July 20, 2012
For women's track and field head coach James Henry, the summer months provide a time to reflect on the previous year and prepare for a new season. MGoBlue.com caught up with Coach Henry to get his thoughts on the 2012 season highlights and where the team is headed in 2013.
On areas that he saw improvement during the outdoor season ... "We had an improved overall season. We had a significant amount of improvement with our 800- and 1,500-meter runners, particularly with Becca (Addison) and Jill (Smith), as well as in the steeplechase. I was very happy with how our steeplechase came along. Kiley Tobel, as always, in the pole vault has continued to improve. That's not a surprise but a pleasant improvement. And then our throwers have done very well. Someone who is up and coming is Amber Smith. She showed a lot of improvement during the outdoor season. We've had a significant number of people who have improved, and that's all I can ask for. If individuals improve, the chances are that the team will improve."
On athletes who had a breakthrough season ... "Again, Kiley Tobel in the pole vault. Alex Leptich in the steeple was a very pleasant surprise. We as coaches know that there are 10 kids that can do it and one or two would come out of that group and get it done, and she did that. Amber Smith really stepped up. We knew she was an athlete and she showed that. And Erin Busbee in the multi-events stepped up. I felt that in her first year she was testing the water and it didn't really sink in that she was an athlete until this year. She has to find that success for her to believe in herself. The Pendletons, Emily and Erin, continued to step up for us. They didn't have the type of year they were hoping for the previous year, so they made corrections and improved as well. So we also had veterans take it to the next level."
On completing the first year with assistant coach Sandy Fowler on staff ... "Sandy was a head coach for 12 years, so she knew what it took to step into another program and succeed. It was a positive when she came in because she knew what the expectations were and she stepped right in and put it into overdrive. Sandy has been nothing but a contributing factor to our program. She has caused all of us to step up, and that's what we need here at Michigan. We tell our athletes that we as a coaching staff become better by helping them become better. Our athletes responded well and it has been nothing but a positive."
On the direction of the program ... "We need to keep going. I think we have a very good recruiting class coming in this year, and we need to keep bringing in quality student-athletes to make us the type of team that we want to be. I do think that this class is a significant step up for us. As coaches we strive to recruit quality students that can also help us on the track. The question will be how quickly can the freshmen come in and contribute. In our sport, it's very important that they come in and contribute right away. And if they do, we'll have that much better of a team."
On the potential of this year's incoming freshmen class ... "I see so much potential in them. I see it in their performances and in their heart. They have the potential to be our best class since 2006 -- talent wise, maturity wise and academically they are there. They have the right type of attitudes, but only time will tell. I'm excited that a couple of those kids are already starting to work hard and are ready to go. They are getting in the weight room and working on their flexibility and that's exciting to me. It's a new year for us and I think it's going to be a good year. Everything must come together. We must get contribution from this class and our veterans must show leadership."