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November 04, 1999 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-04

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16A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 4, 1999

The Daily Grind=
Tikers'move Battle with Badgers
impressiv, to continue for 'M'
butn k By Ryan C. Moloney observers have never seen - a swag-
Daily Sports Writer ger.

0

c man leaned over the Tiger
TStadium dugout, straining to catch
Bob Iligginson as he walked back
from batting practice.
"Bobby! Can you spare a bat?" The
man's son, obviously the recipient of
such a gift if it ever materialized,
looked on from underneath a Tigers hat
that was at least two sizes too big.
"Sorry," Higginson, the Tigers right-
fielder said, barely looking up as he
ducked into the dugout.
Moments later, the fan tried again.
"Sure we can't get a bat, Bob?"
"I like this one, alright?" ligginson
snapped, gestur- _
ing toward the Andy
lumber in his
hand. The man Latack

and his son sunk
back into the
mass of fans
around the
dugout.
Wow. I'd hate

;

In the aftermath of Michigan's
heart-breaking two-point loss to
Wisconsin in the Big Ten meet, the
unflinchingly polite men's cross
country team captain, Jay Cantin,
left the verbal sparring gloves at
home instead, he gave due praise
to his team's courage in facing up to
the Badgers.
"Everybody is a little disappoint-
ed," Cantin said. "But we now know
that we are capable of the next step
we're one of the top teams in the
country."
But round one of this epic bout
with the Badgers was by no means a
knockout or a unanimous decision,
for that matter.
The Wolverines brought a Rocky
Balboa-type surge in the final mile
while Wisconsin, as favored as Ivan
Drago going into the meet, wobbled
like Glass Joe coming down the
stretch.
There's a key intangible going into
"Michigan-Wisconsin 2" on Nov. 13
in Terra Haute, Ind. the distance
increases by a mile.
And not everybody is as diplomat-
ic as Cantin. ~
"Wisconsin shit themselves in the
last mile of Big Tens," sophomore
Tom Caughlan said, in reference to
one Wisconsin runner's unfortunate
gastrointestinal gaffe in the closing
meters of the race.
"We can't wait to (Yet that extra
mile on them, we want to get them
back."
Hell has officially frozen over, at
least from Madison to Ann Arbor,
because there is something present
in the rivalry between both steadfast
teams that many cross country

Not to say confidence isn't an
important ingredient for success -
where would the Wolverines be with-
out it?
"A big part of this sport is the
mind-set," Cantin said. "If you get
all your fears under control, you can
conquer anything.
"Just knowing we were capable of
running with (Wisconsin) was a big
step for us."
From a team standpoint, the
emphasis is on preparation for the
Great Lakes Regional. While the
mileage has increased somewhat, the
focus is on speed work.
The increased field at the NCAA
meet, assuming the Wolverines make
it there, does not lend itself to anoth-
er barn-burner with Wisconsin.
"Nationals is a crapshoot,"
Caughlan said. "You can lose ten
spots in ten seconds."
Miraculously, the Wolverines have
survived coach Ron Warhurst's sea-
son-long boot camp training regi-
ment with nary a nick everyone is
healthy.
"It's been amazing this year,"
Caughlan said. "Everybody's healthy
except for a couple of guys walking
around with walking-death comas
from workouts.
"We've fallen asleep in class a few
times."
Granted, the Badgers are the Big
Ten champions. But given the grad-
ual crescendo of the Wolverines in
the last month, the tale of the tape in
the southern tip of Indiana could be
all even for the deciding factor.
As Warhurst said earlier in the sea-
son, "this game is all about confi-
dence."

to see how
Higginson, who co -ex
hit a paltry .239 LATACK
last season for the
Tigers, swung a
bat he wasn't fond of. And Higginson
definitely could've found the kid a bat
- there were plenty of Tigers who
weren't using theirs last season.
But Detroit didn't have much to
smile about last year, when it was elim-,
inated from playoff contention before
the weather turned warm.
Visiting teams came to Detroit, took
care of business, and got the hell out of
there before they caught the Tigers' terri-
ble disease. The Tigers were testy. They
had a chip on their collective shoulders,
and probably with good reason.
With preseason expectations placing
the team in contention for the
American League wildcard, the public
wanted an explanation for the mediocre
start. Blame was assigned, with the
slumping Higginson joining offseason
signee Gregg Jefferies - a career .292
hitter that ended the season straddling
the Mendoza Line at .200 - as two of
many scapegoats.
Things got so ugly for the Tigers last
year that a shake-up had to be made.
And while general manager Randy
Smith let the trading deadline conec
and go without making a move, he did-
n't wait long after season's end to quiet
those criticisms.
Tuesday, Smith pulled the trigger on
one of the biggest blockbuster trades in
recent Tigers memory. Detroit gave up
six players to entice the Texas Rangers
to trade outfielder Juan Gonzalez - a
two-time American League MVP and
fearsome power hitter - to the Tigers.
Smnith is to be commended for this
deal. It took guts, and proved to fans
thatolhc Tigers are still determined to be
contenders. It also gives Detroit one of
the best batting orders, one through
nine, in the majors.
Smith also managed to keep his val-,
uedcore players in Detroit, with the
exception of starting pitcher Justin
Thompson, who was one of the six
players dealt. Second baseman Damion
Easley, first baseman Tony Clark, and
sky's-the-limit left fielder Juan
Enearnacion are still there.
But this deal is also frighteningly
dangerous. Gonzalez is in the last year
of his contract, and becomes a free
agent after next season'. There is a
chance Juan Gone will simply ride out
his days in Detroit, and seek greener
pastures and warmer weather to finish
his playing days.
This is the same player who refused
to palay in last year's All-Star Game
because he wasn't voted in as a starter,
not breaking any records for his
resiliency. In fact, there are rumors that
the Tigers plan to tradeGonzalez
before lhe even reports to Detroit.
Bpt the deal is just as dangerous for
G nzalez as it is for the Tigers. Smith
mnst be a smoother talker than Bill
Clinton, because he managed to gloss
over one crucial aspect of playing in
Datroit: It is a career wasteland; a place
where players go to die.
In addition to Jefferies' disaster in
the Motor City, the major leagues are
dotted with players who have gone on
to great things once they have shed the
Ol English D.' The Astros Jose Lima
and the Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzalez,
both former Tigers, put up career-highs
last season, winning 21 games and bat-
tig .336, respectively.
And I've been a Tiger fan too long to
bother getting excited about next sea-
son right now. If they are within shout-
ing distance of the wildcard next July
which means they'll be using their
cosiderable talent for once - then
there are grounds for excitement.
SI whie' its encniraui11utht Smith

LOUIS BROWN/ay
Even though he thinks that cross country runners are skinny guys in stupid-looking uniforms, Tom Caughlan puts everything
he has into helping the Wolverines defeat the Wisconsin Badgers in Saturday's Big Ten Championship in State College.
Infie-pt, CaugIanis tops,

By !on Schwartz
Daily Sports Writer
Usually, finishing as your team's fifth
man isn't very exciting, especially when
the event isn't your favorite.
"Cross country is skinny guys in stu-
pid-looking uniforms running .around,"
Michigan sophomore Tom Caughlan
said.
Caughlan considers himself more of a
miler and enjoys the shorter distances
much more. But his fifth-place Big Ten
Championship finish is the break-
through he has been waiting for.
The sophomore ran the best race of
his career as a Wolverine at last
Saturday's Big Ten Championship, fin-
ishing 15th overall and fifth for the
team.
For most of the season, Caughlan has
placed sixth or seventh for the
Wolverines, an impressive accomplish-
ment for the budding star. But his stand-
ings weren't enough to impact the
results, in which only the top five run-
ners count.
This past Saturday, however,
Caughlan shed his skin and ran the last
half-mile in a fashion that turned the
heads of all in attendance.
"Toni came really close to being the
hero," senior co-captain Steven
Lawrence said after Caughlan passed
10-12 people in the last half-mile.
Senior Jay Cantin, the team's other co-
captain, didn't agree. He felt that
Caughlan was the hero, despite the fact

that his late surge wasn't enough to pass
the two runners, that separated the
Wolverines from Wisconsin. The
Badgers eventually won the meet, edg-
ing Michigan by a score of 38-40.
Michigan coach Ron Warhurst
described the last stretch as emotional
and thrilling.
"Hie stormed up the hill, and I was
really excited," Warhurst said. "I was
thinking, he's going to do it, we're going
to win, alright!'. He's made a big mental
jump, and that's the name of the game."
Caughlan's run was not only noticed
by those involved with the Michigan
team. Matt Downin, Wisconsin's top
runner and Big Ten champion, watched
in frustration as the Michigan sopho-
more almost singlehandedly erased the
lead he had given to the Badgers.
The finish was impressive, but to
Caughlin, it was just in the making.
"I felt like I had the fitness to do it all
season," he said. "It was more of a men-
tal breakthrough than a physical one,
because physically, I was there all sea-
son."
The rest of the team "knew it was in
me, I just had to bust out"
Caughlan also noted that even the
brightest point in his career to date still
had a disappointing side to the story. He
knows that if he had passed two more
runners, Michigan could have three-
peated as Big Ten champion.
"Anytime you run a good race, you
think about it afterwards," Caughlan
said. "You think you should have pushed
harder there, or maybe you could have
worked harder in the fourth mile"
Warhurst, however, was quick to point
out that the most useless word in cross
country running is "if"
Caughlan, a Mason City, Iowa native,
transferred to Michigan in 1998 after

attending Colorado for one year. While
he had some success there, Michigan
seemed a more attractive option.
"I liked Ron as a coach more,"w
Caughlan said. "He's a character. I also;
felt that the training here would prepare
me more for the mile."
Warhurst stands behind his runner. He
believes in Caughlan's ability to become
a strong fifth man in the future.
"Tom's a student of the game of run-
ning, Warhurst said. "He trained hard
all summer and continued to train
throughout this season's meets.
"He knows what's going on. He
knows what he has to do. His confidence
level is as high as it's been
While he has yet to equal his best time
from his freshman year at Colorado,
Caughlan also sees himself as a potential
prominent runner for the Wolverines in
the years to come. He compares himself
to Mike Wisniewski, currently a junior
for the Michigan team.
"(Mike) came out of high-school 40th
in the state," he said. "Now he's on the,
team and consistently placed."
And he refuses to place himself
among the likes - of Cantin and
Lawrence, men who he dubbed "natural
superstars in cross country."
Instead, Caughlan competes from his
overall interest in running, the spark of
which came in his eighth-grade year,
when a runner from his town made it to
the Olympic Trials in 800 meters.
With the most important meets of the
season ahead in the next' three weeks,*
Caughlan's late surge at Big Ten's will be
seen as either overachievement or real-
ization of his true ability.
"(Before Saturday) I was concerned
with how I trained," Caughlan said.
"Now that I've done that, I'm concerned
with doing it again"

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