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Olympic Legends and Tokyo Dreamers Descend on Ann Arbor

A large contingent of former Olympians and athletes trying to qualify for Tokyo joined the proceedings for Michigan’s Power Five Invitational.

Track and Field: IAAF World Athletics Championships Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Power Five Invitational was always going to be one of the highlights of Michigan track and field’s schedule, but it took on added importance when several former Olympians and Olympic hopefuls came to Ann Arbor to race. As part of their preparation for the Tokyo games later this year many Wolverine alumni returned to campus to train in friendly confines, joined by a star-studded lineup of athletes with no affiliation to the program. The headliner: Allyson Felix, six time Olympic gold medalist and most decorated female Olympian in track and field history.

After Friday’s preliminaries, the star power started early on Saturday with two Michigan alumni competing in the women’s 60m hurdles. The event was won by Cindi Ofili in 8.181 seconds, 0.007 ahead of her sister, Tiffany Porter. Ofili came in fourth in the 100m hurdles at the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Porter came in seventh. Both race for Great Britain. Ofili also came in six at the 200m.

The highlight of the day was the 60m dash, featuring both Allyson Felix and Dejah Stevens. Stevens competed in the 200m in Rio, finishing seventh. Felix won the event in 7.35 seconds, a quarter of a second behind her personal best. Tokyo will be Felix’s fifth Olympic games, she has one gold at each of her previous three.

The women’s mile featured six post-collegiate runners, including Wolverine Mary Phelan and former teen phenom Mary Cain. Cain is trying to make her first Olympics after several years away from running, and Phelan is trying to qualify in her first year out of college. The race was paced by another hopeful, Julie-Ann Staehli, who had a significant lead for much of the race and won at 4:33.80. Cain led the pack fighting for second until the last two laps, and eventually Phelan was able to take second at 4:39.08.

The final Olympian ran in the 400m. Canadian Noelle Montcalm came in fourth, which was won by current Wolverine Chloe Foster at 54.23. Montcalm participated in the 4th place 4x400 in Rio.

There was still a college track meet going on, and Michigan had many strong performers. In the men’s 60m hurdles, there was an all-Wolverine podium. Job Mayhue won the event in 8.00 flat, followed by Roland Amarteifio and Sierra Hendrix-Williams. Andrew Liskowitz won his second straight shot put at home, with a throw of 19.76m. Though he did not win his event, in the heptathalon Mason Mahacek put together a freshman record. The third place Heath Baldwin also surpassed the previous freshman record. The heptathalon was won by Saginaw Valley’s Sam Black.

Chloe Foster led two podium sweeps by Michigan athletes. In the previously mentioned 400m she was followed by Emma Lane and Julia Hall, In Friday’s 600m Foster won at 1:30.10, with Wolverines taking the top four spots. Foster was followed by Hall, Annie Taylor, and Alice Hill. Those who follow Michigan running closely will be excited to hear that after a positive cross country debut, Ericka VanderLende is also impressing on the oval. VanderLende came in fourth in the 3000m at 9:20.57, but led all collegiate competitors.

Michigan’s next meet is this Friday and Saturday, February 7th and 8th, at Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational in South Bend, IN.