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September 07, 2004 - Image 64

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-07

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8E - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition -Fall 2004

SPORTS

Relay team

sets

new world record

I

March 15, 2004
By Phil Kofahl
Daily Staff Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - When
sophomore Nick Willis blew by
Arkansas's Mike Taylor with 200
meters to go in the distance medley
relay, he hushed the Arkansas crowd.
And the Michigan faithful in atten-
dance let everyone know who was the
national champion.
In a world-record time of 9:27.77,
the distance medley relay destroyed the
world-class competition at the Randall
Tyson Track Complex, guiding Michi-
gan to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA
Indoor Championships.
Junior Nate Brannen gave the
Wolverines the lead during his 1,200-
meter leg of the race, handing off to
junior DarNell Talbert with a 15-meter
lead. Talbert held his own during the
400-meter leg but allowed Arkansas to
take a five-meter lead going into the
third leg.
Sophomore Andrew Ellerton stayed
stride-for-stride with Arkansas' James
Hatch for 700 meters, not allowing
Hatch to get more than 10 meters ahead.
When Willis received the baton,
every Wolverines fan in the house was
screaming, even though a sense of
relief fell over them. Willis has the

fastest collegiate time in the mile this
season, and only 1,600 meters separat-
ed him and his teammates from the
national title. He sat on the heels of the
Razorbacks' final runner for 1,400
meters, running completely relaxed.
When the bell rang for the final lap,
Willis took off. He flew past the Blue
faithful on the backstretch and pointed
the baton in their direction to thank
them before taking home the title and
running a victory lap afterwards.
"It's what we came here to do - it
was our focus the entire season." Eller-
ton said. "I just kept us in the race, and
Willis finished the job for us."
The parents, athletes and coaches
who were there could not hold back
when their men came to the stands to
thank them.
Talbert's mother, father and brother
smothered him, crying tears of happi-
ness and pride. It was Warren Talbert's
first time seeing his son race while
wearing a Michigan uniform, and the
experience left him speechless.
"I couldn't have asked for a better
time to see him," Warren said. "Just
watching him run was amazing. I just
could not be prouder of him."
And that was just Friday.
On Saturday, Willis and Brannen
both worked towards individual titles.
Given the chance to repeat as nation-

al champion in the 800-meter, Brannen
cashed in with a time of 1:47.61. He
cruised through the preliminaries on
Friday and stood at the starting line,
thinking to himself that the race was
his to lose.
He sat in the field for the first 600
meters, and with one final lap, he
proved once again that he was the
strongest runner on the track. He pushed
to the front of the pack and finally
pulled away to take home the win.
Willis's road wasn't as easy.
The sophomore had previously set
the national record in the 3,000-meter
until Alistair Cragg of Arkansas broke
it just two weeks later.
Cragg won the 5,000-meter on Friday
by a landslide, and the crowd was ready
for the showdown in the shorter dis-
tance race.
Willis and Cragg sat at the back of the
pack for the first 1,400 meters. Then,
Cragg made a surge and Willis followed.
With every lap, the two distanced
themselves from the field.
With only 200 meters to go, the crowd
was ready for Willis's kick, but Cragg
managed to hold him off for the win.
"In my race I realized how big the
occasion was and how much (the team)
needed the points," Willis said. "I gave
him everything I could and I'm really
proud of that."

DAVID TUMAN! Daily
Michigan junior Nate Brannen competes in the Big Ten Cross-Country Championships in East Lansing on
Nov. 2, 2003.

I

No Super Six, but Ray celebrates uneven bars victory

April 19,2004
By Melanie Kebler
Daily Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES - The mood Satur-
day night before the NCAA women's
gymnastics individual event finals was
light. In warmups, Michigan junior Elise
Ray played tag with members of the
UCLA team on the floor mat, and
coaches and competitors from all teams
chatted freely.
It was a stark difference from the
atmosphere on Thursday, when the
Wolverines competed in the preliminar-
ies, hoping to qualify for the Super Six

team competition the following day.
Michigan drew the most difficult rota-
tion for the second meet in a row, and it
failed to qualify in the preliminary meet.
The disappointment of Thursday
was forgotten momentarily as Michi-
gan cheered on teammates Ray and
Lindsey Bruck as they competed in the
balance beam final. Ray, who was the
event's national champion in 2002, led
off the event and scored a 9.900, which
was good enough to tie for third.
Bruck followed up with a 9.850 per-
formance, which earned her a tie for
sixth place.

Ray also qualified for the uneven
bars. She earned a 10.0 in the event at
the Big Ten Championships, and in the
NCAA event finals, she nearly replicat-
ed that result. After adding a more com-
plicated dismount to her routine, Ray
performed nearly flawlessly, earning a
final score of 9.975, good enough to
earn Ray her third national champi-
onship in four years.
"I didn't like it all Friday sitting in the
stands. I'm glad I can end on this note,"
Ray said.
Bar scores weren't nearly so high for
Michigan on Thursday night.

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The team tallied scores of 9.700 and
9.750, and deductions were taken
because of steps during landings. Ray's
9.925 performance anchored the rota-
tion and allowed the Wolverines to total
a 49.025 on the event.
"We made our routines, but we count-
ed so many deductions on dismounts
that it just kind of deflated us," Michi-
gan coach Bev Plocki said.
Michigan had a decent start on floor,
earning a 49.225 total. The team tried to
continue to build momentum on the
vault. Sophomore Jenny Deiley's 9.900
lead the team, and the Wolverines com-
piled a 49.150 score. After two events,
Michigan trailed second-place Utah by
just a few tenths of a point. Defending
champion UCLA had jumped out to an
early lead with a two-event total of
99.000. But then Michigan had difficul-
ty on the bars.
"I thought that we came out and did
the best job that we could on floor
and vault," Plocki said. "I thought we
had a lot of momentum going into
bars. We just kind of lost our momen-
tum on bars."
The pressure piled on even higher
after sophomore Becca Clauson fell off
the balance beam during Michigan's
third routine. Deiley, senior Calli Ryals
and Ray anchored the lineup without a
fall, but small mistakes again added up.
"We didn't have to count any falls on
beam but we had a couple of wobbles,"
Plocki said. "I just think we didn't keep
our momentum going"
Failing to qualify for the Super Six for
just the third time in the last 10 years
meant that Michigan found itself in an
unfamiliar position - sitting in the
stands, watching as UCLA cruised to its
fourth team national championship in
five years.
"Overall, we did well," Plocki said.
"But this is a national championship,
and you have to do great."
Luckily the Wolverines didn't have to
end on a bad note.
"Not making the Super Six was a dis-
appointment for our whole team, and to
be able to come back in the finals was
great," Plocki said. "For Elise to get
another national championship was fan-
tastic. This ends it all on a positive note."

I

AP PHOTO
Michigan's Elise Ray holds up her first-place plaque for the Individual uneven bars
during the NCAA national championships on April 17, 2004.

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