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March 20, 2003 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-03-20

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 20, 2003

Clausen destined
to tumble for 'M'

War, weather slowing
Blue's development

By Daniel Bremmer
Daily Sports Writer

By Michael Nisson
Daily Sports Writer
In the movie "Planes, Trains and
Automobiles," Neal Page continually
faces the prospect of not being able to
get where he really wants to go, having
to use all three modes of transportation
to get home for Thanksgiving. The
Michigan women's gymnastics team
has its own version of that story in the
form of freshman Becca Clauson.
Clauson was delayed in realizing her
destiny, much like Page was.
"Ever since age 12, when I saw my
first gymnastics competition with
Michigan, I knew I wanted to go to
Michigan and compete on the gymnas-
tics team," Clauson said.
Clauson had a prolific amateur
career. She. is a four-time Junior
National competitor and was the 2000
Junior Olympic floor exercise national
champion. These honors established
her as a bonafide national recruit as a
senior in high school, and she could
sense that she was close to realizing her
childhood dreams of donning the
maize and blue. But things did not hap-
pen quite as planned.
"The thing that's really interesting
about Becca is that because she is
weaker in uneven bars, she was not
one of the kids that was right at the
tip-top of our list," Michigan coach
Bev Plocki said of Clauson's recruit-
ment. "We were very interested in
her, we liked her, we knew she was
going to be really strong on three
events, but in the recruiting process
we were trying to put our priority in
going after a four event, all-arounder

person, and we did not originally
offer Becca (a scholarship). She was
the next person on our list."
After the initial disappointment,
Clauson, who hails from St. Paul,
Minn., chose to remain close to home
and verbally committed to Minnesota.
As luck would have it, the Wolver-
ines lost one of their top-priority
recruits when the gymnast backed out
of her commitment. Clauson, still
hopeful of making Ann Arbor her
home, called Plocki back to see if she
had a chance to compete at Michigan.
"I didn't feel like ethically it was
appropriate for us to recruit her when
she had already verbally committed,"
Plocki said. "We told her that, and the
next thing I knew she called the Uni-
versity of Minnesota and told them that
she had changed her mind, and she
uncommitted herself to the University
of Minnesota, and then called us back."
When Plocki eventually offered
Clauson a scholarship, it was that much
better. Since then, Clauson has shown
glimpses of brilliance that have the
coaching staff excited for her future.
"I think that with Becca (what is
most impressive is) just her consisten-
cy," Plocki said. "If you look at
Becca, she is just so darn consistent.
She might not go out there and win
all of her events every time, but you
can count on the fact that she's going
to hit, that she's going to come up
with the big score."
Clauson has performed on the vault,
balance beam and in the floor exercise
thus far. On February 28 against then-
No. 5 Utah, she took first on vault with
a 9.875 and tied her career high on bal-

The Michigan softball team has had
its week affected by a number of cir-
cumstances that are beyond its control:
Specifically, the weather
and the situation in the =
Middle East. TMIS
Last weekend in Talla-
hassee, Fla. the Wolvcrines
had their schedule changed
twice by the Florida rain, T
forcing them to play all 9a.
three of their round-robin Vaty&
games in one day on Satur-
day and canceling Sun-
day's championship game
This weekend wasn't the first time
Michigan was affected by the rain -.
the weather has affected seven previous-
ly scheduled games over the past three
weeks of action.
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins was
disappointed that her team didn't get to
play more in Tallahassee because she
believes her team needs more situation-
al experience that can only be gained in
real games. In practice this week,
Hutchins has focused on trying to recre-
ate game scenarios to make up for some
of the team's rainouts.
"We needed to put our pitchers, our
hitters and our defense in game-like sit-
uations and try to apply a little pres-
sure," Hutchins said. "That's what we've
been able to do."
Unfortunately for Michigan, it has
been practicing indoors all season,
which has hindered the extent of the
drills it can do. Indoor practice - play-
ing in an area with a ceiling, no pitch-
er's mound and only batting in cages -

Est L

is a "real disadvantage" to defensive
drills, according to Hutchins.
"At this time in the year, we need
to be on our field: On dirt, on
grass," Hutchins said. "We haven't
been on the field yet.
"It would be like
playing basketball on
E beach volleyball sand.
It's a totally different
Inattel environment."
In addition to the
trouble it has had to
nd endure at the hands of
dQompJea Mother Nature, several
> > > members of the softball
team are also being
affected by the possi-

Freshman Becca Clauson was almost a Golden Gopher before becoming a Wolverine.

ance beam with another 9.875 to tie for
third. The interesting part, despite her
scores on beam and vault, is that floor
is probably her best event.
"I love doing the floor exercise,
especially in college," Clauson said.
"The crowd gets very involved, which
makes it very exciting. Every time I
step out onto the floor, I get the biggest
rush. It feels so good."
All in all, Clauson's experiences thus
far at Michigan have been everything
she's dreamed of, and then some.
"I always imagined that it would be a

great experience, but this is more than I
expected," Clauson said. "I love every-
thing about Michigan - the school,
the campus, the people and the team.
And that feeling is mutual, as
noted by Plocki's response to what
she would have done differently in
Clauson's recruitment process if she
could do it again.
"I would have offered her right out
of the gate," Plocki said. "If I had my
crystal ball, and I knew then what I
know now, Becca would have been at
the top of our list."

bilty of war in the Middle East.
While her team is trying to focus its
attention on sports, it's hard with the lin-
gering world news.
"Any time the world has something
going on that's as intense as a war, it
does have an effect (on the team),"
Hutchins said. "Obviously, we're going
to try and stay focused on our world,
which is competing in softball and get-
ting our studies done."
Specifically, two members of the
team are directly affected by the war.
Freshman Stephanie Bercaw has a sister
who is stationed in Germany and junior
Becky Churchill has a brother who is
due to go overseas.
The team has been able to act as a
support network for those two players
during these difficult times off the field.
"We're basically those kids' second
families," Hutchins said. "We can just
be there to support them. Knowing that
there are people that care and are going
through it with you I think is always
helpful in any circumstance."



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