BY EMILY BONCHI
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 23, 2011
Almost 1,800 people squeezed inside the Indoor Track Building on Saturday to watch the Michigan women’s track team compete at the annual Simmons-Harvey Invitational.
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With four title wins under their belt at the end of the day, the Wolverines did not disappoint.
The Invitational – named after former Michigan track coaches Red Simmons and Jack Harvey – has been hosted by the women’s track team since 1981 and welcomes eight schools from across the state of Michigan to Ann Arbor for the meet.
The competition kicked off with field events, led by sophomore Erin Pendleton. Pendleton improved her personal best in the weight throw for the third straight meet, capturing the event title on her final throw. She hit 18.93 meters, passing the 60-foot mark for the first time in her career.
“The meet was more relaxed than ‘The Dual’ last week,” Pendleton said. “It was not as hyped up, but there was still good competition here today. I am used to really good competition, and every meet I go out, I want to do my best.”
The Wolverines continued to impress during the field events, as they clinched three runner-up positions in just as many events. Second-place honors were earned by both redshirt freshman Kiley Tobel , who cleared 3.70 meters in the pole vault, and redshirt sophomore Brianna Jenkins, clearing 1.72 meters on the high jump – both personal bests.
“Kiley (Tobel) and Erin (Pendleton) are continuously improving in their events,” Michigan coach James Henry said. “I think that the rate at which Erin has improved has been a very pleasant surprise. Kiley has been working hard, stating that she really wants to contribute to this team.”
Success continued on the track, as Michigan coach Mike McGuire changed the regular lineup, inserting some fresh legs into events throughout the day.
“We have a large, young group of girls and they need an opportunity to compete,” Henry said. “Mike mixed it up today, allowing some girls to rest because we have some big meets coming up.”
Freshman Alex Leptich competed in the mile-run event for the Wolverines, taking the crown for her first career win. Leptich remained in second position for 13 of the 15 laps, making a move past Hillsdale sophomore Amanda Putt by cutting her split time down to 1:09:00 for the final 800 meters. She finished with a time of 4:55:15, becoming the first team member to finish under the five-minute mark this season.
This is the third consecutive meet where the Wolverines have taken the title at the mile event – a different runner capturing the win each time.
Just 20 minutes later, the Wolverines took the 1-2 position in the 600-meter run, as event veterans juniors Alexandria Williams and Brittani Williams finished in 1:34:05 and 1:34:19, respectively.
The invitational also welcomed former icons in the Michigan Track and Field program, including one who was inducted into Michigan’s Hall of Honor.
Former cross-country and track athlete Molly McClimon, a Wolverine during the 1991-1994 seasons, was welcomed into the Hall of Honor. She earned eight All-America honors and six All-Big Ten awards during her four years in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines look to mimic McClimon’s success as they travel out of state for the first time this season, competing in Bloomington this Friday and Saturday at the Indiana Relays.