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September 29, 2005 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-29

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 11A

Small coxswains
loom large for 'M'

By Ari Fink
For the Daily
As the old saying goes, good
things come in small packages.
In rowing, these small packages
are known as coxswains, or by a
more unflattering nickname, "cox-
ies." Those who aren't rowing aficio-
nados might think that a coxswain
has the easiest job in the world, just
hanging out in the bow of the boat.
When asked about the skills
required to be a coxswain, a typi-
cal response would be first, "cock
what?" and then, "Oh, you mean the
little ones who get to sit there and
yell. I could do that."
In fact, the position of the cox-
swain takes more than just a big
mouth. In addition to motivating the
crew in the boat, the coxswain must
also develop a full race plan for an
entire 2,000-meter race while steer-
ing and glancing at where the boat
is in relation to its opponents. Think
about it like driving stick shift while
screaming on a cell phone and drink-
ing a cup of coffee; now multiply it
by 10 and that's a coxswain.
"The hardest part of being a
coxswain is trying to serve as the
bridge between the rowers and
coaches," senior coxswain Julia
Dalzell said.
As if they don't get enough flack
for being little, the coxswains are
also the ones who usually take the
most heat for a lost race. A win-
ning race is often attributed to the
strength and rhythm of the crew, but
after a loss the coxswain is often
blamed for a poor race plan, bad
steering or flawed start.
She has yet to participate in a col-
lege race but freshman Laura Dunn
seems to be handling the pressure of
the position with ease. Even though

most of the rowers in her boat have
seniority, she recognizes that she
must be a leader.
"I'm becoming more comfortable
with the program," Dunn said. "I
know what's expected of me in terms
of balancing being a leader right off
the bat and knowing my place."
With help from coaches and for-
mer coxswain Tara Medina, Dunn
and the other varsity coxswains are
improving daily. Medina's advice,
guidance, leadership and knowledge
of the program make her an ideal
choice for coxswain coach. During
her Michigan career, Medina led the
Big Ten Boat of the Week on mul-
tiple occasions, leaving metaphori-
cally gigantic shoes to fill for this
year's coxswains: Dunn, Dalzell,
Stephanie Chan, Jessica Shanahan,
Sheila Merchant, Jessica Whang and
former rower Vanessa Reid.
After three years of rowing, Reid
decided to move up to the bow of the
boat facing the crew.
"Rowing has helped me to identify
the characteristics that make a good
coxswain," Reid said. "Making clear
calls, being confident and making
yourself available to field concerns
of the rowers," Reid said.
Reid and her fellow coxswains are
starting to get their bearings on the
water this fall. Working with mixed
line-ups every day allows them to
get a feel for the different rowers
and how they work together. They
hope to put their skills to the test
this Saturday in their competition
against rival Ohio State. The event
takes prace at Belleville Lake (10
minutes outside of Ann Arbor) and
the time is yet to be determined.
Although these coxswains might
come in small packages, they more
than compensate for their lack of
stature in heart ... and lungs.

Jessica Merchant carries the NCAA championship trophy after Michigan beat UCLA, clinching the national championship.
Comig off national championship,
Blue dominates fall tournament

By Scott Bell
Daily Sports Writer

When the Michigan women's softball team
arrived in Elk Rapids for the annual Elk Rapids
Collegiate Softball Tournament last weekend,
things were a little different than they remem-
bered from years past. The typically low-key
preseason tournament - where getting everyone
playing time is emphasized more than winning
-had transformed into a a pep rally.
Over 500 fans - easily a tournament record
- packed the small Northern Michigan town's
softball field for a chance to see the defending
national champions in action. It was Michigan's
first game action since June 8, when the Wol-
verines defeated the UCLA to win the Women's
College World Series. Though Michigan certain-
ly cherishes its program's first national champi-
onship, the weekend marked the beginning of a
new chapter for the program.
"We're trying to get a look at the new team, the
(2006) team," Michigan coach Carol Hutchins
said. "Our goal is to get the young kids some

experience to see what they've got."
Hutchins emphasized that the weekend was not
about wins and losses, but the Wolverines did go
3-0. They went through a gauntlet of Michigan
teams, including Michigan State, Eastern Michi-
gan and Western Michigan.
More importantly to Hutchins and her staff,
Michigan saw its young players in action.
Freshman Teddi Ewing and sophomore Lau-
ren Talbot both got to see significant action at
shortstop and seem to be prime candidates for
playing time in the spring. The duo could both
see time with two vacated starting spots from
last year's team. All-Americans Jessica Mer-
chant and Nicole Motycka graduated, leaving
the shortstop and designated player roles open
for competition.
"Both Lauren Talbot and Teddi Ewing have
shown a lot early on," Hutchins said. "We want
to .give them the opportunity to play so they can
get better. It's all about getting better."
And the opportunity is now. Even though fall
tournaments may not mean much to most of the
softball world, they do hold a little more weight

for the Wolverines. Last season, the Wolverines
didn't have their first outdoor spring practice
until March 28 - which was 32 games into the
season. While fall may not always provide per-
fect conditions for softball, it is certainly better
than practicing indoors at Oosterbaan Field-
house, which is where they spend most of their
time during the winter and early spring.
"There's no doubt that we really value the fall
practice because of the weather in Michigan,"
Hutchins said. "We value getting to go out and
play together, and it's hard for us to do that when
there's snow on the ground."
Whether it's inside or outside, fall or spring,
home or away, the Wolverines face the daunting
task of defending their first-ever national champi-
onship this year. They've morphed from the hunt-
ers to the hunted, and the challenge ahead is a big
one. But don't expect them to take the task lightly.
They're playing every chance they can get.
Michigan hosts Canisius and Eastern Michi-
gan this Saturday at Alumni Field for its annual
Michigan Softball Invitational. The opening
game is slated to begin at 10:30 a.m.


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