U of M - NCAA Runner-Up Ofili Shatters Hurdles Record; Handler, Finn All-Americans
Provided by U of M
Site: Eugene, Ore. (Hayward Field)
Event: NCAA Outdoor Championships (Day 4)
U-M Team Result: 19th Place (14 Points)
Next U-M Event: Season Complete
EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Michigan women's track and field team closed its week at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with three athletes in competition -- all of whom scored -- as junior Cindy Ofili set a new program standard in the 100-meter hurdles for a runner-up finish, and senior co-captain Brook Handler and sophomore Erin Finn also earned first team All-America honors in the 1,500m run and 5,000m run, respectively, during Saturday's (June 13) final day of action at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field. The Wolverines closed with their best finish, 19th, at the national meet since 2009.
It was a fiercely windy day out west, especially during early events, but Ofili's 100m hurdles race was wind-legal, and she shattered her sister Tiffany (Ofili) Porter's seven-year-old program record by running 12.60, a full .13 seconds faster than her sister's 2008 mark and .21 seconds faster than her previous lifetime best.
Ofili matched her personal best set at the NCAA East Region Preliminary Rounds last month (May 30) with a 12.81 in Thursday's (June 11) semifinal and said after that race that she felt the record in her.
The Wolverine junior got off the blocks with the self-described best start of her life. She was smooth and fluid over the hurdles and finished with tremendous stride, as she has all championship season. Only Kentucky's Kendra Harrison, the national leader all season, was faster than Ofili at 12.55, and Harrison's time ranks as the third-fastest performance in NCAA Championships history. Ofili's second-place podium trip marked the best finish by a Wolverine in any outdoor event since her sister won her final national title in 2009.
After competing in the 10,000m run a year ago, Finn ran the 5,000m race this year and seized a unique opportunity. By finishing fifth (15:43.97), she became the first-ever Wolverine to achieve All-America status in both the outdoor 5,000m and 10,000m run.
In the longest distance event of the afternoon, Finn kept pace with a seven-woman pack that broke off from the remainder of the field with about seven laps remaining in the race. The indoor 5K champ, Emily Sisson of Providence, claimed the crown in 15:34.10 largely in part to her early push. With about five laps to go, she broke off from the remainder of the lead bunch, leaving a six-woman chase pack behind her to jockey for second place.
No one could catch Sisson, but Finn passed bodies steadily as she moved through the field. Over the course of the final 200m, Finn continued her push and weaved her way from seventh to fifth over the final stretch, with just 2.25 seconds separating her from third place overall.
In her final race in Maize and Blue, Handler earned her second consecutive first team All-America honor, running 4:16.19 for seventh place in the 1,500m field, scoring the first points of the weekend for U-M. In doing so, the Wolverine co-captain picked up Michigan's sixth All-America honor in the event since 2012.
It was a physical race from the gun, with reigning champion Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State taking the lead early and Mississippi State's Marta Freitas falling victim to the group's jockeying for position as she fell less than 100m into the race. Freitas was forced to play catch up thereafter, but Handler sidestepped her swiftly and kept pace with the tightly knit pack.
With about 600m to go, Houlihan and eventual champion Rhianwedd Price of Mississippi State led a small group that took off, leaving most of the field 10 or more meters behind them. Around then, Handler made her move, working to get herself off the rail, where she had been positioned earlier, and passing several bodies on the outside. She closed strong and was among a trio of competitors to cross the line within .57 seconds of each other to seal her status as a four-time first team All-American.
The hosting Ducks of Oregon won the meet with 59 points, sweeping the men's and women's titles. Today's weekend-closing action marks the end of the season for the Maize and Blue and finishes the 2014-15 Michigan Athletics season.
• Ofili Sets Dash Record, Finals in Hurdles; Handler Moves On in 1,500 (June 11, 2015)
N O T E S
• The Maize and Blue totaled 14 points for 19th place overall, the program's best finish since 2009, when it ended up in seventh place. Only Wisconsin (tie-15th; 16 points) finished higher among Big Ten teams.
• With her runner-up finish, Cindy Ofili has become Michigan's first back-to-back All-American in the 100m hurdles since her sister Tiffany (Ofili) Porter accomplished the feat in three straight seasons from 2007-09. Ofili is the highest-finishing Wolverine in any event at the outdoor championships since her sister's last national title in 2009.
• Cindy Ofili was the only athlete in the field -- man or woman -- to double in both the short hurdles and 100m dash this week.
• Already a two-time All-American in hurdles events entering these championships, Cindy Ofili built on her 11th-place finish at this meet a year ago to earn the third such honors of her career.
• After setting a new personal best at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships (May 17) with her 12.89-second finish in the 100m hurdles, Cindy Ofili improved upon that time twice in one weekend during the east preliminary rounds. The Ypsilanti, Michigan, native clocked 12.85 to win her first-round heat, then blazed a 12.81 in the quarterfinal to punch her ticket out west. She matched that time in the semifinals on Wednesday (June 11) and blew it out of the water this afternoon, crossing at 12.60 as the runner-up.
• With her fifth-place finish, Erin Finn has become the first-ever All-American in both the 5K and 10K outdoor races in U-M history. Two of the three other Wolverines to achieve All-America honors in the 10,000m run came in 1983, when Melanie Weaver (3rd) and Lisa Larsen (6th) accomplished the feat together. Elizabeth Kampfe (1998; 9th) also earned that honor, though none of the three earned the distinction in the outdoor 5,000m run. However, Kampfe was an indoor All-American at the 5,000m distance, finishing seventh during that same season.
• Michigan's last All-American at the outdoor 5,000m distance prior to Erin Finn was Erin Webster, who finished third in 2007.
• After a sixth-place finish a year ago, senior co-captain Brook Handler closed her Wolverine career by becoming Michigan's first back-to-back All-American in the 1,500m run since Nicole (Edwards) Sifuentes in 2006-07 (fourth place; seventh place). She took seventh place, crossing the line with a time of 4:16.19.
• With her first team All-America recognition today, Brook Handler has now earned four such honors in her career -- all of which are of the first team variety.
• Under the tutelage of distance coach and associate head coach Mike McGuire, U-M has had one or more All-American in the 1,500m run in four consecutive seasons dating to 2012.
Cindy Ofili -- 100m hurdles (12.60$)
$ = program record
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach James Henry
On the record-breaking performance from Cindy Ofili ... "It was this meet that Cindy finally ran what I thought she was capable of running. I thought she could improve and compete with these athletes, and she proved she is at that level despite the challenges she overcame during the indoor season and from last year. She put it all together and I am really proud of her."
On the team performance overall, the team's best since 2009 ... "We are very happy as a group. We were a little upset that our family member Shannon Osika wasn't able to compete with us, but the athletes did what we knew they were capable of doing and we achieved our goal, which is to place in every event."
Michigan Associate Head Coach Mike McGuire
On the team's performance as a whole ... "As a coaching staff we are really proud of what our student-athletes did. We were projected to score five points and we almost tripled that total, and we could have done that and more with a healthy Shannon Osika. But the three that were able to toe the line had great performances. Cindy's (Ofili) was just fabulous. For Brook to close out her career on the podium for the second year in a row was great, and Erin just competed really well. For her to score her first two years here, and in distance events, that is pretty remarkable."
On Erin Finn fighting through injury to become the first-ever All-American in both the outdoor 5K and 10K ... "That's exactly what she did. She just fought. She has an incredible competitive spirit. We'll come back here in a couple of weeks for the U.S. meet and run her in the 10K and hopefully that will be a really high note to finish up her season with and let her recharge for the fall. I think if we get her training to merge with her competitive fire you are going to see even bigger and better things out of Erin in the future."
On the special career of Brook Handler and how great her finish was, despite her disappointment ... "She competed great. She just made a little bit of a tactical error, getting pinned on the rail with 300 meters to go. I think if she had been on the outside shoulder of the person on the rail it might have opened up things for her a little more. I think she knew that; I could tell that she was pinned and really restricted on what she wanted to do for almost 150m. But she was a first team All-American. This meet is more competitive than it has ever been in the 27 years I have been coaching women athletes."
On Brook Handler's contributions off the track ... "Her contributions to the team far exceeded any points she scored for us. She is a tremendous teammate and outstanding student. You're talking about someone who majored in chemical engineering and graduated in four years. She competed 12 straight seasons with indoor and outdoor. I am not sure she ever missed a meet, so it is really pretty amazing and we are proud of her."
U-M Junior Cindy Ofili
On taking us through her record-breaking performance in the 100m hurdles ... "I knew that once I had the start I wanted that my race would come together, and today I had the best start of my life. I'm so happy, and blessed to be in this position and to be able to run this fast against this level of competition with some of the best athletes in the country."
On breaking another record held by her sister, Tiffany (Ofili) Porter ... "My goal was always to break my sister's records, so I am really lost for words. I don't know what to say; I am just so happy. It feels really good knowing that my sister is a great athlete, one of the best in the world, so to be able to break her school record is just a blessing that I am so, so honored to have."
On Coach Henry's new computer password ... "My Coach (Henry) had his password as 12.73, which at that time was the school record, and I told him yesterday 'You're going to get a new one this weekend'. I'm glad that I stuck true to my word and it happened. Now everyone will know Coach's (new) password."
U-M Senior Co-Captain Brook Handler
On how she felt her 1,500m race went, especially with the physicality early on ... "I stayed on the outside really, really well for the first three laps. I ran farther to get good positioning and when it counted I didn't have the positioning I wanted, which was disappointing to have done in my last race."
On her emotions after the race ... "I have very mixed emotions about today. On one hand, I am happy about seventh place because I didn't come into this meet expecting seventh, but knowing how the race played out I feel like I was not able to leave everything on the track the way I wanted. With about 250 meters to go, I felt I had so much run left that I didn't get to use, which is something that I haven't let happen in a long time."
Communications Contact: Chad Shepard