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February 22, 1999 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-22

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8B -The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - February 22, 1999

O'Neill surprises competition;
takes Big Ten title in 400 IM

(

By Ichaei Kern
Daily Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS - On Friday night
in the biggest surprise of the meet, senior
Cathy O'Neill won her first Big Ten title
in the 400-yard individual medley.
Her time of 4:18.16 edged out defend-
ing champion Katy Kristoferson of
Minnesota by just .07 seconds.
When she touched the wall at the end
of the race, the crowd erupted in the
loudest cheers of the evening. Her team-
mates rushed to the side of the pool to
celebrate.
Her coach gave her a hug, pulling her
out of the pool.
"There is nobody I'd rather see do it'
Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. "I
got teary-eyed watching the swim at the
end of it."
Nobody expected O'Neill to win the
race. The event's program hyped two
Gophers, Kristoferson and freshman
Jinny Smedstad as the two swimmers to
look for in the event.
"I guess it's worth waiting four years
for' O'Neill said. "I didn't come in
expecting to win and I'm just happy that
we could pull things together."
When O'Neill swam to the fastest
time in the preliminaries, most around
the pool were surprised, to say the least.
"I like being the underdog," O'Neill
said. "It kind of freaked me out going in
first."
After O'Neill had fallen back to sixth
in the finals during the backstroke, it
appeared as if she might have used
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everything she had that morning in the
preliminaries. But in the last two legs of
the race, O'Neill's strongest, she slowly
worked her way past the other swim-
mers, taking the lead into the final
stretch.
With Kristoferson gaining on her,
O'Neill used all she had left to get to
wall first by a split second.
"I definitely used it all up and a little
extra' O'Neill said. "Emotion is what
got me to the wall"
O'Neill has been known throughout
her career at Michigan for being one of
the hardest workers and fiercest com-
petitors on the team. But the breaks
never seemed to go her way.
Shescame close many times to making
the NCAA Championships but was
always cut off, just short of qualifying.
"I remember one year in particular
that I didn't think she needed to rest and
swim again." Richardson said. "I told her
she was in and I was wrong. She missed
the meet"
O'Neill said she peaked in high
school, struggling once she got to col-
lege.
Racing had always come easy to her,
but suddenly it stopped happening for
her. O'Neill struggled through a number
of differentpractices and training groups
but nothing really seemed to click.
"I swam consistently but I knew there
was something else there" O'Neill said.
"I'm just glad Jim never gave up on me."
Last year, when O'Neill lost to
Kristoferson in the 400 IM, it looked as

The Michigan
women's swhl'
ming and diving
team couldn't
overcome
Minnesota this

season, and saw
their streak of 12
Big Ten titles
come to an end.
' KRISTIN GOBLE/ Daily
Wo-men are runners-up at Big Tens

r
2

KRISTIN GOBLE/Daily
Michigan coach Jim Richardson con-
gratulates Cathy O'Neill on her victory,
if she might never wim it all and go to
NCAAs.
Kristoferson was only a freshman and
sure to improve on her time. Going into
the meet this year, Kristoferson had the
fastest time in the Big Ten and was
favored to repeat.
"She has her picture on the wall at
Minnesota as the hardest worker they
have;' O'Neill said. "I consider myself a
hard worker, too.
"I went into the race thinking, 'If
you're the best Minnesota has, this is
Michigan's program. Let's see who
works harder."'
O'Neill is excited about the NCAA
Championships in March.
"Anything there is just icing on the
cake," O'Neill said.

us."
Shakespeare was the outstanding
scorer of the meet for Michigan, gar-
nering 54 points. Besides her second-
place finish in the100 free, she fin-
ished first in the 200 IM and second in
the 100 breaststroke.
She was also the anchor on the 400
free and 800 free relays that both took
first and swam the second leg of the
200 medley relay that took first as
well.
Eberwein, who returned to the
Wolverines after a two month lay off
from Epstein-Barr syndrome, finished
her Big Ten swimming career with 18
Big Ten titles - six individual and 14
on relays. Four of those titles came this

weekend, as she also swam in the 200
medley and 400 and 800 free relays to
go with her individual title in the 100
free.
"I really had no idea what to expect
and I just wanted to come and see what
I could do." Eberwein said. "By the last
day, I just figure that I would give
everything that I had left and see what
happened."
Also winning an individual title for
Michigan was senior Cathy O'Neill
who won the 400 IM. It was O'Neill's
first Big Ten title for the Wolverines.
Jen Crisman won the 100 back-
stroke, setting a Big Ten record with
her time of 54.23.
"After years of being with this team

and working hard for it, I just didn't
want to let anyone down," O'Neill said.
"I love everyone of (my teammates)
and they were all in the pool with me."
Despite not winning individual
titles, Sugar and freshman Lindsay
Carlberg, and junior Jenny Arndt were
also factors in Michigan's strong r-
formance.
All three participated in the relays
that won Big Ten titles and qualified
for NCAAs. Carlberg also finished
second in the 200 back and third in the
100 back.
"I was really excited because this is
my first time," Carlberg said. "I just
wanted to do the best for our team
because we needed it this year."

'M' streak ends, but heroes persevere

DAILY SPORTS.
SHAVED AND
TAPERED.

By Ryan C. Moloney
Daily Sports Writer
The streak began to crumble after
the first day - the rest was mere for-
mality.
The Minnesota women's swim-
ming and diving team - so often the
bridesmaid but never the bride -
had claimed 181.5 points to
Michigan's 134 when all was said
and done.
With two more days of competi-
tion left, and Minnesota's strongest
events still to
come, the Fat SWIMMING
Lady didn't
need to sing in Commentary
order to recog- -----------
nize the inevitable.
The magic that guided Michigan's
run of dominance atop the Big Ten
- 12 years, 12 titles -would final-
ly disappear into the cold darkness of
the Minnesota night.
While it wouldn't have been
admirable for the Wolverines to roll
over and die, it would have been
understandable.
Minnesota enjoyed all the luxuries
of a host team - the convenience of

a familiar pool, a raucous crowd
fueled by the Minnesota marching
band, a fan-friendly public address
announcer and above all, the incen-
tive of dethroning the perennial
champion in the Gophers' own
arena.
Even the Gophers themselves
played up their advantage to the
fullest-they brazenly sported T-
shirts after the first day stating in
noticeable bold letters: "IT'S OUR
TIME."
The eternally optimistic coach
Jim Richardson wouldn't sugar coat
the obvious: "We knew what the
math was after we graduated one of
the best classes in the country last
year.
You just can't replace them with
freshmen and expect them to com-
pete at that level-we're in a rebuild-
ing mode."
In swimming, depth pays the bills.
The Gophers only had two first-
place finishes for the weekend, but
dressed more than 20 swimmers to
Michigan's eight.
Then something happened.
Whatever dread comes with the

inevitability of loss was lost on the
Wolverines.
In nearly every event they entered
over the remaining two days the
Wolverines dominated - from their
impressive relay victories to their
sweep in the 100 freestyle.
But what will remain and endure
in the memories of all who attended
these championships, was the cast of
favorites and unlikely heroes who
swam up to their capabilities, and in
some cases, past them.
One of those, Michigan's Cathy
O'Neill, was the patron saint of
swimming hard luck for most of her
career - always the next swimmer
to go to the big meets and always
coming just short of the standard in
spite of her reputation as the hardest
worker on the team.
In one breathtaking moment,
O'Neill shed all the doubts and dis-
appointments and captured a Big Ten
title in the 400-meter individual
medley - her first Big Ten title in
four tries.
Another hero? How about Jennie
Eberwein? Also a senior, her name
became synonymous with her

famous "Epstein-Barr" syndrome
which knocked her out for the latter
half of the season.
Who could have guessed she'd
return from the form of mononucleo-
sis, much less perform up to her All-
American standards?
Yet there she was on Saturo,
defending her Big Ten title in the 100
free and swimming on all the
freestyle relays.
The usual suspects - Shannon
Shakespeare, Missy Sugar, Jenny
Crisman and Lindsay Carlberg
exceeded their usual high expecta-
tions, shouldering the burden of rac-
ing in numerous events on all three
days without a single complaint-
no matter how painful it became.
In fact, if it weren't for the sco e-
board there would be little dispute as
to who the real winners of the Big
Ten meet were.
"Not all winners are champions,"
Richardson said. "This is a champi-
onship team - they get the big pic-
ture and they see what's really
important."
Perhaps it was time for the
Wolverines as well.

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Dawgs bite gymnasts

By Vaughn R. Kiug
Daily Sports Writer
A margin of .825 is all that separat-
ed the No. 5 Michigan women's gym-
nastics team from the best squad in the
nation-Georgia.
Competing before 9,217 fans in
Athens' Stegeman Coliseum on
Friday, the Wolverines achieved their
highest team score of the season, yet
suffered their first road loss of the sea-
son as the Lady Bulldogs edged them,
197.200-196.375.
The highlight of the evening was tri-
captain Sarah Cain's all-around victo-
ry. Marking her fourth consecutive all-
around title, Cain tied her season best
with a score of 39.600.
"Sarah is getting into her zone and
has truly competing with confidence
lately," Michigan coach Bev Plocki
said. "A lot of the athletes she compet-
ed against have the potential to win a
national championship in the all-
around and she defeated each of
them:'

En route to her all-around title, Cain
secured a first place on the floor exer-
cise with a 9.900. Thanks to four gym-
nasts scoring a 9.800 or better, the
Wolverines bettered Georgia onte
floor, 49.150-49.025.
"It was nice to see the team compete
with such confidence on the floor,"
Plocki said. "Showings like that bring
our team one step closer to being com-
petitive in all four events."
As for the beam, Cain again reigned
supreme with a nearly perfect score of
9.950. Senior Kathy Burke's 9.900
marked a career high and was good
enough to earn her fourth-place.
Coming into the meet ranked firs n
the nation on the vault, Michigan per-
formed accordingly, with a team score
of 49.300 thanks to strong showings
from Cain and Nikki Peters who fin-
ished in third- and fifth-place, respec-
tively. The Wolverines were unable to
prevail on the vault, though, as
Georgia dazzled the judges and earned
a 49.500.

f ..

*1

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