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April 10, 2002 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-04-10

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14-The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Gymnast reflects
on triumphant
career for Blue
By Matt Kramer
Daily Sports Writer
Four years ago, Shannon MacKenzie was planning
on becoming just another freshman at Michigan State.
A solid club gymnast, MacKenzie didn't really consid-
er competing in college, and since most of her family
had gone to school at Michigan State, it just seemed
natural that the Midland native would become a Spar-
tan too.
But during her senior year of high school, a judge at
one of MacKenzie's club competitions told MacKenzie
to think about walking on at Michigan.
"I had been to one college competition in my life
before I came to school," MacKenzie said. "I went
down to Ann Arbor, took one look at it, and decided
that this was the place for me."
MacKenzie couldn't have made a better choice.
The senior has gone from a walk-on to becoming a
significant contributor on one of the nation's perennial
powers. During Mackenzie's career, the Wolverines
have taken home four straight Big Ten Championships
and qualified for four straight NCAA Championships.
Individually, MacKenzie has been a two-time All
American, a three-time All-Big Ten honoree and a
three-time scholastic All-American.
Michigan coach Bev Plocki provided MacKenzie
with the ultimate compliment earlier this year when
she said that "Shannon was the most improved gym-
nast" in her 13-year career as a coach.
In her first three years in Ann Arbor, MacKenzie
was penciled in only as a beam specialist, but after
numerous injuries hit the Wolverines early this year
the senior stepped up in January and competed in the
all-around competition for Michigan.
MacKenzie's career almost came to an abrupt end
last Saturday at the NCAA Northeast Regional Cham-
pionships at State College.
Trailing Iowa going into the last rotation, the vault,
Michigan needed to score .2 higher on the vault than
whatever Iowa scored on its last rotation, the floor
exercise.
MacKenzie once again stepped up for Michigan, as
she scored a clutch 9.8 on the vault to propel the
Wolverines past Iowa and into the NCAA Champi-
onship field.

Webb loses Sullivan Award to Kwan

NEW YORK (AP) - Michelle Kwan had a different
reason to cry this time.
Kwan, the most accomplished figure skater of her
generation, won the 2001 Sullivan Award as the
nation's top amateur athlete last night.
"I'm already a little teary-eyed," Kwan said. "I
always wanted to be a legend. ... It feels like a dream
come true."
Kwan said she was humbled to have won the same
award as Dick Button, who took the Sullivan in 1949
- the only other figure skater to win the award.
Despite her four world championships and six U.S.
titles, Kwan might be best known for finishing second
behind Tara Lipinski in the 1998 Winter Olympics and
third behind Sarah Hughes in the 2002 Games.
Michigan middle distance runner Alan Webb was
also a finalist for the award.
"I don't plan on getting to legend status for a while,"
Webb said. "I'm at the beginning of my career."
Webb first made a splash on the national scene this
past summer, when he surpassed the American high
school record in the mile (3:53.43), breaking Jim
Ryan's 36-year-old mark of 3:55.3.
As a Wolverine this fall, Webb was named an All-
American after he led Michigan's cross country team to
an 11th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Michigan's freshmen sensation has not participated
in a collegiate track meet because of tendonitis in his
Achilles, but he is expected to make his debut in the
next two weeks.
Besides Webb, Kwan beat three other finalists for the
Sullivan: Swimmer and Olympic hopeful Natalie
Coughlin of California; Chicago Cubs pitching
prospect Mark Prior; and gymnast Sean Townsend. All
five finalists attended the ceremony, which was held at
the New York Athletic Club.
Coughlin narrowly missed going to the Sydney
Olympics in 2000 and hopes to represent the United
States in Athens. Prior was the Cubs' second pick in
last June's amateur draft. Townsend won the first indi-
vidual gold at the world championships for an Ameri-
can man since 1979, when Bart Conner won the
parallel bars and Kurt Thomas won the floor exercise
and high bar.
But Kwan has all of those prestigious titles to her
name, as well as millions of dollars in endorsements.
The only gap in her skating resume is that elusive
Olympic gold medal.
She has not decided yet whether she will try for gold
in 2006 in Turin, Italy. But it's a question she can't
avoid.
"I got that four years ago, and I'm getting it now,"
Kwan said. "A lot of people think I'm older than I am."
She would be 25 then - old by women's figure skat-
ing standards - and at her fourth Olympics.

64

ALYSSA WOOD/Daily
As a walk-on, gymnast Shannon MacKenzie did not envision
helping lead Michigan to four NCAA championship berths.
"I knew we were close to Iowa, and I think I knew
more than I was supposed to," said MacKenzie, whose
teammates said after the meet that they didn't know
how close the meet was. "We all needed to hit, and we
did it. That's what counts."
MacKenzie and the Wolverines have one more
chance to hit their routines two weeks from now at the
NCAA Championships.
Michigan finished second in the nation when
MacKenzie was a freshman, sixth when she was a
sophomore and third last year.
"I've been preparing for next week to be the end of
my career for some time, so I want to go out and hit
my routines. But more importantly, I want the team to
do well." MacKenzie said.
Even if MacKenzie and the Wolverines don't accom-
plish their goal of winning a national championship,
the senior has been able to do something that she never
imagined possible.
"I got my mom, a Michigan State alum, to sing 'The
Victors' at our meets," MacKenzie said. "That's saying
something."

4

DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily
Michigan track star Alan Webb set a new record for the high
school mile and was named an All-American in cross country.
In 1994, she was an alternate to the U.S. team as
skating officials pondered barring Tonya Harding from
going to Lillehammer. Kwan went to Norway and
trained for an Olympic appearance that never came
when Harding was allowed to compete.
"Who cares? Give it one more shot. I'm not over the
hill. If you have the desire, go for it," Kwan said. "I
don't think it's necessary for me to make a decision
right now."

CHIPPEWAS
Continued from Page 12
plate, other bats in the dugout will
begin to warm up. Confidence is
paramount when hitting is con-
cerned.
"These guys are capable and they
know it," Harrison said. "A lot of
times it takes one or two guys to get
hot and the other guys relax. One or
two guys start picking up those big
RBIs, and then it gets contagious

throughout the team."
One of those bats could be Fox's.
Last year, Fox led the team in bat-
ting with a .395 average in confer-
ence play. He proved his prowess at
the plate over the duration of the Big
Ten season, but this year his average
is down to .245, and he is struggling
to find his swing.
But after a near-.400 season last
year, Fox is confident that he can get
back to where he was before. His
early season struggles have not

deterred him from approaching the
game he loves with confidence.
"I just haven't found my groove
yet," Fox said. "You go out every
day and you go play a game you
love to play and have fun at it.
Sometimes things just don't fall
your way. I think that at times,when
things aren't going your way, you
still gotta go out and approach a
game like it was going your way.
Sooner or later, they are going to
fall for me."

CENTRAL
Continued from Page 12
one of the top 10 teams in the
Mideast region as part of the
NCAA's bi-weekly poll.
So even with a huge four-game
weekend (with two games each
against Minnesota and Wisconsin)
on the horizon, a letdown that
might be expected in a mid-week
game such as today's contests is
unlikely.
Today's "game will be easier to

get up for than some of the weaker
opponents in the Big Ten that we
know of," Kollen said.
Facing Stephens again will be a
good challenge for the Wolverines,
as they have been working on
becoming more aggressive at the
plate. Too often this season, Michi-
gan hitters have let good pitches go
by early in the count, forcing them
to swing at questionable pitches
with two strikes. That got Michigan
into trouble two weeks ago against
Penn State, when it left eight run-

ners on base en route to a 1-0 loss,
and last weekend against Indiana,
when it did not get a hit until the
fifth inning. In practice this week,
coach Carol Hutchins has talked
about tactics like hitting one of the
first three pitches or taking the first
pitch and then being aggressive.
"We get too picky and too selec-
tive, and we fall behind 0-and-the
count," Kollen said. "We have to
swing at anything close, as opposed
to hitting something that we want to
hit."

9

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