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March 26, 2001 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-03-26

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___The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 26, 2001- 3B

Beam problems resurface for 'M'

DAVID
DEN HERDER

By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Writer
The women's gymnastics Big Ten Championship
meet over the past decade has become one where
the only way Michigan can lose is if it beats itself.
Saturday night, it almost did. The Wolverines still
managed to take home the Big Ten title, finishing
with a team score of 197.150, holding off second-
place Penn State by .725.
But, the win didn't come with- GYMNASTICS
out some anxious moments. Notebook
After three spectacular rota-
tions, the Wolverines finished
their night on the event that has often proven to be
the thorn in their collective sides - the balance
beam. Michigan posted the best team scores of the
night on floor, bars and vault, and headed into its
last event with a comfortable lead. It was a cushion
that the Wolverines would find necessary.
After Janessa Grieco, Calli Ryals and Missy
Peterson began the beam with three solid scores, the
Wolverines turned to their rocks expecting to finish
off their ninth Big Ten title in 10 years in grand
fashion.
So when Karina Senior and Freshman of the Year
finalist Elise Ray sandwiched Shannon MacKen-
zie's near-flawless performance with falls, the
Wolverines' mood changed from excitement to con-.
CHAMPS
Continued from Page 1B

cern.
"We were all kind of quiet (after the falls),"
Senior said. "We were all thinking 'Oh my god, I
hope we didn't blow it.' We were nervous sitting
here waiting to hear the final scores."
Up until the beam, Ray was showing why she is
ranked in the top 10 in the country in the all-
around, going neck and neck in the individual all-
around competition with eventual individual
champion Alexis Maday of Iowa. But as is often the
case in gymnastics, one little mistake can be costly.
and that held true with Ray's fall on the beam.
"I had a great meet up to beam. It was just one of
those things I guess," Ray said of her fall. "I'm just
happy that it didn't affect the team, that's what I was
most worried about."
Adding to the tension of the moment was the fact
that the Wolverines had some uncertainty about
their position in the overall standings.
"I knew that we had a lead going into the beam
but I didn't know how much of a lead it was,"
Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. "When Elise
made her punch-front, I felt that we were home
free. I never expected her to have a problem on her
flight series.
"After that, it just kept running through my mind
that I didn't know whether our score was substantial
enough to have to count a fall and still be able to
pull it off. Thank goodness it was."

WOLVERINES AwARDED: In addition to capturing
yet another Big Ten title, Michigan turned the All-
Big Ten Team into a Wolverine celebration.
Christine Michaud, Bridget Knaeble, Senior,
Ryals, Grieco, Ray, MacKenzie, Amy Kuczera and
Cami Singer were all named to the team - com-
prising nine of the 22 gymnasts awarded with the
conference honor.
Knaeble was also a finalist for Gymnast of the
Year, and Plocki was a finalist for Coach of the Year.
CHALLENGING ROTATION: Seven teams took part
in the Big Ten Championship. Since there are just
four events, that meant three teams sat out three of
the seven rotations during the evening.
That aspect adds a level of difficulty that doesn't
come into play during dual meets. The gymnasts are.
forced to try to stay focused in a pressure situation
for up to 20 minutes in between events.
"It's difficult," Senior said. "You're ready to go
and then you have to calm down for a while and
then try to bring it up again. It's really draining."
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: The fact that Big Ten
titles have become expected for the Wolverines has-
n't done anything to take the thrill of victory away
- especially at home.
"Being in front of a home crowd is great," Ray
said. "It was just so.much more fun because we
were at home and had the crowd with us - It feels
wonderful to win."

Several angles to consider
regarding Yanks, Heno

Despite the problems towards the end, the Wolverines'
received many dominating performances from their stars
as well as role players. Seniors Bridget Knaeble and
Senior both recorded a 9.95 on the floor exercise to
begin the meet for the Wolverines, tying for second over-
all.
Michaud continued her dominance on the vault, win-
ning the event with a 9.95.
* "I was really nervous because I had a terrible warm up
and I was worried that I wouldn't even make it over the
horse," Michaud said. "But, Bev told me to put it on
'auto-pilot' and not think about it so much, soI stopped
thinking and just ran."
The uneven bars was deminated by Knaeble who won
the event with a 9.975.
"It was extremely exciting for me," Knaeble said. "We
already had a fall so we knew we couldn't have another-
one. It is great when you land and you know that you had
*a great routine and you could hear the crowd cheering.";
HANDING OUT AWARDS: After the meet, Big Ten all-
conference awards were handed out. Penn State star>
Katie Rowland took home the Big Ten Gymnast of the
Year award. Knaeble was among the five nominees for
the prestigious award.
Iowa's Alexis Maday, who was all-around champion r
for the meet, was named Big 'fen Freshman of the Year,
beating out several talented gymnasts, including Michi-
gan's Ray.
Although they did not bring home any individual
awards, nine Wolverines were named to the Big Ten all-f
*conference team.
"It feels good knowing that you are at the top of the
heap in the Big Ten," Michaud said. "It's a very competi- C
tive conference, and it feels good to know that I am there
along with many of my teammates"
Michigan will return to action in two weeks when it
hosts NCAA regional championships at Crisler Arena on
April 7. The Wolverines still feel that they have much
they can improve on before their next challenge.
"We really nailed our landings this meet, but there is
s much we can still do" Michaud said. "We can point ./
our toes, bend our knees better, stick every landing. ° y
Especially on the beam we can really improve. We have TOM FELOKAMP/Darfy
the potential to do better, and its nice to know that we are Junior Missy Peterson's balance beam performance helped get the Michigan women's gymnastics team off
on our way." on the right foot in an event that has vexed the Wolverines all season.
Sicilia no andmso

Drew Henson will not be play-
ing for Michigan next year.
And exactly what the hell are
we supposed to think about that?
Tough to say.
We, Michigan, haven't had much
time to digest the news. Henson, of
course, didn't have much time to make
the decision.
In the end, he said, it wasn't about
the money - oh, gosh, how much
was it again ... $17 million?
"I want to make it clear that it is my
boyhood dream, not economic factors,
that led me to this decision," stated
Henson on the pages of New York
City's tabloids yesterday. "Otherwise I
would have pursued lucrative opportu-
nities in the NFL Draft."
I can't imagine the situation is as
black-and-white as it appeared on
those pages. There's more to this than
football vs. baseball, money vs. happi-
ness, right vs. wrong.
Looking at it from different per-
spectives makes it awfully easy to
expenence a spectrum of emotions.
But from there, it's awfully hard to
settle on just one.
CONSIDER THE YANKEES: As the
saying goes, if you're standing still,
you're falling behind.
"It has been clear to me that the
opportunity presenting itself at this
time will not be there next January,"
Henson said at his press conference.
But why give Henson a "now or
never" ultimatum? Does Yankees
owner George Steinbrenner, that rot-
ten Ohio State alum, simply have it in
for the Wolverines?
Doubtful. There are at least three
good reasons to be so aggressive.
First, the Yanks need a third base-
man. Their current man, Scott Bro-
sius, is in the twilight of his career and
the final year of his contract. By
inducing Henson to quit Michigan and
dedicate himself completely to the
organization, New York could have a
well-groomed replacement to fill the
position by the 2002 season.
Second, they can't risk injury. If the
Yankees invest in Henson at third
base, they can't allow him to play
tackle football anymore. Period.
And third, letting Henson play out
his senior year could potentially make
him the No. I draft prospect for the
NFL, which could potentially create a
bidding war for the phenom. It's
something the Yanks would rather
avoid.
You almost have to admire the
tenacity of the Yankees front office.
It's quite a gamble to put $17 million
on a kid that hasn't taken a single
swing in the Bigs.
But why hasn't this offer come from
the Yankees sooner, say before the
spring recruiting deadline, so that
Michigan might have the chance to
find a replacement of its own?
Because until last week, Henson's
rights hadn't been reacquired from the
Cincinnati Reds.
CONSIDER THE CINCINNATI REDS:
Here's a team that, for whatever rea-
son, felt it could not sign ace pitcher
Denny Neagle to a contract extension
last year, so it traded Neagle to the
Yankees. In exchange, the Reds
received several players including
Henson.
The Reds could not have known
then how adverse Henson would be to
signing with them.
It may be true that Cincinnati could
never have convinced Henson to give

up the Heisman Trophy - but the
question is, could the Reds even
afford to try? For that matter, how
many teams really can afford to blow
$17 million on a hunch?
You almost have to hate the Yankees
for being able to drop that kind of
cash on a good feeling. You almost
have to be frustrated with Major
League Baseball for not leveling the
playing field, for not capping payrolls
to ensure a competitive market.
You almost have to feel sorry for
the Reds, who, after the smoke has
cleared, are without the services of
either Denny Neagle or Drew Henson.
CONSIDER DREW HENSON: Money
isn't everything. There's no doubt that
a healthy Henson would have been"the
top overall pick in next year's NFL;,.
draft. And as the new quarterback of
the expansion Houston Texans, Hen'
son's signing bonus alone could have
rivaled his entire current deal with the
Yankees.
The question is, would you rather,.
play for the best team in baseball, Qr
the worst team in football? -
It's no secret that Henson's day-
dreams include pinstripes and summer
evenings at Yankee Stadium. They,,
also included Michigan football -
and for a while, he had the best of
both worlds - refusing to obey Sten-
brenner's requests that he give up the
gridiron.
But Henson's wake-up-call trade to
Cincinnati apparently made him real-
ize how badly he desired to be a part
of the Yankee tradition - for many
years to come.
"I cannot risk turning it down
again," Henson said.
And since his new contract is frot-
loaded, a possible owners' lockout in
the 2002 season (for not leveling they
playing field, for not capping payrolUI)
would only cost Henson about $1 mij-
lion.
You almost have to feel proud of"
Henson for realizing his lifelong aspi-
ration.
And you almost have to feel bad
that he's being forced to decide
between his two daydreams - the
Yankees and Michigan.
CONSIDER MICHIGAN: The Wolver-
ines lose their play-making, game
breaking quarterback. Maybe the
chance at a special season.
Henson's one year atthe helm did
bring the Wolverines a Big Ten title,
and gave fans a glimpse at a truly
amazing talent.
How might things be different if the
Wolverines had known sooner? Might
Michigan have landed another big,
name recruit? A replacement, even?
Tough to say.
You almost have to feel disappoint-
ed knowing what might have been in
2001.
But Lloyd Carr knew what he was
getting into when Henson signed on
the dotted line three years ago.
"In a perfect world, I could have fin-
ished my football career at Michigan
and then gone on to play third base for
the New York Yankees;' Henson said.
And you know, somewhere deep
down, that Henson's agonizing dei-
sion is probably the right one to make.
But sitting in Ann Arbor these days,
you almost wish it were a perfect
world.
The Associated Press contributed to
this story. David Den Herder can be
reached at dden@umich.edu

By Courtney Lewis
Daily Sports Writer
His heart was pounding, he was
sweating, and the race hadn't even
stated yet. When Michigan junior Tim
Siciliano lined up for the 400-yard
swimming individual medley Friday
night in College Station, Texas he was
nervous. Really nervous.
"Probably more nervous than I've
ever been in my whole life," Siciliano
said.
Never mind that he was the two-time
defending champion and he had
already swam a personal best in the
preliminaries. This was the NCAA
Championship - the biggest meet of
the year and the one he'd been working
towards since the beginning of the sea-
son. He was going up against the best
collegiate swimmers in the nation and
they were all gunning for him. He was
the one to beat.
As if that wasn't enough pressure,
iciliano looked over and saw Eric
WVendt, a 2000 Olympic silver medal-
list.
Facing a swimmer of that caliber
"really does intimidate me," Siciliano

said. "You're sitting next to a silver
medallist and one of the best swimmers
in the world. But it also gives you con-
fidence."
So when the race finally started,
Siciliano jumped out to an early lead
and then fought through the final laps
to edge out Vendt with a time of
3:40.77. He became only the fourth
swimmer to win three consecutive
NCAA titles in the event.
After three consecutive second-place
finishes in previous NCAA Champi-
onships, senior Chris Thompson put
enormous importance on winning a
championship in his final collegiate
race.
He was favored to win both the 500
freestyle and the 1,650 free, but he
missed the 500 title by three tenths of a
second on Thursday night.
Thompson's hopes of an NCAA
championship rested on Saturday
night's performance in the mile. But he
brushed off the pressure and blew away
his competitors, setting a personal best
of 14:26.62 in the 1,650 and smashing
Michigan alum Tom Dolan's NCAA
and American record of 14:29.31.
With outstanding performances by

Klete Keller and Troy Dumais, power-
house Texas dominated the meet and
earned 597.5 points on its way to
claiming the national title for the sec-
ond year in a row. Stanford took sec-
ond, 140 points behind the Longhorns.
Michigan came in 10th with 161
points - achieving its pre-meet goal
of placing in the Top 10.
Siciliano also swam an outstanding
race and finished second to Thompson
in the 1,650, and freshman Dan
Ketchum came in 13th.
Ketchum also had two seventh-place
finishes in the 200 and the 500
freestyle.
Also earning points, senior captain

Scott Werner had a strong showing in
the 200 breaststroke, finishing 10th.
The 800 freestyle relay team of
Siciliano, Thompson, Ketchum and
Garrett Mangieri clinched third place,
and Ketchum and Mangieri teamed up
with Werner and Jordan Watland to
earn points in the 400 medley relay
with 15th place.
Michigan's finish was even more
impressive because while several elite
teams took as many as 17 swimmers,
only nine Wolverines qualified.
"The whole Michigan performance
was a success," head coach Jon
Urbanchek said. "We had a very small
team, but it was pretty mighty."

RPM

Hyman Bass
Roger C. Lyndon Collegiate
Professor of Mathematics and
Professor of Mathematics Education

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