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February 17, 2005 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-17

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10A -The Michigan Daily -Thursday, February 17, 2005
Even while under the weather, sophomore Heller thrives

By Jamie Josephson
Daily Sports Writer
"Mind over body" took on a whole
new meaning for sophomore Ryan Heller
last Sunday in the Michigan men's tennis
match against No. 18 Vanderbilt. Despite
the team's 5-2 loss, Heller's performance
provided a bright spot for the Wolverines.,
At the No. 4 position, Heller defeated the
Commodores' Andy Mack, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
To top it off, Heller did it all while
being sick.
"He was physically not as strong as
usual, but he definitely did a good job
focusing and pulling through," Michigan
coach Bruce Berque said.
Before Sunday's match, Heller had an
upper respiratory infection and a fever.
After taking off practice last Thursday
and with the team not practicing on Fri-
day, Heller participated in two practices
in Nashville on Saturday.
When Sunday rolled around, Heller's

team rallied behind the under-the-weath-
er Chicago native.
"I guess it didn't really affect me men-
tally, which is a big part of tennis," Heller
said. "Basically, everyone on the team
was cheering me on. It was a big boost
because I didn't have too much energy to
pump myself up."
In addition to overcoming the odds
on Sunday, Heller has been consistently
excelling in singles play. Winning three
of his last four matches, Heller has been
described by his coaches as the most
improved player on the team so far.
"(Heiler) has become a much smarter
tennis player when it comes to singles,"
Berque said. "He's just making better
decisions strategically and doing a lot
better of a job playing percentage tennis.
He's choosing the right time to go for the
right shots. That's helped him reduce his
errors a lot."
After losing against Western Michi-
gan in the first dual match of the season

on Jan. 15, 6-1, 6-4, Heller has had extra
motivation to improve his game.
"My first match was awful - the worst
match I've played since I've been here,"
Heller said. "My intensity was good, but
I wasn't keeping the ball in play like I am
now. My decisions in that match were not
the greatest."
Since that first match, Heller explained
that he's been working with Berque on
keeping more balls in play on the base-
line and his volleys.
On the doubles end, Heller has been
paired with fellow sophomore Brian
Hung. The duo has a record of 2-3, and
despite recently struggling to execute, the
tandem is confident that teamwork will
help them rebound.
"Even though we lost the last couple
of matches, the chemistry is still there,"
Heller said of his partner. "It's fun play-
ing with (Hung) because he's all over the
place. He makes incredible shots, and
sometimes I just sit there and watch. He

makes my job a lot easier."
Berque also mentioned that one of
Heller's most striking qualities as an ath-
lete is his selfless attitude, which helps
him to get along with his teammates and
coaches.
"(Heller) is a very unselfish player,"
Berque said. "Most people are used to
playing tennis on an individual level. I
think one of the most important parts for
him is playing as part of the team and try-
ing to help the team do well."
After the disappointing loss to Vander-
bilt, Heller is confident that his team will
rebound against Alabama at 6 p.m., this
Saturday at the Varsity Tennis Center.
"(The Vanderbilt match) was a learn-
ing experience because we haven't played
too many top teams," Heller said. "This
is kind of a warm-up for the Big Ten
season, so we're just using it as a build-
ing experience. We were right there with
Vanderbilt. We're confident that we can
beat Alabama."

4

WILLA TRACOSAS/Daily
Sophomore Ryan Heller won this weekend at Vanderbilt despite being sick.

Tumbler Umphrey eyes 2008 Olympics

By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer
When senior Eddie Umphrey checks the clock
on his phone, instead of reading "Eddie" or
some nickname, Umphrey's banner is a reminder
to put in a little extra effort when he gets to prac-
tice for the men's gymnastics team.
"On my phone I put in the word 'Beijing' to
remind myself everyday of what I am training
for," Umphrey said, referring to the 2008 Olym-
pics that will be in Beijing, China. "It's definite-
ly a big goal that I set."
Becoming an Olympic gymnast is an arduous
task, but Umphrey is equipped with an excep-
tional work ethic. In his time away from the
gym, Umphrey studies extensively with hopes of
becoming a heart surgeon. He often sacrifices
many hours of sleep for time in the gym or time
with his books, knowing that such dedication
will be rewarded.
"There's weeks where I won't even get ten
hours of sleep," Umphrey said. "It's tough with
practice and school and everything, but you have
to embrace the struggle. That's the fun part. You
look back, and, when you get those A's on exams
or when you win events at competitions, that's
when it's really rewarding. That effort and those
sleepless nights paid off."
Umphrey has another leg up on his competi-
tion for an Olympic spot - his bloodline. Greg
and Chainey, Eddie's brothers, were scholarship
gymnasts at UCLA. Chainey went on to compete
with the United States national team and was a
member of the 1996 Olympic team.
Both of Eddie's brothers were the inspira-
tion for his participation in gymnastics, but it
was Chainey who provided him with a moment
of special inspiration during the 2000 USA
Championships.

Chainey was at the end of an illustrious career
and had decided not to compete in the meet
because of sickness and migraine headaches.
About an hour before the competition, Chainey
decided to enter the meet.
"I remember sitting down with him and talking
to him," Umphrey said. "He said, 'I've always
competed for everybody else or for another
motivation other than myself.' He looked me in
the eyes and said, 'Tonight I'm going to compete
for myself.' "
Not only did Chainey compete, he chose to
execute some of his toughest routines.
"(Chainey) said, 'I'm just going to go out
there and do basic routines, just to go through
and have fun,' Umphrey said. "As he went up, I
guess he was just feeling good, feeling it in the
moment, and threw all of his big routines and
was throwing flashy moves. And he was wear-
ing a full body suit, like a swimmer. Obviously,
gymnasts don't wear those kind of things, so it
was just a sort of statement, 'I'm gonna do this
for me.' "
The best moment came after Chainey finished
competing, when he came to talk to Eddie.
"The greatest part was after the meet, when
(Chainey) came over to me," Umphrey said. "He
prayed with me, because we're a very strong reli-
gious family, strong in our spirit, strong in our
faith. He came and prayed with me that the reins
would be passed down to me. That was some-
thing that was extremely special to me."
Since that moment, Umphrey has taken off as
a gymnast. He earned a spot on the Michigan
team, his first choice during the recruiting pro-
cess. In 2004, Umphrey competed in four events
at the NCAA Championships and scored a 9.425
on the vault - helping the Wolverines win the
nation's top team score in the event.
Michigan coach Kurt Golder is confident that

Umphrey will continue to improve and thinks
that making the national team is a realistic goal.
"I think he's capable of (making the national
team)," Golder said. "He has a couple of strong
events and a couple of weak events. In the old
days, if you had a couple of weak events, the
chances were very slim that you make the nation-
al team. But the way this sport has evolved, there
is less emphasis on the all-around at the interna-
tional level."
For the time being, Golder is happy to have
Umphrey around the gym because he has become
an emotional leader of the team. When he nails
a landing during an event, Umphrey has been
known to let out a celebratory roar, giving the
Wolverines a boost.
"Certainly when we're on the competitive
floor and, specifically, at home, (Umphrey) is
the spirit," Golder said.
"He's the guy that can get the team most fired
up. You'll see him after he finishes an event
he'll raise his arms in the air and get the crowd
to stand and give a huge ovation. Sometimes get-
ting a huge ovation like that can really pump the
team up."
Umphrey and the No. 4 Wolverines will head
to State College to take on No. 5 Penn State this
weekend. After coming out on the wrong side of
an upset at Minnesota last weekend, this week-
end is the Wolverines' chance to get back to
form.
"I think I speak for the whole team when I
say that we were embarrassed after the (Min-
nesota) competition," Umphrey said. "Don't get
me wrong, Minnesota's a great team, but that
close to another team in a competition is just not
where we expect to be. This weekend will be a
true test of our character. We know that we have
what it takes to be a championship team, so we
just have to put that behind us."

TOMMASO GOMEZ/Daily
Senior Eddie Umphrey has the word 'Beijing' on his phone to remind him of where he
wants to be in 2008: the Olympics.

I

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