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February 16, 2005 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-16

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Young Blue eager for Big Tens

By Dan Ketchel
Daily Sports Writer
Anyone who has ever tasted a sweet mor-
sel of success knows how delectable it is.
Likewise, anyone who has tasted this success
knows that the thrill of victory is so enthrall-
ing that no person could ever get enough
of it. But for the man who has coached the
Michigan women's swimming and diving
team to 14 Big Ten titles, Jim Richardson
doesn't seem too confident about making it
15 this weekend in Bloomington.
The Wolverines look to reclaim their title
as the best team in the Big Ten by fending
off notable conference contenders such as
No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 14 Penn State and No.
18 Indiana. The tournament will begin this
evening and continue through Saturday. It
will welcome a total of seven top-25 teams,
including Michigan.
The Wolverines (3-1 Big Ten, 4-2 over-
all) had their impeccable streak of 12
consecutive wins in Big Ten dual-meets
squashed this season. No. 17 Michigan
dropped a heartbreaker to Northwestern
on Jan. 22, and that loss seems to have
foreshadowed the team's fate in the annual
Big Ten Championships.
"I don't have any real expectations," Rich-
ardson said. "I've seen the numbers, they're
pretty evident. Penn State, Wisconsin and
Indiana all return more points than we do.
So we're looking at fourth, and we're going
to try real hard to be better than that."

For the entire team, its focus will not be
entirely on coming in first collectively, but
more on an individual level. The Wolverines
have been coached all season long with the
hopes of putting on their best performances
at the Big Ten Championships.
"We just want to try to swim faster than
we have all year," Richardson said. "We
want to peak then and swim very fast. If
we do that, then we can look ourselves in
the mirror knowing we worked hard this
season, - we trained well, and we raced
Defending its Big Ten championship is a
daunting task considering Michigan has wel-
comed 14 new swimmers to the roster this
"We've got a lot of new girls," senior Amy
McCullough said. "It's going to be interest-
ing to see how the team steps up at the end
and how we come together."
Entering the championships, it looks
as though the Wolverines will face their
most formidable challenge of the year.
Michigan holds the conference's fastest
time in just one race, the 50-yard free-
style, held by sophomore Kaitlyn Brady.
Brady also brings the second and third
fastest times in the Big Ten for the 100-
yard butterfly and the 200-yard back-
stroke, respectively.
Sophomore Susan Gilliam is poised to
embark on an intense head-to-head matchup
in three different races against Wisconsin
senior Carly Piper. The experienced Piper

has Gilliam bested in all the long distance
freestyle events, as Gilliam's times fall short
of first place in the 200-, 500- and 1,650-
yard freestyles. Gilliam has quite the task in
front of her. Her best times fall nearly three
seconds behind Piper in the 500-yard race
and more than 10 seconds behind in the
1,650-yard race.
The Wolverines are also hopeful that
some of their newest athletes can score some
points during the meet. Freshman Justine
Mueller holds third-place times in both of
the individual medleys. Mueller will try to
overcome powerful Wisconsin junior Anna
Trinidad, who has the fastest time in the Big
Ten in both the 200- and 400-yard individ-
ual medleys.
The veteran McCullough will look to
defend her 2004 Big Ten Title in the 100-
yard freestyle during her final meet as a
Michigan swimmer. McCullough, who has
been plagued by illness all season, is just
beginning to return to her peak condition.
She holds the 36th best time in the Big Ten
for the 100-yard race this season, still more
than three seconds behind her winning time
from last year's championship.
"We're trying to focus on Big Tens,"
McCullough said. "We put all of our money
into Big Tens, and we're hoping that that
pays off in the end and that we'll be able to
swim a lot faster then. It'll be interesting to
see how all the teams sort out at the end. It's
going to be a good hard-fought battle regard-
less of how well it goes."

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Amy McCullough looks to lead a Michigan team lacking confidence this weekend.


fail in
By Jack Herman
Daily Sports Writer
After a quick scan around Crisler
Arena during any women's basketball
game, one thing - or rather the lack
of one thing - stands out; there's no
student section.
The men's team has the Maize Rage,
and last year, the women had the Blu-
natics - which until this year was
known as the Bluenatics. The group
started midway through the season, and
thanks to the help of free admission for
students, free Blunatics T-shirts and
free pizza, it had a dedicated following
of about 20 students by the end of the
year. This year, the Blunatics failed to
stay intact.
The marketing department looked to
start the group early in the season. It
had an organizational meeting before
the team's first home game, but not
enough support carried over, and it fell
"Women's basketball faces a chal-
lenge," said Bess Tortolani, director of
marketing for the women's basketball
team. "Our basketball fans are obvi-
ously also men's basketball fans. So
our students are looking towards the
action and excitement of the men's bas-
ketball games."
Tortolani estimates about 20 stu-
dents started off the season attend-
ing games, but now that number
has whittled down to about five or
10. She attributes this to the fact
that most students don't know that
attendance and parking at women's
basketball games is free with an
"We've had a very difficult time
reaching out to the students," Tor-
tolani said. "(Free tickets and park-
ing) are the two hardest things to get
across to students. It seems that stu-
dents are really unaware that this is
the case."
The attendance averaged at 2,715
last year, but that figure has dropped
to 2,143 this year. And, the highest
attendance of the season, 4,123, came
against Michigan State - who brought
along a large group of Spartans fans.
Without the Blunatics the market-
ing department has taken alternate
steps to try and increase attendance.
Rather than focusing on all the stu-
dents at Michigan, it has targeted
specific student organizations to
come to games.
Part of this program has included
having various student musical groups
perform the national anthem before
each game. For halftime, it has brought
in different student performance
groups to entertain the crowd, such as
a breakdancing group and the music-
making "Groove." The Greek system
and Dance Marathon have both teamed
with the department for upcoming
Also the department has looked to
bring local residents out to games. It
brought in local school bands to per-
form at the Penn State game. The team
sponsored National Girls and Women
in Sports Day along with local Girl
Scout troops on Feb. 6 and brought in
3,625 fans in the loss to Minnesota.

Due to their success, both these events
will return next year.
Autograph signing - which also
occurred after the Minnesota game -
has proven to be effective. When the
team signed autographs for fans after the
Indiana game, it drew a crowd of 2,348
despite a very heavy snowstorm the day
"Our student athletes on our
women's basketball team are abso-
lutely amazing about going into the
crowd afterwards and really taking
the time to introduce themselves to
the fans," Tortolani said. "We're
still trying to build our fan base, and
we're trying to get people to interact
with our student athletes because
that's what women's basketball is
all about."
Other attempts have been made to
get the fans closer to the team. The
department created posters of all the
players, which are given out as score-
cards at every game. It also distrib-
utes trading cards of all the players,
an idea that Michigan coach Cheryl
Burnett suggested.
"When you have pictures of athletes
when they were in college, it creates a
feeling of knowing this person," Tor-
tolani said. "We have an athlete like
Tabitha Pool, who has a really excel-
lent shot at making it in to the WNBA,
so now people have this connection to
Tabitha Pool."
Although many of the recent

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