of intensity and I think that's what helped us perform well."
On the focus it took to perform well in three events ... "I think personally I had a great weekend. I was so happy with my hurdles -- my hurdle final was the highlight of my weekend. I didn't have a good start in the race and I was surprised when I won and saw my time. It was a very, very big moment for me and I was just too ecstatic to realize what was going on. I wasn't really ranked as high as I placed in the 200 or the 60 so to get that medal in the 60 dash and place higher in the 200 was great. It's hard to stay focused doing three events at a time, especially when you do well in one and you have one more to go, but I just have to remember to stay calm and refocus."
On looking forward to the NCAA Championships ... "After this weekend I'm so ecstatic for nationals. I'm really looking forward to running with the best in the country -- I did it this weekend and I proved that I can do it so I have a higher level of confidence. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm taking it one step at a time. I'm going to keep training and putting my whole race together -- it's not 100 percent and I still have so much more to give within my race. Once everything comes together and I have that race I know I can have, it's going to be something exciting to see."
Contact: Whitney Dixon (email@example.com)