10 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 8, 2005
to end on
By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Writer
The day was Oct. 26, 2001. It was freshman Chuck
Sayao's first meet as a member of the Michigan men's
swimming and diving team. After Florida had jumped
to an early lead, Sayao came through in the 200-meter
backstroke, claiming a victory that helped the Wolver-
ines storm back and win.
Flash forward to a recent meet. Some of the charac-
ters have changed, but the situation is the same.
Against Indiana on Jan. 22, the Wolverines trailed
134.5-129.5 when senior Chuck Sayao won the 400-
yard individual medley to recapture the lead and propel
Michigan to a victory.
"I really can't believe that four years went by so
fast," Sayao said. "It seems like just yesterday that I
was walking in here as a freshman, swimming my first
Growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, Sayao knew
that his best opportunity to continue to swim at a high
level was to come to the United States.
After meeting with then-coach Jon Urbanchek,
Sayao felt that Michigan would be the best place for
him. Michigan boasted strong athletics and also aca-
Sayao has enjoyed both privileges of being a Wol-
In the pool, Sayao won a Big Ten Championship in
the 400-yard individual medley in 2003. In 2002 and
2003, he was named All-America honorable mention,
and, in 2004, he was an All-American in the 400-meter
In the classroom, Sayao has excelled in his engineer-
ing studies. He is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten
Conference swimmer, a two-time U-M Athletic Aca-
demic Achievement winner and a 2003 NCAA Aca-
"Chuck is one of the most conscientious young
men we have," Michigan coach Bob Bowman said.
"He's one of the hardest workers that we have in the
pool, and it's really nice when you have someone like
B ~WlM MMiNG AND D2iV1NG
By Dan Ketchel
Daily Sports Writer
Senior Chuck Sayao hopes to repeat as Big Ten Champion in the 400-yard medley.
Coming into this year, Bowman knew that Sayao
had been a Big Ten Champion and that he could count
on Sayao to perform at the high level of a champion.
Not one to disappoint, Sayao has swum masterfully.
He has won four events, and, against Indiana, he posted
a season-best time in the 400-yard individual medley
and the 200-yard backstroke and a personal-best time
in the 200-yard freestyle.
Sayao attributes his recent success to the training
trip that the team took during winter break. The Wol-
verines traveled to California, and, in the midst of two-
a-day practices in cold, rainy weather, Sayao believes
that the team bonded together.
With a team mindset, Sayao doesn't concern himself
with individual awards or recognition.
"For collegiate swimming, (the goal) is to help out
the team as much as possible and to help out Michigan,"
Sayao said. "At the Big Ten and the NCAA Champion-
ships every point matters, and that's what keeps me
motivated every day."
Not only does Sayao help the team with wins in the
pool, but Bowman believes that he also influences his
team in other areas.
"He sets a great example," Bowman said. "Chuck's
not a very vocal person, but everything he does is a
good example. He's on time, works hard and does the
best he can regardless of the situation."
In the next few weeks, the Wolverines will prepare
for the upcoming Big Ten Championships to be held
Feb. 24-26. While training relatively hard right now,
the intensity will eventually taper off, allowing the
swimmers to rest for the Big Ten Championships.
Sayao will look to win a Big Ten Championship in
the 400-yard individual medley, then place in the top-
10 in his other events. In the NCAA Championships,
he'll be happy with a top-eight finish in the 400-meter
Now, as his time here at Michigan draws to a close,
Sayao realizes that Michigan gave him everything that
he ever imagined.
"I've really learned that you can do anything at this
school," Sayao said. "There's nothing to hold you back.
You have all the resources at your disposal in terms of
what you want to study or however far you want to go
in sports. It's all here, and it's great to take advantage
With her hair tucked securely under
her swim cap, a seemingly perpetual
smile spread brightly across her face
and an aura of immeasurable pride
floating all around her, fifth-year senior
Erica Watts walked gleefully toward
the stands. "Go Wattsy!" was the most
dominant phrase in the bleachers as
her own personal cheering section
screamed for her, five of whom had
spelled out W-A-T-T-S on T-shirts.
In a break during the No. 17 Michi-
gan women's swimming and diving
team's last dual meet of the season
last Friday, Watts made sure to show
her appreciation for all her farmily and
friends who came to bid her farewell
at Canham Natatorium. Inspired by
the support in the stands, Watts swam
to one of her best times (2:07.08) and
was the top finisher for the Wolverines
in the 200-yard butterfly.
One of the few redshirts in the
Michigan swimming program, Watts
makes a unique contribution to her
teammates, some of whom are nearly
five years younger than she. Coming
out of high school in Carmel, Ind., as a
butterfly swimmer, Watts was recruit-
ed and signed in the fall of her senior
year. As her high school career came
to an end, she was going through a
very tumultuous period in her life. She
had significant trouble coping with her
parents' recent divorce and was still
feeling the effects when she arrived in
Ann Arbor for her freshman year.
"We just decided that it would prob-
ably be in her best interest to (redshirt
her)," Michigan women's swimming
and diving coach Jim Richardson said.
"I thought another year of allowing her
to make the adjustments and try to get
back to being secure and comfortable
and being emotionally the way she
was... would probably be in her best
interest. And she was in agreement
Although Watts did agree at the time
that she needed the extra year, she sees
it as a very difficult year in retrospect.
"Redshirting is one of the hard-
est things you'll ever do," Watts said.
"You don't get to be completely and
totally immersed in (the sport). You
don't learn, necessarily, what it's like
to be a Michigan athlete until you are
But besides the slightly disappoint-
ing aspect of taking a year off from
competition, Watts did get to experi-
ence what it's like to be part of the
Wolverines - to experience the ups
and downs of a season surrounded by
The most valuable thing Watts pro-
vides to her team is her experience,
both in the pool and out. She has
seen the women's swimming program
change over the last few years and can
offer an older perspective.
"I think everything has changed for
the better," Watts said. "What (Rich-
ardson) had used in the past, and what
had worked, wasn't working anymore.
We weren't winning anymore. It takes
a lot for someone who's won so much
to change, but everything that Jim's
done training-wise has been incred-
ible. And I think it helps motivate all
Being surrounded by so many sig-
nificantly younger athletes has been
a pleasure for the 23-year-old Watts.
This year's freshman class was one of
the biggest the team has seen recently
- bringing 14 new swimmers to the
31-swimmer roster. The youth and
energy these newcomers have brought
has rejuvenated Watts's enthusiasm
for swimming and motivated her as a
"We've been recruiting really
focused seniors coming out of high
school," Watts said. "Our freshman
class this year is so solid, and it's been
fun to watch the freshmen take control
and really step up where we needed
In return, Watts has done her best
to give back to the younger swimmers
and help them through experiences
with which she can empathize. Rich-
ardson enjoys having her presence on
the team as someone who has already
been through many of the things his
younger athletes are going through
"She's matured a lot; she's seen
a lot: she's been through a lot as a
swimmer," Richardson said. "I think
that she's emerged from it as a very
together, genuine, transparent person.
I think that is as stable a leader as you
Watts has inherited a prominent
position as one of the team's most
devoted guides. Watts hopes to lead
the Wolverines to the top of the Big
Ten for their second consecutive sea-
son as they travel to Bloomington
from Feb. 16-19 for the annual Big Ten
Soccer deserves a good look from America
Continued from page 9
people like us. What followed was a
0-0 draw and one of the worst sporting
events I have ever attended. Many of
either team's regulars didn't play - no
one really seemed to be trying.
I also went to see the United States
play Poland, where about 80 percent
of the fans were cheering for "Pol-
ska." During the game, I felt like I
was in heart of Warsaw. But when
the U.S. scored to tie the game at one
in the final minutes, my friends and
I went nuts and jumped up and down
with our American flag. We looked
like 12-year-old girls at a Kelly
Clarkson concert; we were elated,
but we also looked like idiots.
So when meaningful games come
around, as in World Cup qualifying
games, I get really into it. While the
causal sports fan may think that quali-
fying for the World Cup is a relatively
simple process, it is actually very
complicated. Hundreds of teams from
around the world play games over a
period of more than two years for a
chance to play in the world's biggest
This provides internationality to soc-
cer that can't be beat. And even though
the national teams are comprised of
players that also play on club teams,
the players really do care - unlike
the NBA. When the Americans put on
their jerseys, it means something. The
Americans are also put in interesting
situations when they have to travel to
countries that hate us. You may think
its bad for Michigan to go into Ohio
Stadium in Columbus, but try playing
against 110,000 Mexicans in the smog at
Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. That's a
real "road game."
So I encourage you to spend some
time this year to give soccer a look. You
may even find that it's not as boring as
the causal American makes it out to be.
If you would like to talk to Bob Hunt
about the U.S. National Soccer team,
Glasgow Celtic or anything else in the
world of soccer, he can be reached at
Ayacucho & Lima
This is L.U.
This could be you.
I If lA E IW WNLE