U of M Women - Ofili Claims Hurdles Title as U-M Wraps NCAA Indoors in Sixth
Provided by U of M
What You Need to Know
» Cindy Ofili claimed her first-ever national title in the 60-meter hurdles, timing 7.89 seconds for a new school record, the No. 5 time in the world in 2016 and the No. 10 time in NCAA history.
» Erin Finn earned her second All-America honor of the weekend by claiming a runner-up finish in the 3,000-meter race. Finn is the first Wolverine to ever secure top-eight first team All-America honors in both the indoor 3K and 5K events at the same championships.
» Ofili is the program's first indoor individual national champion since her sister Tiffany (Porter) Ofili (60 meter hurdles) earned a solo crown in the 2009 season.
» The Wolverines earned the program's best team finish since the program-best third-place showing in 2008.
• Complete Results PDF | Photo Gallery
Site: Birmingham, Ala. (Birmingham Crossplex)
Event: NCAA Indoor Championships (Day 2)
U-M Team Result: 6th Place (31 points)
Next U-M Event: Fri-Sat., March 25-26 -- at Pac 12 vs. Big Ten Challenge (Tempe, Ariz.)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan women's track and field team closed the 2016 indoor season with historic performances at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday (March 12) at Birmingham Crossplex. Senior Cindy Ofili and junior/sophomore Erin Finn piled an additional 18 points onto its Friday (March 11) total of 13 points to claim the third-best team finish at the indoor national meet in program history at sixth overall.
For head coach James Henry, it was a proud weekend, not just for his student-athletes, but for his staff and all those who contribute to the success of the block M.
"It's a very satisfying thing to achieve this finish and a Big Ten title together," said Henry.
"We knew we had talented kids and hard-working young ladies when we began the season, but sometimes things need to fall in place to your advantage and the kids need to believe in themselves in order to find success. Most importantly, you need to have good people, good students and good athletes and at Michigan we are fortunate to have all three."
Senior co-captain and Ypsilanti, Michigan, Ofili put forth the program highlight for the day, and the weekend, when she took the 60-meter hurdles crown in an electrifying race, blitzing across the line in 7.89 seconds to eclipse her older sister's program record (7.94) by a noteworthy margin. Her time also ranks top-five in the world in 2016, and the mark also lists as the No. 10 fastest time in NCAA history.
It was a long wait for a national title, but worth it for Ofili, who was elated after her victory.
"It was so emotional," she said.
"It's been a long time coming for me. I've had so many ups, so many downs and it's just an emotional experience being a national champion. I really wanted first place today and I came out and got it, and I'm just so happy."
For Ofili, today's race was a cleanly executed triumph. A stumble off the blocks during Friday's semifinals had her focused and motivated and Ofili came back to Saturday competition with a fierce edge and a desire to redeem herself. So, how does the title of 'Cindy Ofili: National Champion' sound to her?
"It sounds amazing," she said afterwards, "after yesterday I was a little nervous going into today. I'm so happy that it finally came together. Time-wise, I knew I could run this and I finally did it."
Ofili breaking a school record is nothing new -- she now has five to her name (IN: 60 hurdles; 60 and 200 dashes, OUT: 100 hurdles; 100 dash) -- but taking down the final record held by her sister makes it even more special.
"It means a lot to me. Beating her time is an honor because she's such a great athlete," said Ofili.
"Running for Michigan has been the best experience ever."
Henry could tell what the record meant to his four-time Big Ten champion, and he also feels it will help Ofili separate herself from her older sister on the international scene.
"Getting that record was the last thing on her mind but the first thing that she wanted to do," he said, "and she managed to do it while winning a national title at the same time. She worked so hard to be number one in this meet and it paid off. She achieved both of her goals at once."
After a devastating fall during the 2015 indoor championships in the same event, Ofili had a sharpened intensity returning to the national meet this winter. To Henry, her perseverance is special.
"I'm real proud of her," he explained, "because this is about more than just athletics -- it's about getting up and trying again. She had a bad meet last year at this meet, when she fell in the hurdles, so I'm proud that she continues to fight, continues to work hard and continues to believe and today she came out a champion."
Later in the 3,000-meter race, Finn finished runner-up became the first-ever Wolverine to secure top-eight first team All-America honors at both the 3K and 5K distances in the same championships. The last athlete to earn All-America honors in both events was Erin Webster in 2007, however, Webster finished ninth and 11th in her races, giving Finn a distinct honor all to her own. Prior to 2011, the top eight American athletes earned All-American status, meaning Webster was the first Wolverine to double as an All-American in both events, but since the change five years ago, Finn as the first to accomplish the feat with first team honors.
Finn and Notre Dame's Molly Seidel made tonight's race a déjà vu experience for fans and teammates. In a near-mirror repeat of Friday evening's 5,000-meter race, Seidel made an early move to separate from the chase pack ,and Finn went with her, staying tight behind the Notre Dame senior.
It was another true championship pace, but Seidel simply had more gas over the final few laps, and Finn cruised comfortably to the line in second. She totaled 16 of Michigan's 31 points with her two events -- second most of any athlete at the championships -- and is happiest of all about the team's third-best finish in program history.
"It's really exciting to be able to compete in two events that I love and to score points for the Wolverines," said Finn.
"I wish I could have been able to give us four more points (with first instead of second-place finishes), but I gave it all I had out there today and yesterday, and I'm going to go back home and keep working and fighting for every point I can get for my team."
Her voracious appetite for excellence is nothing short of inspiring to Henry, who says Finn's teammates feed off her energy as well.
"It inspires the whole team to see Erin run and especially Cindy," said Henry.
"Cindy had seen her go out last night and put in so much hard work over the 25 laps (on Friday). She inspires the whole group, and it makes it so easy to watch her compete because it looks like she's smiling. She has all the talent in the world, and I've never seen an athlete with as big a heart as hers.
She's the littlest athlete we've had but she's got the biggest heart of anyone we've had."
Even after a historic weekend like this one, Finn is still looking ahead.
"At Michigan, it's the norm to excel. It's extraordinarily satisfying, but it just kind of feels right -- like you're doing your job here at Michigan."
Though her eyes may be forward, that does not mean she does not appreciate the special nature of this weekend for herself and her teammates -- especially Ofili's NCAA title.
"It was so exciting to see," said Finn.
"I'm usually too nervous to cheer before my own races, but I was screaming my lungs out."
Michigan will now focus on the outdoor season, which begins in two weekends in Tempe, Arizona, at the Pac 12 vs. Big Ten Challenge (March 25-26).
COLLEGIATE PERSONAL BESTS
Cindy Ofili -- 7.89 seconds ^
^ School Record
Communications Contact: Chad Shepard