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January 26, 2005 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-26

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - 9

'21st man':
By Sara Livingston1
Daily Sports Writer

invigorates gymnasts

In basketball, the crowd is the sixth man; in
football it's the 12th player and for the Michigan
men's gymnastics team, the crowd - along with
its infamous cowbell - acts like the 21st player
on the team's roster.
"The crowd always helps for us," sophomore Dave
Flannery said. "It helps us hit. It helps us get going. The
energy in the crowd transfers over to the energy in our
The cowbell, which has been a tradition in Cliff
Keen Arena for as long as the team can remember,
is used by the gymnasts to get the crowd involved
and helps the fans maintain a high team spirit,
especially when the Wolverines have had a series
of missed routines.
Along with the crowd, the cowbell has been known
to lift the team's attitude and push the gymnasts to try
harder and hit their events when they are struggling.
"If you're really down and there's no team spirit at all,
it can really hinder you," coach Kurt Golder said. "It's
not a given. But also if you have a great spirit and you
start with great spirit and then you get some hit routines
under your belt, you have a lot of momentum and you

keep that spirit going."
During home and away meets, a team member
strikes the bell to begin one of the many well-
known Michigan cheers, including "Let's Go Blue"
and "Go Blue." In the past, the cowbell has been
banned from away meets because other teams have
considered it to be an unfair advantage for the Wol-
verines. But, it's now allowed, and Michigan has it
on the floor at every meet.
"The cowbell has been around since I was a fresh-
man," senior captain Geoff Corrigan said. "Ever since
I was a freshman we (have brought) it to NCAAs. We
aren't allowed to have it on the floor at NCAAs, so
we have it up in the crowds and people use it. It's just
something that gets us all together and gets everybody
In addition, the gymnasts frequently stand several
feet away from their teammate yelling and cheering
for their fellow Wolverine while he is completing
a routine. The gymnasts enjoy the support, and
they say knowing their teammates are right there,
depending on their every hold, makes them push
themselves to stick the event.
Some teams and their home crowds will cheer
during an opposing team's routines, often distract-
ing the gymnast and causing him to miss holds

and fall off the apparatus. But, the Wolverines
welcome other teams to cheer during their events.
They said it prepares them for the atmosphere at
the NCAA Championships, where up to 10 teams
are on the floor cheering during each rotation.
At Michigan's last meet, No. 7 Oklahoma yelled
throughout the night. At times the gymnasts were
banging the floor and stomping their feet, trying to
throw the Wolverines off balance. But, much to the
Sooners' disappointment, Michigan was solid all
night and barely noticed the "Go Sooners" and "O-
K-L-A-H-O-M-A" chants that echoed the arena.
"I think we were so focused and motivated by our-
selves that we didn't really notice," Flannery said. "I just
think our concentration and our cheering for ourselves
took them out of our mind."
The atmosphere at meets wasn't always this rowdy
and energetic. Gymnastics has evolved into a more fan-
interactive sport over the years. Today, fans and gym-
nasts cheer not only before and after the routines, but
during them as well.
"(In the past), you could hear a pin drop during a
gymnastics competition," Golder said. "Then, when the
performance was over, you would hear like golf clap-
ping. But now, the teams get all hyped up, and they want
audience participation."

Senior Geoff Corrigan feels the crowd makes a big impact on the team's performance.
Through K-Grams,
tumblers give back

Whitehead can jump,
aims for Michigan mark

By H. Jose Bosch
Daily Sports Writer
The K-Grams program had 4,376 rea-
sons to be thankful last Friday night.
The single largest regular season
crowd in the women's gymnastic team's
history was more than just an attendance
record. Comcast had agreed to write a
check to K-Grams for as many dollars as
there were people in the crowd.
K-Grams was started in the summer of
1998 by then-sophomore Rishi Moudgil.
The program pairs up college students
with elementary school students through
different types of programs - the pen-
pal program is the most widely known
program. K-Grams formally joined forc-
es with the women's gymnastics team
during the 2001-2002 season. At first,
the gymnasts made a few visits to Detroit
schools, and the inaugural "K-Grams"
night at Crisler Arena was in 2002-2003.
Each year, members of the gymnastics
team visit a number of schools in south-
east Michigan and, specifically, the Ann
Arbor area. They not only promote the
importance of hard work in the class-
room, but also provide a fun atmosphere
for kids every time they visit. Both junior
Jenny Deiley and senior Elise Ray agree
that the best part of these visits is the
question and answer sessions.
"We get a little bit of time to mingle
with (the kids)," Ray said. "They ask
great questions, and it's a great time."

The children aren't the only ones hav-
ing fun. The gymnasts also enjoy them-
selves and can take home stories that they
tell their friends for years to come. When
elementary school students are presented
with a chance to ask college-aged stu-
dents questions, they make the most of it.
"I tend to get, 'Do you have a boy-
friend?' " Deiley said. " 'What's you
favorite subject?' Nothing related to
gymnastics, usually."
Ray also recalls the young pupils'
fascination with the gymnasts' ability to
bend and twist like a pretzel. Unfortu-
nately for the young kids, the Wolverines
can't perform their routines on the spot.
"I think our coach would be mad if we
got hurt," Ray said with a laugh. "That's
always our answer."
Michigan coach Bev Plocki believes
the visits do even more than making a
difference in other' lives. She explains
that Michigan athletes are fortunate to
be a part of such a well-funded program.
She said that community service projects
- such as K-Grams and other programs
like C.S. Mott Children's Hospital visits
- help keep athlete grounded.
"(At Michigan), it is pretty easy to start
feeling like you're something - I think
it's really important for our kids to get
out to the schools with K-Grams and be
a part of something that keeps them real-
izing what kind of role models they are,"
Plocki said.
Plocki added that the visits are

By Pete Sneider
Daily Sports Writer
Butch Starmack should be shaking in his
boots right now. He might not know it, but
his days could be numbered as Michigan's
record holder in the triple jump. Starmack's
19-year reign is in danger of being over-
thrown by 19-year-old sophomore Michael
Whitehead showed he was one of the
top triple jumpers in the conference last
year when he placed third overall in the Big
Ten Indoor Championships. His personal
record of 51-1 is just 14 1/4 inches away of
Michigan's record - a record holding on
for dear life.
"My plan for (the Boston Indoor Games)
is to break the school record," Whitehead
said, referring to this weekend's event at
Boston University. "I will crush it. I want to
go 54 (feet) by the end of this year."
Fifty-four feet should be good enough to
qualify for the NCAA Championships, a
benchmark Whitehead expects to achieve.
"It would definitely be adisappointmentif
I didn't make it," Whitehead said. "Because
I want to go 54 (feet) and because I think I
can go 54, that should put me around fifth or
sixth nationally. It will be a disappointment
if I go anywhere lower than eighth."
Whitehead looks, talks and struts like
a star football player. He carries himself
with a certain swagger, adding a little hop,
skip and jump to his step - a technique
he also displays in the triple jump. Com-

ing out of Norristown Area High School
in Pennsylvania, Whitehead was recruited
to play wide receiver and cornerback at
schools like Iowa and Virginia. He claims
a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash and a
39-inch vertical leap.
Whitehead wants to add a similar swag-
ger to a field event that lacks widespread
interest. He knows the triple jump is not the
sexiest or the most recognizable event, but
he feels he can add a little flavor to it.
"It's not the glamour event, but, if the
person who does it is glamorous, then it
becomes the glamour event," Whitehead
said. "The triple jump is graceful and
elegant, but, at the same time, you have to
have a certain amount of power for it. Peo-
ple will understand the triple jump when I
get done with it. Football players who know
me know what the triple jump is."
Whitehead is also looking to garner
some respect for his teammates, especially
his fellow field athletes.
"People forget to look at us nationally,
but we finished fifth overall last year,"
Whitehead said. "We got cannons out here.
Our jump and sprint group will show up (at
the NCAA championship). We will show
up as a team. We will show up unified....
I just want to say that our track team has
really been disrespected as far as getting
the clout we deserve on the national level."
If the Wolverines can carry themselves
with a similar confidence, Whitehead
believes some of that "clout" will come
their way.

Senior Elise Ray enjoys working with kids through the K-Grams program.

extremely helpful for the young children.
She hopes her student/athletes will help
inspire the kids to make the right choices
later in life.
"I would like to think we've touched
some kids' lives," Plocki said. "That
(the kids) will have been motivated
by something that one of our kids
have told them about - hanging on
to your dreams and working hard and
how that will pay off down the road."
After Friday night's win over Penn
State, the gymnasts stuck around to

sign autographs and talk to their admir-
ers. The moments after a meet are
another opportunity for the Wolverines
to interact with their fans. On Friday, it
was another chance to touch the lives of
the young pupils who looked up to the
gymnasts in the classroom.
"I absolutely love when I walk by
and the little kids (say), 'Jenny rocks!'
" Deiley said. "I get so into it. I'm glad
that our team really goes out of the way
to make sure we acknowledge all their

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