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November 29, 1999 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-29

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SportsMonday - November 29, 1999 - The Michigan Daily - 3B

* That's
Men's cross country
.never missed a beat





|Teeing Off
Pnde, desire make prep
football worth watchig

By Ryan C. Moloney
Daily Sports Writer
They say there are two sides to
every story.
For the 1999 Michigan men's cross
country team, there is a correct side
and a better side.
Statistically, the Wolverines were
down this year - second place at
Big Tens after two straight years of
titles, a third at the Great Lakes
regional after a second-place show-
ing last year, and a drop from fourth
to fifth in the national standings.
But to judge the Wolverines solely
on their numbers this year is to lose
sight of what this team, and what this
sport, is all about.
The Wolverines were a team in the
fullest sense of the word.
When they ran well, it was collec-
tive - nobody took the credit above
anybody else.
"When they ran badly, it was more
of the same - nary a finger was
After watching the Wolverines
throughout a typical race day, from
warm-ups, to the race, to the cool-
&own, to the awards ceremony, you
got the feeling that the final score
was actually secondary to something
much more important - brother-
"We're like a family," Jay Cantin
said. "This team is one of the best in

Michigan's history and we really
didn't know for a while if we could
do well this season."
The element of camaraderie isn't
as trivial as you might think - not
every team has it.
Even at Michigan, some teams are
content to compete together in prac-
tice and in races, then scatter when
it's over.
Compare them with this team,
which lives together in two houses.
A team's success, as well as its
cancer, usually starts at the top. Give
credit to the two captains, Cantin and
Steve Lawrence. The "Canadian con-
nection" shouldered all the expecta-
tions left over from the Sullivan-
Mortimer-Snyder days and they did
it with the typical humble grace of a
couple of guys from Ontario.
And let's not forget about coach
Ron Warhurst, for whom the phrase
"tough-love coaching" was created.
Even the eternally optimistic cross
country legend couldn't have imag-
ined such a season after half the pro-
gram graduated or used up their eli-
gibility last year.
Now that Cantin and Lawrence are
moving on, there's reason to worry,
right? Deja vu all over again?
"We're excited," Mark Pilja said.
"We know we're going to rise to the
This story just gets better and better.

Senior Steve Lawerence stepped up this season along with fellow captain Jay
Cantin to fill the shoes of departed stars John Mortimer and Todd Snyder.

'M' women succeeded despite injuries

By David Hoan
O y Sports Writer
it is natural, when a season ends, to
attempt to gauge its success. Success is
difficult to determine in intercollegiate
sports, where becoming a true champion
is a nearly unattainable task.
A championship was not in the cards
for the 1999 women's cross country
team, and their successes came not on
the leader boards of their meets, but in
their ability to maintain national promi-
nence through desperate and determined
The 1998 season ended with a nation-
al champion - current assistant coach
Katie McGregor - and an 11th-place
team finish at nationals.
There was no potential individual
standout on the 1999 squad, but coach
Mike McGuire expected a stronger team.
effort throughout the season, which
would hopefully lead to an improvement
over last season's showing at the nation-
al meet.
But for a team hindered by injuries to
key runners all season long, even mak-
ing it to nationals would require a
tremendous effort from each runner that
remained in the lineup.
Wedefinitely could have been bet-
ter" McGuire said. "We were missing
three key people - (Katy) Radkewich,
(Lyndsi) Gay, and (Erin) White. In
review of the season, I consider it pretty
* good, given what we have. But consider-
ing the standard of excellence (at
Michigan), it was not such a good sea-
The past successes McGuire was
referring to were as follows: four Big Ten
individual champions, three NCAA
regional individual champions, one indi-
vidual national champion, three Big Ten
team championships, three NCAA
regional team championships, and one
second-place team finish at the national
meet, in 1994.
There have been 18 All-Americans
representing the maize and blue, and one
U pmber of the Big Ten's All-Decade
team - Mindy Rowand in 1991.
This year Michigan saw early suc-
,cess. A first-place finish in early
September against Michigan State was
a promising beginning.
But the team fell on hard times, as
September turned into October.
Disappointing finishes against top
national opponents, such as Arkansas
and Nebraska, at the Sam Bell
Invitational and the Wolverine
Invitational, caused the team to recon-
sider its goals for the season.
"We've been hurting from all the
injuries,"said junior Lisa Oullet after the
Sam Bell. "But we'll keep working, and
we'll be able to run with anyone, includ-
ing Wisconsin"
When the Wolverines returned t
State College for the Big Ten

Championships, they nearly did.
A second-place finish to the Badgers
gave the team a tangible accomplish-
ment in what had been a rapidly worsen-
ing season. Oullet finished seventh,
earning her All-Big Ten honors. Junior
Katie Clifford finished twelfth, two spots
ahead of senior Elizabeth Kampfe. Each
performance made them All-Big Ten
"We answered the challenge" said
McGuire after the race. "We came in
with a goal, and we attained it."
The Wolverines had been teetering in
and out of the national rankings all sea-
son, but by upsetting then No. 16 ranked
Michigan State and No. 17 Minnesota,
Michigan climbed to the No. 15 spot.
Two weeks later the team ran at the
Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute,
Ind. Oullet, who had been Michigan's
top performer in each race of the season,
performed well below par while battling
the flu.
But her stumble was not a problem for
what was turning out to be a fairly deep
team. Clifford, Kampfe, senior Marcy
Akard, and sophomore Katie Ryan all
ran what McGuire said was their "best
races of the season."
So good, in fact, that Michigan placed
third behind Wisconsin and Michigan
State, and found themselves in a position
to accept an at-large bid to the NCAA
"I think everything will fall into place,
just because we've been ,working so
hard," Clifford said after the regional, in
which she placed fifth overall. "We need
to keep the momentum going one more
week. We'll be training our butts off"
Receiving the bid was "not a shocking
surprise," Kampfe said on the Monday it
was awarded. "But it's a nice surprise.
Now it's like there's another season."
One week later in Bloomington that
second season came to an end.
A 15th-place finish among the
nation's best left the Wolverines effec-
tively where they began the season - on

the outside of the top 10, looking in. It
was not where McGuire likes to see his
"We should have been a top 10 team,"
McGuire said. "That's the standard we
set here. Big Tens was probably the high-
light of the season, and we did a pretty
good job in dealing with a lot of things.
We need to recharge our batteries, and
use the track season to get these guys
running better. Next year we'll have
some good experience, some team lead-
ers. We can re-establish this program."
For seniors Kampfe and Akard, this
season was their last at Michigan.
Kampfe leaves as an NCAA All-
American, NCAA Regional Champion,
Three-time All-Big Ten Second-Team
member and All-Big Ten First-Team
member. Akard ran to All-Big Ten
Second-Team honors in 1996, and has
been a emotional presence on the team
for four years.
"Kampfe gave us a great effort this
year," McGuire said. "You have to
applaud her effort. She contributed cer-
tain intangibles to this team that you
don't always see. Marcy came on so
strong at the end (of the season) and
helped us out a lot"
The Wolverines fought all season to
stay out of the doctor's office and in the
national rankings. The loss of Kampfe
and Akard was painful, but next year is
promising. Clifford and Oullet will race
in their final year, and bring years of
experience and excellence to their roles
as team leaders.
Current freshman Jeanne Spink, who
stepped up with impressive perfor-
mances in the final meets of the season,
and Gay, who was among the
Wolverine's fallen this season, will rep-
resent the distant future of this team as
they move into consistent top-five roles
next year.
What is the proper instrument for the
measurement of success? The answer to
that question is hard to know for sure.
Success is not gauged by numbers - it's

RVING, Tex. - Thanksgiving has
always been one of my favorite holi-
days of the year. I love the ridiculous
amount of food that is served, the fel-
lowship that comes from seeing your
family for the first time in months and
the nonstop amount of football that is
shown on television.
The football is the greatest thing
about Thanksgiving. You watch the
Detroit Lions, eat a gargantuan meal,
and then fall asleep on the couch while
watching the Dallas Cowboys.
But football on Thanksgiving is not
a one-day thing. Not even close. The
whole weekend is chock full of pigskin
fun, as college football teams war
against each other for the right to eat
leftover stuffing from the days before.
But colleges aren't the only schools
that take part in the football fun during
this holiday weekend. Thanksgiving
weekend is huge for high school foot-
ball as well, as the state playoffs are in
full steam.
In Michigan, Thanksgiving is the
time where high school football ends.
Championships are played, winners are
crowned, and memories are made
before the cold winter winds hit the
state with full force.
But in Texas, where I went to high
school, Thanksgiving isn't the end of
the season. In a state as gaga over foot-
ball as Texas is, the season is never
over. But while the playoffs end the
weekend before Christmas, only the
best teams are playing when
Thanksgiving comes around.
The Woodlands High School, my
alma mater, is usually sitting on the
couch letting Thanksgiving dinner
digest at this time. While The
Woodlands usually makes the playoffs,
the Highlanders tend to have things go
wrong for them once they enter them..
Missed field goals. Fumbles.
Controversial calls from the officials. It
seems as if every year my alma mater
finds a new way to lose a Texas high
school playoff game.
But this year was different. For the
first time in nine years, the
Highlanders made it to Thanksgiving
weekend. Thanks to this, the
Highlanders got to leave the confines
of Moorehead Stadium - a high
school stadium that would put some
Division I-A stadiums to shame - and
traveled to Texas Stadium to play Plano
East High School.
If high school football in Texas is a
religion - and there is a lot of people
who say that it is - then Texas
Stadium is its mecca. Being the home
of the Dallas Cowboys, the closest
thing football has to a cultural icon,
playing in Texas Stadium as a high
schooler is a big deal.
I really didn't realize what a big deal
it was until I sat in the fourth row at
midfield of the stadium. Having been

at Michigan for four seasons, I had
been spoiled with the place where I
saw football games six or seven times a
I assumed that every player knew
what it was like to play in a big game
at a big stadium. I looked down on
games with less-than-sellout crowds
and games that didn't have teams
ranked in the top 25 were meaningless
to me.
The game between The Woodlands
and Plano East didn't come close to
filling the 70,000 seats at Texas
Stadium. Except for maybe a couple of
teams in Division II and III, neither
team could compete with a program at
the college level.
But the intensity and enjoyment
were there. I really never appreciated
high school football when I was in high
Although I did write about it during
that time, I can't say I ever really got
emotionally involved in it.
Maybe it was because I knew most
of the players personally. Maybe it was
because some of the guys on the team
had the athletic skills of a sportswriter.
Maybe it was because they were dating
the girls I wanted to dat..
I don't know what it was, but I just
didn't care about how my h h school
team did. I even got pleasure in ripping
on classmates about their performances
once in a while.
But Saturday at Texas Stadium -
my first high school football game in
four years - it was different. I was
cheering with vigor, hoping to see The
Woodlands progress to the regional
finals, something it had never done
Plano East ripped the Highlanders
38-15, but it was still a great game. I
got to see young kids, many of whom
will never put shoulder pads on ever
again, play on a field that many of their
heroes had graced. That in itself was
worth the four-hour drive my family
and I made from our Houston suburb
to the Dallas area.
Something has definitely changed
during the past four years for myself.
I'm pretty sure that high school foot-
ball has stayed the same, so maybe it
was something in me that has changed.
Or maybe it was The Woodlands
changing their fight song. Instead of
some random tune that I didn't even
pay attention to when I was in school,
the fight song was changed to mirror a
famous college fight song.
Yes, The Woodlands High School's
new fight song sounds exactly like
"The Victors." While I was the only
one pumping my right fist when it was
played, I'm sure it will catch on.
Like high school football caught on
with me.
- 7J Berka can be reached via e-mail
at berkat@umich.edu

Michigan turned in a gutty performance
this season despite suffering a number
of injuries.
not really gauged at all. Success for
Michigan women's cross-country is a
story that is neither simple, nor com-

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