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February 22, 1999 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-22

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - February 22, 1999 - 7B

M inexperience shows
at men's chmpionship
Freshman jitters surface as Blue stumbles

Continued from Page 1B


David Mosse
Sports Writer
MADISON - Week after week, the fresh-
men members of the Michigan track team
impressed observers by performing way
beyond their years. As they rolled into
Madison for their biggest test of the year, the
stage was set for a storybook finish.
How sweet would it be for these young kids
to brush aside all the pressure and thrive in the
spotlight of the Big ten championships?
Reality set in, as the 1999 Big Ten
Championships were reduced to a learning
*rience for most of the Wolverines' fresh-
While all the freshmen were confident in
the week leading up to the meet, coaches did
their best to warn their athletes that first-
timers never seem to fair well at the Big Tens.
Even the Wolverines' older members, recall-
ing their own freshman experiences, knew
how difficult this weekend promised to be.
Still, their talent was undeniable, creating
e hope for big peiformances.
ded Padan, the seventh ranked triple
jumper in the nation, seemed like a legitimate
contender to win the event. Sprinter Ike
O enwa came in sporting a streak of 4 con-
secutive meets with a victory, and distance
runner Mike Wisniewski, steadily improving
throughout the year, looked on the cusp of a
The first victim of the freshman jinx was
Ike Okenwa. Still recovering from a hamstring
injury, Okenwa rolled his ankle in practice this
Women cor

week. Coaches ruled him out of the 200-
meters, instead saving him for the 60-meter.
Okenwa squeeked into the semifinals with
the final spot, and failed to qualify for the
finals. Okenwa was noticibly limping
throughout the meet but refused to bring up
the injury up as an excuse. Instead he said
nerves played a factor.
"I was very nervous," Okenwa said. "I've
never run in front of that many people before."
While Okenwa could not hide his dissa-
pointment, perhaps no Michigan possesses
more promise for next season.
"Considering his injury, just making it to
the semifinals is a positive, Michigan coach
Jack Harvey said.
Another Wolverine, 5,000-meter runner
Mike Wisniewski, came in with high hopes. In
his last two meets, Wisniewski placed second
and third respectively. Yet, when the race
began, Wisniewski was noticably shaken, fin-
ishing in the bottom half of the field.
"I was really scared," Wisniewski said. "The
first time is always tough, but next year will be
a lot different."
Like Okenwa, Wisniewski enjoyed a stellar
freshman season and will be counted on heav-
ily next season.
"I think the off season is really gonna help
me," Wisniewski said. "Next year I will be
stronger and more mature.
While Wisniewski struggled mightily,
another Wolverine, junior Todd Snyder flour-
ished, finishing fourth. Following the race,
instead of speaking of his performance,

The Michigan men's track team didn't clear every obstacle this weekend at the Big Ten
Championships in Madison.

Snyder sympathized with his younger team-
"I remember when I was a freshman I got
lapped out," Snyder said. "The coaches want-
ed me to finish but the judges yanked me out."
Padan shined all season long, establishing
himself as one of the stars of the squad. On
Saturday, Padan clearly displayed nerves,
scratching out of the long jump. He performed
better on Sunday, placing fourth in the triple

"We'll be a whole lot better next year than
we are this year," assistant coach Ron
Warhurst said. "Next year we're gonna try to
win this thing."
That goal may seem outrageous considering
the Wolverines' ninth place finish. Yet no other
team in the Big Ten asked more of their fresh-
men than Michigan. And while that may have
hindered them this weekend, it provides plen-
ty of hope for better days ahead.

ne from behind to

the 200, his best event.
"I didn't get out of the blocks well," Okenwa said. "I can't
make any excuses for myself though. I just didn't run well.'
Despite Okenwa's injury and the team's finish, there were
several bright spots that left the young team encouraged for
next season. Most of these came from upperclassmen that had
competed in the meet before.
Junior Jay Cantin was the Wolverines' sole winner. He cap-
tured the Big Ten mile crown and nearly qualified for the
NCAA Championships by posting a time of 4:05.
"Michigan's won this event six years in a row, so winning just
seemed like the right thing to do Cantin said.
Another junior, and Michigan's most consistent runner all
year long has been Todd Snyder.' He finished fourth behind
three Spartans in the 5,000 and met the provisional standard to
compete in the NCAAs.
In addition to the experienced upperclassmen, some fresh-
man bested their nerves to succeed.
Patrick Johansson shattered his personal best by three feet on
his way to a second place finish in the 35-pound weight throw.
"I am really happy," Johansson said. "I did real good today."
Jumper Oded Padan, who had a good feeling before the
"I'm definitely in the mood," Padan said as he headed off to
On Saturday, Padan scratched out of the long jump an1 did
not place. He savaged the meet on Sunday by taking fourth
place in the triple jump with a distance of 51 feet, 1 inch.
Freshman Jeremy Schneider joined his classmates with a
strong performance. He placed fifth in his specialty, the 600.
"Going from fifth place in my class B state meet to fifth in
the Big Ten's is pretty exciting. I think I held back a lot though.
I was pretty nervous."
The word nervous seemed to be on everybody's lips.
"I was incredibly nervous the first time I was here' "Snyder
said. "I still think the freshman did awesome. It just shows
promise for next year."
Although the meet didn't go as well as the team would have
hoped, there are many positive performances from the rest of
the season that the Wolverines can take with them to the out-
door season. After all, an entire season can't be based on one
Continued from Page 1B
ance was better than ever. Our kids were equal to the challenge
this weekend."
McGuire did not think that the team was worried after what
transpired Saturday and early Sunday. Purdue jumped out to an
lead on Saturday by taking the top two spots in the pole vault and
three of the top five places in the pentathlon. The Boilermtakes
led by 39 points after the first event on Sunday but were tin t
to hold the lead.
"We knew that Purdue would get double-digit points in the
weight throw (first event on Sunday)," McGuire said. "But at the
same time, we had our strong events--the 600, 800, and 5,000 -
still to come, and we got big points in all of those events. There
was only one track event where we didn't have a shot to score.
"Purdue was huge in four events, and Indiana really came on.
It's like stocks - you're up, and then you're down. We fell
behind in some events, but we made it up in other areas. As they
say in football, when the offense fumbles, the defense picks up
the slack. We picked up the slack this weekend."
The Wolverines were ecstatic after their win. Following a vic-
tory lap, several team members doused Henry with buckets of
water before the entire team posed for a group photo wi fr
Big Ten championship trophy. The team broke out into an
impromptu rendition of "The Victors" during the photo, fol-
lowed by a chant of "It's great ... to be ... a Michigan
"This is awesome;" middle distance runner Angie Stanifer
said. "I'm a senior, and this is my first ring, so it feels great. I've
wanted a ring for four years."
"We lost some points early on, but we knew we were strong.
Our best day was today, Stanifer said after the meet. "We knew
we had it won before the last event (the 4x400 relay)."
Several athletes from other schools also turned in stellar per-
formances. Wisconsin's Jenelle Deatherage and Ohio State's
Dominique Calloway were each double winners. Deatherage
took victory in the 3000 meters and the mile, while Calloway
won the 60 meter low hurdles and the 200 meter dash. Still, the
weekend belonged to the Wolverines.-
"It was a phenomenal performance" Michigan sprinting
coach Arnett Chisholm said. "No single performance stood ot.
All of them were responsible for this victory. We pulled togeth-
er, we rallied around each other, and we got it done."

secure second-straight trophy

By Stephen A. Rom
Daily Sports Writer
In the waning moments of this
yqrs Big Ten Women's Indoor
ek & Field Championships, a
chant rang out on the campus of
Ohio State University, the host
"It's great! To be! A Michigan
Of the remaining friends, family,
fans, and opponents few could dis-
agree with that claim.
On a weekend
that asked the TRACK
Xverines to
report at 9 a.m. at Commentary
a rival school to ---------------
compete at championship level, the
women responded with all the
enthusiasm, heart, and desire of a
champion - a conference champi-
"It was something we talked
about. It was something we wanted
t do," Michigan . coach James
ury said.
Henry was responding to his
teams goal of winning "back to
back" conference championships.
With an effort that seemed like
the tale of two cities, the two door
Indoor track and field champi-
onships ended with Michigan
accomplishing their goal of sealing
a second Big Ten title in as many
uring the 18-event competition,
t olverines experienced a string
of emotions that took them from the
pinnacle of glee to the cellar of dis-
belief. After day one of the two day
meet, the Wolverines found them-
selves down big to an extremely
dominant Wisconsin and Purdue
"Some of the girls are disappoint-

ed," assistant coach Mike McGuire
said of their team's placing after day
More disappointing is the fact
that the Wolverines ended the day
by finishing second in an event they
should have won.
The distance medley relay asked
four Wolverines to try and regain
some of the confidence that may
have been lost because of the sur-
prising dominance of the other Big
Ten schools.
During the 11:41 second race -
which happened to be the main
event of the day - Michigan saw a
familiar sight - a Badger passing
them on the outside. This time, dis-
belief was the prevailing emotion.
And in case it seemed like some-
how the Wolverines would find a
way to turn on the jets, a freshman
Badger running the anchor made
sure there would be no extra thrust
for the Wolverines.
Although this event resulted in a
loss of only two points in the final
tally, it still set a tone that would
carry into the evening and the final
day of competition.
Sophomore Erin White who gave
up the lead for the Wolverines when
she was handed the baton from lead-
off runner Katie McGregor, couldn't
hold back the disappointment.
Those tears represented the emo-
tion that this competition was all
After the Wolverines were pre-
sented their Big Ten Championship
trophy the next day, a much calmer
White reflected on the event.
"I wish I could have contributed
more for the team," she said.
Perhaps a little too critical of her-
self, this event was not about indi-
vidual performance - neither is

this team.
"It took a collective effort," said
This consummate performance
was all the more apparent to
Michigan's star athlete when she
reflected on her performance on the
first day.
"I'm not too happy with it," she
said of her time in the 3,000 meters.
"I didn't help the team out. I hope to
do something tomorrow."
When Sunday eventually came
the Wolverines showed up.
They did this with the help of a
well though out plan of attack,
devised by McGuire.
"I do a projection sheet," he said.
I know what they have coming in
and I plan accordingly."
Step one of this plan was to get
Sunday off to a good start by a win
in the high jump, which senior
Nicole Forrester supplied, and a
strong day of running to follow. The
latter was accomplished by having
11 track qualifiers to Purdue's five.
This plan that took a season to
develop and about six hours to be
carried out.
With it was created a kaleido-
scope of emotions that were dis-
played on each and every Wolverine
in French Field House.
And as time goes by, and the
months give way to years, these
memories and lessons are the things
that will remain. These things will
last longer than any championship
plaque or team victory photo.
So in future years when fans gaze
through a display case at the 1999
women's track & field team's
accomplishments, all that will be
left will be a picture. A picture
worth a 1000 words, and written
with a heavy hand of emotion.

The Michigan men's track team suffered at Big Tens
because of a large contingent of freshmen.



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