10A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 17, 2005
By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Writer
If you had told freshman first baseman Samantha
Findlay at the beginning of the season that she would
have seven home runs after 22 games for the Michigan
softball team, she would have been surprised.
"I didn't expect (this kind of success) right away,"
Findlay said. "I just know that every year I try to
become better as a player and (help the team improve).
If we work hard and together as a team, then usually our
success will be greater."
Last year, then-senior Jennifer Olds played first base
for the Wolverines. She batted .295 with 51 hits during
the season. And in a loss to Stanford at the Women's
College World Series, she hit a monster home run.
This year, the stability that Olds brought to the
team is gone, but Michigan coach Carol Hutchins
knows that the team wouldn't miss a beat with the
addition of Findlay.
"She's good," Hutchins said. "She was good when we
got her. We expected her to step in and help us right
away. We knew that she could step in and fit in."
During her senior year at Lockport East High School
in Lockport, Ill., Findlay showed the hitting ability that
she has used this season to start strong. She hit over .500
with 12 home runs and 42 RBI while leading her team
to the state championship. In the state championship
game, Findlay hit a solo home run and a game-winning
As a Wolverine, Findlay has taken advantage of
her opportunity to start as a freshman. She is batting
.296 with 21 runs, 16 hits and 19 RBI. Findlay has also
proved her ability to field first base with 130 putouts and
a .979 fielding percentage.
While Findlay has provided a spark for the team with
her power, she incorporates a simpler approach in the
Former first basemen Jennifer Olds, who graduated last year, swings during a game last season. Freshman
Samantha Findlay has taken over Olds's position this year and is hitting .296 on the season.
"(I try to) relax, see the ball, hit the ball and just have
fun," Findlay said. "(The ball) will come to you. You
can't go out there swinging for it; you have to let it come
to you. I go for good solid contact, and, if it goes, it goes.
And if it doesn't, oh well."
Findlay also attributes her early success to her team-
mates for helping and encouraging her as she adjusted
to life at college.
"They let you know how the program works and
what it is to be part of the team and the pride that goes
into it," Findlay said. "Once the game starts, everything
falls into place."
While playing at a program like Michigan, some
might feel the pressure of trying to perform day in and
day out, but Findlay is only looking to do her part.
"I'm not putting any pressure on myself," Findlay,
said. "I know that, each day, (I need to keep) practicing
to get better."
Not only do Findlay's teammates help her feel
comfortable as a Wolverine, but Findlay also credits
Hutchins's guidance in improving her overall play on
"She's there to help you become better every day,"
Findlay said. "She wants you to learn the fundamentals
of the game before you break down and go to the full
game. She's definitely helped me become a better player
in a mental sense."
And even though snow is still covering Alumni Field,
Findlay can't wait for her chance to sprint out to first
base for the home opener.
"Our home field is amazing," Findlay said. "It's an
awesome atmosphere. When I came here on my trips, it
was great to see the team play. Being (at Alumni Field)
and playing is a whole different thing, but it's exciting."
But Findlay will have to wait, because Michigan will
be on the road again. The Wolverines travel to Fuller-
ton, Calif. This weekend to play in the Kia Classic.
By Lindsey Ungar
For the Daily
A year ago, it crossed her mind.
After the first meet this season, she
thought she actually had a chance
to get there. Now after being named
Freshman of the Year and Big Ten
Swimmer of the Championships,
Michigan freshman Justine Muel-
ler is on her way to the women's
swimming NCAA Championships
with seven of her teammates. The
tournament is March 17-19 in West
"This is where I was hoping to
be," Mueller said.
While another freshman might
buckle under the pressure of going
up against the best at the NCAA
Championships, Mueller thrives on
that nervous energy.
"That's what makes me swim fast
- being nervous and excited and
pressured," Mueller said. "Those are
all things that I somehow handle very
well, and they make me swim fast
every time. Standing on the block,
shaking, I pull out my best time and
surprise and shock people."
Mueller will try to break through
to the finals in three individual
events - the 200- and 400-yard
individual medleys and the 200-
yard breaststroke - and also help
the team's 800-yard freestyle relay.
She is ranked second and seventh
in the 200- and 400-yard individu-
al medleys respectively. And she's
only getting better, according to
Michigan coach Jim Richardson.
"Her training times have been
faster than going into Big Tens,"
Richardson said. "She's definitely
ahead of where she was four weeks
Mueller isn't the only swimmer
who has been working on improving
her times since the Big Ten Cham-
pionships, where the Wolverines
finished fourth. Juniors Abby Ses-
kevics and Carolina Sierra, sopho-
mores Kaitlyn Brady, Susan Gilliam
and Lindsey Smith and freshman
Valeria Silva also made the NCAA
"I've watched the training pret-
ty carefully the last three weeks,"
Richardson said. "We've done some
things actually better than we did
them and faster than we did them in
our preparation for Big Tens."
Richardson partially credits a
new training model implemented
this season that allowed the women
to keep getting stronger all year.
Richardson increased the volume of
training by 16 percent in the middle
of the season, added gymnastics
rings to their dry-land program and
adopted some new training guide-
lines that called for more anaerobic
"For those people that did adapt,
the results speak for themselves,"
It doesn't hurt that the team is
back to almost 100 percent health,
either. Senior Amy McCullough
battled mononucleosis all season
long but is ready to race in her final
"What Amy has done this year is
just remarkable," Richardson said.
"She is coming off a pretty bad case
of mono, not being able to train
effectively from about the middle of
October to January."
McCullough, a three-time NCAA
All-American, will swim the 50-,
100- and 200-yard freestyle events
in addition to anchoring the free-
style relays. The 17th-ranked Wol-
verines captured first, in all three of
the freestyle relays at the Big Ten
"I think we've got the opportunity
in all three freestyle relays to final
and finish in the top eight," Rich-
After finishing 13th in the NCAA
Championship last season, Richard-
son sees no reason why the Wolver-
ines can't improve on that mark.
"We're a better team this year
than we were last year," Richardson
said. "We're faster, and we're fitter.
It just depends on whether we can
take advantage of the opportunities
or not. That remains to be seen, but
I think we have the potential to fin-
ish higher than we did last year."
For Muller and the other swim-
mers, it's just a matter of having
their best races of the season.
"I just hope to swim to the best of
my abilities this weekend," Mueller
said. "We'll see what happens."
WOMEN'S TRACK & FELD
M' gafis momientum from Indoor finish
By Chastity L. Rolling
Daily Sports Writer
Claiming first place in the Big Ten
conference and 13th in the NCAA Indoor
Championship was "great" for the Michi-
gan women's track and field team, junior
Katie Erdman said. With the beginning
of the outdoor season on the horizon in
addition to Michigan's victory in the Big
Ten cross country and indoor champions,
the Wolverines are on the verge of earn-
ing a triple crown this year.
"We are definitely on the right path,"
Michigan coach James Henry said. "We
are two-thirds of the way there. We just
need to win outdoor."
Henry earned his sixth Big Ten Coach
of the Year honor this season. This is his
11th time winning the award in 21 years at
the helm of the Michigan women's track
and field team. Henry has won seven of
the last eight Big Ten Coach of the Year
awards, leading Michigan to three of the
last four indoor titles and three straight
The Wolverines have proven they're
capable of winning another outdoor
crown with their indoor performance.
But with Illinois, Minnesota and Penn
State on its tail, Michigan needs to finish
"A triple crown this year will be hard
to do, especially with this season," Erd-
man said. "The Big Ten is a good confer-
ence this year. To get a triple crown while
the other Big Ten teams are doing well
- it'll be great."
Erdman gained a unique perspective
of her team since she sat out the indoor
season because of a stress fracture in her
foot. She's been watching and supporting
her teammates and feels that the runners
have proven themselves an immense force
- both collectively and individually.
"I am impressed with the good team we
have," Erdman said. "I see my teammates
in practice and I think they are great. But
seeing them run against other great teams
and win - it means so much more."
Watching her team do so well moti-
vates Erdman to continue her recovery.
She is excited to conclude her recupera-
tion and get back on the track.
"I know I will not get to run in these
first meets, but I am working hard to get
better so that I can help my teammates in
outdoor," Erdman said. "I should be out
there by midseason."
Recuperation for the 2004 Two-time
NCAA Indoor All-America runner is
more than building up the muscle strength
in her foot to train. Erdman said she has
to get her body back in to shape. And her
healing depends solely on personal ath-
"The unique aspects of track is the
uninhibitedly of the sport. It is an individ-
ual sport," Erdman said. "But at the same
time, your times are affected by others'
performance as well."
In relays, for example, improving one's
team performance sometimes requires
humbling your individual performance to
improve the overall team effect. As Erd-
man said, "balance is the key."
Fifth-year senior Lindsay Gallo pro-
vides balance to the team. This weekend,
rather than resting up for her mile race,
Gallo was dedicated to running in the dis-
tance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor
"Relays are very unique," Gallo said.
"I wanted to run the medley because I'll
never get a chance to do it again in the
Shortly after running in the mile pre-
liminaries, Gallo ran anchor in the med-
ley, which won first place.
Less than 24 hours later, she was back
on the track running the mile, and she fin-
ished third. She finished the 2005 indoor
season with two All-America honors,
giving her four career All-America track
citations for the indoor season and one for
Regardless of Gallo's performance,
Henry said the team as a whole could
have accumulated more points.
"We did sacrifice points overall in the
NCAA Championships," Henry said.
"For example, Edwards could've run the
half-mile, which would've given us more
points, and Gallo could've been fresher in
the mile. But she wanted to be there for
"Overall, I am happy with the group
performance," Henry said. "This has
been a long season. It has been full of
physical and emotional downs.
"We need to rest and get healthy really
early in the outdoor season."
But the Wolverines won't have much
time to rest. Their outdoor season begins
this weekend at the Florida State Relays
in Tallahassee, Fla.
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Freshman Justine Mueller is prepared for the NCAA Championships this weekend.
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