U of M - Wolverines Add Four More Bids to Eugene on Final Day of East Prelims
Provided by U of M
Site: Jacksonville, Fla. (Hodges Stadium)
Event: NCAA East Preliminary Rounds (Day 3)
U-M Team Result: Non-scoring
Next U-M Event: Wed-Sat., June 10-13 -- at NCAA Outdoor Championships (Eugene, Ore.)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The University of Michigan women's track and field team added bids from junior sprinter/hurdler Cindy Ofili in the 100-meter hurdles and sophomore distance runner Erin Finn in the 5,000m run today (May 30), in addition to senior Brook Handler and junior Shannon Osika in the 1,500m run, extending its list of Wolverine qualifiers for next month's (June 10-13) NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon. The performances conclude action for U-M at the three-day NCAA East Preliminary Rounds held at Hodges Stadium.
In the 5K race, Finn ran to a runner-up finish in the second heat of the evening, crossing at 15:58.64. The West Bloomfield, Michigan, native essentially ran a two-woman race with Boston College's Liv Westphal. The duo wasted no time pushing out ahead of the pack not long after the waterfall start, of which Finn was a part, merged into the rest of the field.
They traded the lead back and forth, switching their one-two positioning on several occasions during the final 10 laps or so. After Westphal made a surge with just a few laps remaining, Finn put it in cruise control, holding a significant lead over the remainder of the field. She crossed more than 10 seconds before her next competitor, knowing full well that a top-five finish was all that was required for her to advance to the national championships next month. After competing in the 10K as a freshman, this will be Finn's first 5K bid at the outdoor national meet.
Ofili clocked her second PR of the weekend in the 100m hurdles, giving her a double-bid to Eugene next month after her 100m dash ticket was punched on Friday's (May 29) second day of qualifying action. In the first heat of the afternoon, Ofili used another terrific start off the blocks to take the lead before she even crossed the first hurdle, and from there she used her closing speed to seal the win. She improved on the personal best she set during yesterday's prelims by .04 seconds, already a .04-second improvement on its own from what was her previous PR, set at the Big Ten Championships (May 17).
In the 1,500m run, U-M had advanced four athletes through Thursday's (May 28) first round, and today the Wolverines advanced both Osika and co-captain Handler through the quarterfinals, securing two places for the Maize and Blue in Eugene next month. The trip will be Osika's first time competing in the NCAA outdoor meet, while Handler has earned the journey once already, finishing sixth a year ago in the same event.
Osika entered the weekend seeded seventh, andshe finished second in the latter heat, the slower of the two this afternoon. She ran 4:17.59, ninth-fastest overall, and Handler, who was seeded 10th, finished fifth in that heat, crossing at 4:20.60 for 13th-fastest overall, but her top-five placing guaranteed her advancement.
In that second heat, the pace was about 67 seconds through the first quarter of the race, then it slowed down significantly through the middle laps. After Mississippi State's Marta Freitas made her move with about 600m to go, Osika followed suit and charged into the runner-up position, which she did not relinquish. Handler was not far behind and cruised in across the line in fifth.
Senior/junior Laura Addison ran 4:20.49, eighth in the first heat and 12th-fastest overall, while sophomore/freshman Jaimie Phelan ran 4:25.63 to finish ninth in the same heat. Addison was giving chase to the lead pack with about 300 meters remaining, but could not close the gap.
Freshman Claire Kieffer-Wright competed in the high jump for U-M, clearing 5-7 ft. (1.70m). In her first national-level meet as a Wolverine, Kieffer-wright cleared 5-5 ft. (1.60m) easily before jumping the following height, also on her first attempt. The third height in her progression, 5-10.5 ft. (1.79m), would have been a season-best for the dual-sport Wolverine, but she was unable to clear the bar.
The weekend wrapped up with the 4x400m relay, made up of senior Chinyere Onimo, senior/junior Dana Carey, junior Maya Long and sophomore Sami Michell. The Maize and Blue quartet clocked 3:41.06, eighth in the first heat.
U-M's season will conclude with Ofili, Osika, Handler, Long and Finn competing across four events out west to the NCAA Outdoor Championships (June 10-13) hosted by the University of Oregon in Eugene.
N O T E S
• At the close of the weekend, U-M has solidified bids for four athletes across five events. Junior Cindy Ofili will run the 100m dash and 100m hurdles, while senior Brook Handler and junior Shannon Osika will run in the 1,500m race. Finally, sophomore Erin Finn will compete in the 5,000m race.
• With her advancement to Eugene in the 100m hurdles, Cindy Ofili has a chance to become Michigan's first back-to-back All-American in the hurdles since her sister Tiffany (Ofili) Porter accomplished the feat in three straight seasons from 2007-09.
• U-M's last year with more than one All-American in the 1,500m was in 2013, when former Wolverine Amanda Eccleston and current volunteer assistant Rebecca Addison finished fifth and 23rd, respectively. Michigan has never boasted more than two athletes in the event at the national meet but nearly did today.
• 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.
• After a sixth-place finish a year ago, senior co-captain Brook Handler has the opportunity to become Michigan's first back-to-back All-American in the 1,500m run since Nicole (Edwards) Sifuentes in 2006-07 (fourth place; seventh place).
Cindy Ofili -- 100m hurdles (12.81)
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach James Henry
On the continued improvement of Cindy Ofili and her performance this weekend, including qualifying in both the 100m hurdles and 100m dash ... "I never underestimate her competitiveness. I always expect her to do well when she is performing, and the bigger her competition, the more she steps up. It was not necessarily a pleasant 'surprise', but I was happy that she got into both events."
On competing against some of the best hurdlers in the nation this weekend ... "That is what she has been meaning to do. It is an advantage that we are in the tougher of the two regions (when it comes to hurdles) because it makes then you know you are competing against the very best. I am looking forward to her going to the next level, taking the next step and doing what is necessary to continue to improve."
On the group going to Oregon as a whole ... "I am excited for the kids. They have worked really, really hard, especially the distance crew. This is their third season. They have been training since July to get to this meet. They made it through the cross country, indoor and outdoor season so I am really happy that they are going to Eugene."
On seeing shades of Tiffany (Porter) Ofili in Cindy at this juncture of the season ... "She is a competitor. Cindy works really hard, and we always say 'this one is the best one', or 'next one, best one' when talking about the next meet, so when she gets in the blocks it is her expectation that she is going to have a great start every time. We tell her that if you do not have that great start, get to work, and even if you do have that great start, you need to get to work. Now the start is coming around for her, and that should build her confidence even that much more."
U-M Senior Co-Captain Brook Handler
On her and Shannon Osika's second heat of the 1,500m run, during which both qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships ... "We knew that Rosie (Clarke) of Iona had the best fitness in the field, and that she would most likely try and do something pretty far from the finish line,a nd she did. She started kicking with 600m to go, so I just tried to move around right when I saw her go and Shan went with me. I had a kind of a rough last 100m which has kind of been what has happening to me all season, so I want to try and fix that before NCAA's. I am really lucky to be going to the meet, so I just feel really excited."
On the group traveling to Oregon and their focus ... "It was a really tough field last year. There are a few PR's that are faster in the field this year, so I expect the heats to be a lot faster than they were last year. The final last year was actually the slowest in the last 15 years. It was really tactical and really bumpy, so I expect it to be a lot faster this year, which I think will be good for me and Shannon because we did the 5K at the conference meet, so it's not like we have been tapering forever. We have the strength so hopefully there will be faster heats and hopefully that will play to our favor."
U-M Junior Cindy Ofili
On how her 12.81-second PR in the 100m hurdles felt ... "I feel amazing right now. Consistency is key for me, so I am so happy that it's coming together. I have been really relaxed, and executing a clean race has been the goal for me. Not to kill it or anything, but just execute the race cleanly."
On her starts this weekend and how key that is for her ... "It is finally coming together for me. My starts have always been my weakness, so now that it is getting a little better, I think my race is coming together. I am hoping to still run faster soon but I am happy with my PR."
On punching a double-ticket to Eugene ... "That sounds amazing. I wasn't expecting too much out of the 100m dash, but to make it to nationals in two events is a blessing. I am just happy that God blessed me."
Communications Contact: Chad Shepard