Wolverines Sign Six for 2008-09

ANN ARBOR, Mich.-- University of Michigan womens track and field head coach James Henry and U-M head cross country coach Mike McGuire have announced the signing of six student-athletes for the 2008-09 season. Christine Barren (Worthington, Ohio/Thomas Worthington), Lindsey Gakenheimer (Monroe, Mich./Monroe), Meshawn Graham (Toledo, Ohio/Bowsher), Mary Grace Pellegrini (Louisville, Ky./duPont Manual), Julian Purvis (Oakland, Calif./St. Elizabeth) and Brittani Williams (Spring Arbor, Mich./Jackson) will join the Wolverines for the upcoming season.

Its not a big class, but we believe that all six of these student-athletes can help us, said Henry. It is a strong class both athletically and academically and we are excited about it.

Barren was a state champion in Ohio in both the indoor 800-meters and the indoor 3,200-meter relay as a junior at Worthington High School. As a senior, Barren also qualified for the state meet in the 800m and 3,200m relay. She was also a highly accomplished field hockey player, helping Worthington win the 2007 Ohio state championship.

A season of cross country will put Christine in a position to help us and help her, said U-M cross country head coach and associate head track and field coach Mike McGuire. We already know she will make an impact in the middle distances.

At Monroe High School, Gakenheimer set four school records during her outstanding prep career. She is the school record holder in the 800m and 1,600m, and was also part of the school record-breaking 1,600m relay and 3,200m relay. At the 2008 Michigan state championships, Gakenheimer took third in the 1,600m run. Gakenheimer also earned Monroe Evening News Runner of the Year honors and was a two-time all-state cross country selection.

Lindsey is a very accomplished runner. She has the range to make an impact from the 800-meters all the way up to cross country, said McGuire.

Graham was a four-time Ohio state champion in high school, winning a different state title in each of her four years. As a freshman, she won the 200-meter crown, and as a sophomore, she ran the anchor leg of Bowsher High Schools 800-meter state champion relay. She then won the 100-meters as a junior and the 400-meters as a senior. Her state championship time in the 400m was 53.30, the fastest time in the nation by a high school runner in 2008. Graham was the first Toledo-area athlete to receive All-America honors from Track & Field News.

Meshawn is a high-level runner who comes from a very successful high school track program, said Henry. Its exciting to have such a great athlete joining our Michigan family.

Pellegrini is one of the top runners in the state of Kentucky, having been named the KYtrackXC.com Distance Runner of the Year on three occasions, twice for her indoor accomplishments and once for her outdoor exploits. She was also named the Kentucky Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2006-07 by both Gatorade and the USATF after winning both the 1,600m and 3,200m runs at the Kentucky state meet. Pellegrini also led her high school to two cross country state championships.

Mary Grace should make immediate contributions. She is highly accomplished in both track and cross country and will help us as a freshman, McGuire said.

Purvis comes to Michigan having already tasted international success in her track and field career. At the 2007 IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Purvis won gold in the 100m hurdles with a time of 13.41. As a sophomore, Purvis won the California state championship in the 100m hurdles and set the national sophomore record in the event (13.60). Purvis was the 100m state runner-up as both a junior and senior.

Julian has travelled extensively and has already competed at a very high level. We are excited to see her compete at the college level, said Henry.

As a senior at Jackson High School, Williams won three titles at the Michigan state track and field championships. Williams won the 400m with a time of 56.08 and was part of Jacksons 800m-relay and 1,600m-relay championship. In addition, Williams tied for second place in the high jump. She was also named the 2008 Jackson Citizen Patriot Girls Track Athlete of the Year.

We believe Brittani will be able to contribute to our team right away, Henry said. Its always nice to sign local kids and keep them home.

U-M begins its season next Friday (Aug. 29) at the Michigan Open in Dexter, Mich.

Contact: Jeremy Reid (734) 763-4423