May 18, 2014
Site: West Lafayette, Ind. (Rankin Track and Field)
Event: Big Ten Outdoor Championships (Day 3)
U-M Team Result: Tie-4th of 11 Teams (86 points)
Next U-M Event: Thu-Sat., May 29-31 -- at NCAA East Preliminary Rounds (Jacksonville, Fla.), Noon/10 a.m./Noon
WEST LAYAFETTE, Ind. -- Sophomore Cindy Ofili (Ypsilanti, Mich./Huron) and freshman Erin Finn (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield) each won conference titles to help the University of Michigan women's track and field team tie for fourth place overall (86 points) at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships on Sunday (May 18) at Purdue's Rankin Track and Field.
Penn State defended its Big Ten title with 136 points, while Nebraska finished runner-up (102.5), Purdue took third (89), and Iowa tied the Wolverines with 86 points.
Ofili won the 100-meter hurdle title in a career-best time of 12.93, topping second-place Evonne Britton of Penn State by a .30-second margin. She also returned later in the day to take fifth in the 100-meter dash (11.75) and win bronze in the 200-meter dash (23.74). Overall, Ofili contributed 20 points toward Michigan's total. Senior Erin Busbee (Cleveland, Ohio/Collinwood) joined Ofili in the 100-meter hurdle finals, where she finished seventh in 13.84.
Finn, who won the 10,000-meter run title on the opening day (Friday, May 16), returned to take the 5,000-meter crown in a Big Ten-meet and facility-record time of 15:48.90. Similar to the 10K, she took a commanding lead right from the gun; but Michigan State freshman Rachele Schulist closed the gap and remained close through the first four laps. With eight laps remaining, Schulist caught up to Finn and worked her way into the lead. Finn and Schulist went stride for stride, until Finn regained the lead with two-and-a-half laps to go. Schulist fell off Finn's pace in the final two laps, and Finn crossed the finish line 12.33 seconds ahead of Schulist in second place. Junior/sophomore Shannon Osika (Waterford, Mich./Mott)joined Finn on the podium in the 5,000-meter run, taking the bronze medal in a time of 16:17.80, to give U-M 16 points in the event.
Earlier in the day, Osika and junior Brook Handler (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester)teamed up in the 1,500-meter run finals to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, in times of 4:17.27 (PR) and 4:18.24.
All three of Michigan's 800-meter finalists scored, as sophomore Danielle Pfeifer (Cincinnati, Ohio/McAuley) (2:07.32), junior/sophomore Devon Hoppe (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona Del Mar) (2:07.99) and freshman Jamie Morrissey (Rochester, Mich./Rochester Adams) (2:10.67) placed fourth, six and seventh, respectively. The trio combined for 10 points toward U-M's total.
In the field, fifth-year seniors Sara Nitz (Zeeland, Mich./Zeeland East) and Kiley Tobel (Commerce Twp., Mich./Walled Lake Western) each tied for fifth place in their respective events. Nitz cleared a height of 1.71 meters (5-7.25) in the high jump, while Tobel got over the bar at 3.98 meters (13-0.75) in the pole vault.
Select Wolverines will now continue their season at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds, which will take place from May 29-31 in Jacksonville, Fla. The field for the regional round will be announced on Thursday (May 22) at 1 p.m.
N O T E S
• Erin Finn broke the Big Ten-meet record in the 5,000-meter run with her time of 15:48.90. The previous record of 15:54.86 was set by Angela Bizzarri of Illinois in 2009. Finn and Bizzarri are the only two Big Ten runners to go sub-16 at the conference meet.
• Erin Finn became just the third Wolverine to double as Big Ten champion in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter run, joining Mindy Rowand (1989, 1990) and Rebecca Walter (2006).
• Erin Finn is the 11th Michigan runner to win the Big Ten 5,000-meter run title and first since Anna Willard in 2007.
• Cindy Ofili swept the 2014 Big Ten short hurdles titles, winning the indoor 60-meter hurdle and outdoor 100-meter hurdle titles.
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach James Henry
On his overall thoughts on the team's performance ... "The first two days I was very happy with how hard we worked under the conditions. We did some really good things, especially with Erin Finn running such a good 10,000m and Aaron Howell fighting through cold weather in her first outdoor championship, and her nerves. We set ourselves up well going into the finals, but it just wasn't our day this final day. It was just us not doing what we're capable of doing. I don't think it was a lack of effort of our athletes, it just wasn't there. I could see them trying to give it all they have, but there was not enough gas in the tank. We need to regroup and get ready for regionals. The kids that are done will make assessments and we'll start the process all over again."
On Erin Finn winning the 5,000m and 10,000m run ... "I was really happy with Erin. I thought the kid from Michigan State might have had her number in the 5K when she pulled out in front of her, but she found some energy and she got her rhythm. Being able to win the 5K after such a great performance in the 10,000m was quite impressive. She's a phenomenal kid and the interesting thing about her is that she's very soft spoken and very easy going. She's only going to get better and we're excited about her future. Shannon Osika also stepped up in the 5K. I was very pleased with how she came back after the 1,500m and gave us the six points that we really needed."
On Cindy Ofili finishing top five in three events ... "She's gotten much better from last year -- from scoring in one event to now scoring in three and getting on the podium twice. She's getting stronger and she's getting a lot more confidence. I told her that she was a lot faster in the shorter sprints as a freshman last year, and now she's developed so much strength and that's really going to help her with the three rounds at regionals and the rounds at nationals. She's still growing and getting better and I'm really happy with how she's maturing as an athlete. She's very athletic, but you have to mature as an athlete and she's realizing through repetitions that she's gaining confidence and that's going to help her when it comes down to nationals."
U-M Freshman Erin Finn
On her race plan for the 10,000-meter run ... "We had an idea of what we thought I could do. We tried to be a little conservative -- I think I could have run faster, but we wanted to make sure I had enough in the tank for the 5,000m. The plan was to be strong and steady."
On winning the 10,000m title in her first collegiate race at that distance ... "Anytime I'm able to make my mark on the Big Ten it's an honor because of the incredible athletes we've had come out of this conference. It's really exciting, and it's really promising. I'm excited to keep moving on through regionals and nationals and even into next cross country season. Next track season, hopefully everyone on the team will be ready to do bigger things."
On coming back to win the 5,000m run on the final day ... "I came into the race definitely hurting a little. The 10K hit me a little more today than it did yesterday. The plan was to go in there and have fun. I really thank my teammates for reminding me that that's why I race -- I race to have fun. I was really nervous and Corinne (Florie) and Alex Leptich both were really there for me and reminded me to have fun and that was really important coming into the 5K. Once Rachele (Schulist) came in front of me in the 5K, I did my best to stay engaged. A few laps later, I felt her kind of slowing down so I thought 'I can still get this, I just have to slowly creep back up'. That's what I tried to do and it paid off, but Rachele is an incredible athlete and she's going to do some big things. This was really exciting for both of us."
On doubling as the 5,000m and 10,000m champion ... "It's just a testament to our training, my team, my family and all the support I've received. It was really great to have Shannon (Osika) on the podium with me in the 5K. We had some big hopes for the 5K so it was great to see some of them come to be."
U-M Sophomore Cindy Ofili
On winning the 100m hurdle title ... "I started off really focused -- I was focusing on my start and getting out well. I was really nervous. I'm usually a little nervous, but that was a really nerve-racking race. I didn't have the best start, but had a really good middle race and closed well. It was a great feeling."
On the composure needed to excel in three events ... "You really need to stay focused. I didn't do as well as I wanted to in the 100m, but you just have to stay focused and remember that you still have one more race to go. It was important to stay focused and stay relaxed."
On looking forward to regionals ... "I'm looking to do really well at regionals. I still have a lot more to give in the hurdles. I ran fast, but I have a lot more in me. I'm looking to run fast to qualify for nationals."
Contact: Whitney Dixon (email@example.com)