Monday, May 7, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com 15
Injury-free invitational enough for Blue
By CHRIS HERRING
Daily Sports Writer
Whenaspectator asked Michigan
women's track coach James Henry
to assess the Wolverines' perfor-
mance shortly after this weekend's
Len Paddock Invitational, it was
clear Henry cared very little about
the team's finish.
"We came out unscathed," Henry
responded. "No one got injured, and
that was really our biggest goal this
Each year, the Invitational - a
home, non-scoring event - is held
a week before the Big Ten Outdoor
Championships to provide the
athletes with low-pressure com-
petition while preparing for the
This year, Henry mainly cared
about making it through the week-
Henry opted to rest sophomores
Amber Hay and Geena Gall, juniors
Laura Glynn and Nicole Edwards
and seniors Erin Webster and Katie
Erdman - each of whom already
has a regional qualifying time for
But a few of the team's best run-
ners did compete, including senior
Anna Willard. Despite unfavorable
wind conditions, she easily won
the 1,500-meter run, finishing in
4:15.99 - nearly 21 seconds faster
than second place.
The time was the second fast-
est in the nation so far this season,
and it was just six seconds short of a
"Willard had an outstanding
1,500 on Friday night, especially
when you factor in the wind condi-
tions," associate head coach Mike
McGuire said. "I'm sure the wind
cost her a few seconds."
The team's top sprinter, sopho-
more Tiffany Ofili also participated
in the invite. She won two events
by setting career-bests in the 100-
meter dash (11.86) and the longjump
(19 feet, 7.5 inches).
Sophomore co-captain Bettie
Wade also performed well for the
Wolverines. Her personal-best and
regional qualifying time of 13.80
seconds in the 100-meter hurdles
was just enough to edge Michigan
State's Jackie Walton for the win.
But regardless of how many vic-
tories the Wolverines claimed in
various events, almost everyone
knew avoiding injury and preparing
for the conference meet were the
"We're fairly healthy going into
our biggest meet, so we're excited
about it," McGuire said.
With no serious injuries, one
question remains. Is the team ready
for Big Tens next weekend?
Henry said the Wolverines are
prepared, but he's not counting on
his team to come out on top for the
Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
"No, it's not an expectation,"
Henry said. "Minnesota's got a
really, really good program and Illi-
nois looks very good. We've got our
hands full, so it's not going to be a
shoe-in at all. In fact, I don't see how
we're the favorite team."
The women's track program won
three straight outdoor titles from
2002-2004, but hasn't won since.
Henry said this year's favorite
is Minnesota. The Golden Gophers
won last year's title and the major-
ity of their top athletes returned
Many of the athletes also real-
ize Minnesota appears to have the
upper hand going into the title meet
this weekend. But Ofili said she
plans on treating this race just like
any other, rather than counting the
Wolverines as underdogs.
"For the most part I just go into
every meet thinking I want to have
a great competition no matter
what," Ofili said. "I just want us to
do our best, whether we finish No.
1 or No. 10."
Although McGuire said the
Wolverines aren't expecting to
win the meet, he said victory was
within reach, as long as the team
"Minnesota's the defending
champ and they've got a lot back,"
McGuire said. "We're going to have
to hit it on all cylinders. But it's defi-
nitely still attainable. We've had
some people catch fire the past few
weeks, and we've still got some of
our more established people. If we
can come together for three days
next week, we'll be fine."
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Tiffany Ofili and the Wolverines used this weekend's Len Paddock
preparation for the Big Ten Outdoor Championships next weekend.