2B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - December 5, 2005
Synchro newest club varsity sport
Athlete of the Week
Name: Peter Vanderkaay
Team: Men's swimming/diving
By Katie Field
Daily Sports Writer
Water ballet it's not.
There is much more to synchronized swimming than
graceful turns in the water.
Just ask sophomore Rochelle Ross, a co-captain of
the Michigan Club Varsity Synchronized Swimming
team, about what the sport requires of its athletes.
"You need the strength of a water polo player, the
grace of a ballerina and the endurance of a marathon
runner all combined in one," she said. "We're known
for holding our breath so basically it's like trying to run
holding your breath."
In a sport where waterproof makeup, underwater
speakers, nose clips and Knox - unflavored gelatin
that hardens into a makeshift swim cap - are the norm,
it isn't surprising that synchro is considered by many to
be a very unique sport. Performing in depths between
14 to 17 feet, synchro swimmers never touch the bottom
of the pool. Instead they tread water by doing a move
called the "eggbeater" and submerge in order to hoist
each other in the air for complex lifts and flips.
Because these performances are so strenuous, senior
co-captain Cynthia Saw - who previously swam com-
petitively before giving synchronized swimming a try
- finds it to be more difficult than swimming laps, but
also more enjoyable.
"You use muscle groups that you never knew existed
in your body," Saw said. "It's tiring and it really is a lot
of work. But the time passes by a lot quicker because
you are doing a lot more fun things. We listen to fun
music. We have awesome routines. It's a lot more upbeat
For many synchro swimmers, working on the routine
is the best part of practice because they get to use their
creativity to select their music and moves. Routines can
have anywhere from one swimmer to eight in the team
category. Judges award scores based on technique, pre-
sentation and creativity. But the routine is just half the
competition. There is also the figures portion in which
the swimmers must slowly perform stationary move-
ments for the judges. At the end of the meet, figures and
routine scores are combined for an overall score.
Much like the two separate parts of synchro compe-
titions, Michigan's synchronized swimming team has
two distinct teams: the competitive team and the perfor-
mance team. The competitive team consists of 11 girls
and participates in meets at the national level - the
most important of which, the Collegiate Nationals, will
take place at Stanford in March. The performance team
provides the unique opportunity for complete beginners
to learn synchro and, for many, to advance later to the
national level with the competitive team.
Two former Michigan synchro swimmers, Becky
Trombley Domegan and Stephanie Dionne Sherk,
advanced through the program and now are head
coaches for the team.
Sherk uses the knowledge of the sport that she
acquired throughout her years at Michigan to create a
training program to prepare her swimmers for national
"We have a weekly ballet class, and we also have
a weekly pilates class," Sherk said of her team's cross
training. "We have weekly weight training, and then we
meet regularly for land drilling, which is mocking the
moves that we do in the water on land."
One of Michigan's first six women's varsity sports,
synchronized swimming was demoted to club sport
status when athletics converted to the NCAA from
the IAAUS. In the past year, Michigan synchro has
regained some of its ground. Once named a Michigan's
newest club varsity sport, the team receives the benefits
of varsity sports teams, including media representation
and a bigger uniform budget.
The team has come a long way in the pool over the
last few years as well. In 1999, the team began its sea-
son with all new swimmers except for one returnee.
Since then, they have been focused on improving and
rebuilding the strength of the team. Last year, Michigan
advanced more in national ranking than any other team.
Currently, it is No. 13 in the nation. Sherk is especially
pleased with the success of her team and its new club
"It's really exciting for us to see how quickly that evo-
lution happened," Sherk said.
Why: Vanderkaay won the 1,650-yard freestyle event in the final
day of the Texas Invitational. The senior's win was his first indi-
vidual win of the weekend. He also swam on the Wolverines' 800-
yard freestyle relay squad, which finished first with an NCAA
qualifying time of 6:22.76.
12/06 W Basketball vs.
Maryland Eastern Shore
12/07 M Basketball vs. Delaware State
12/09 W Basketball at Washington
12/09 Wrestling vs. Nebraska
12/09 Ice Hockey vs. Nebraska-Omaha
12/10 M Basketball at South Florida
12/10 W Gymnastics vs. Maize and Blue
12/10 Ice Hockey vs. Nebraska-Omaha
12/11 Wrestling at Central Michigan
Trio of captains lead tankers against nation's best
By Anne Uible
Daily Sports Writer
Captains lead by example, and Michigan
men's swimming captains Peter Vanderkaay,
Davis Tarwater and Chris DeJong clearly
stand by this motto.
The three seniors each won an individual
event this weekend at the much-anticipated
"Those three guys are just really great to
have on this team," Michigan coach Bob Bow-
man said. "They are great leaders both in and
out of the pool. The freshmen are so lucky to
have them to look up to."'
The No. 4 Michigan men's swimming
and diving team placed fourth this week-
end in Austin. The meet featured top-10
teams such as No. 2 California, No. 5 Ari-
zona and No. 6 Texas.
"I think all of our goals were accomplished
at the meet," Bowman said. "We had five peo-
ple get (NCAA) 'A' qualifying standards. It
also gave us a picture of what things are going
well and what things we need to work on. It
was a good report card for the middle of our
The Wolverines opened up the first day of
events by claiming seven top-eight finishes
and earning the team 155 points. In typi-
cal Michigan fashion, the Wolverines domi-
nated the distance events. Senior co-captains
Vanderkaay and DeJong and freshman Matt
Patton all raced in the final heat of the 500-
yard freestyle. After qualifying Thursday
morning in the runner-up position behind
Southern Cal's Ous Mellouli, Vanderkaay
strategically put himself in the perfect posi-
tion for the race. At the start of the champion-
ship heat on Thursday night, Vanderkaay kept
ahead of Mellouli for the first 100 yards and
then Melloui began to inch up. The rest of the
event featured four lead changes and although
Vanderkaay held down the faster time in the
final 50 yards of the event, Melloui managed
to get his hand to the wall just .17 seconds
ahead of Vanderkaay.
"I was pleased with the time," Vanderkaay
said. "Ous is a great racer and it's fun going
head-to-head with him in big races. Anytime
we race I always get some of my best times."
Patton and DeJong placed sixth and sev-
enth, respectively in the event to give the Wol-
verines a huge point boost for the evening. In
the event, Patton got the opportunity to race
against his brother, Sean, who swims for Texas.
Sean placed 71st with a time of 1:42.04..
"I was really happy with the event," Bow-
man said. "Everyone really stepped it up for
us and got it done."
Patton got the opportunity to swim against
his brother in the event
On the second day of the invitational, the
Wolverines climbed up into third place by
passing California with 351 points on the
board. Highlights from the night included
one victory, four automatic NCAA-qualifying
times and seven NCAA-consideration times.
The 200-yard freestyle proved to be the
night's most rewarding event for the Wolver-
ines. With four of the top-six finishers from
the 2005 NCAA Championships competing
in the event, the battle for the title came down
to NCAA title owner Simon Burnett from
Arizona, the 2005 runner-up Vanderkaay and
senior co-captain Tarwater.
Burnett led the event for the first half of the
race with Tarwater and Vanderkaay following
close by. In the third 50 yards, Vanderkaay
pulled himself ahead of Tarwater and made
a run for the leader. Burnett found a way to
pull ahead in the final 50 yards and out-
touched Vanderkaay by .40. As consolation,
Vanderkaay and Tarwater managed to record
NCAA automatic times.
"I was really happy with my race in the 200
free," Vanderkaay said. "I was really close to
my best-ever time so it makes me confident
that I can work towards that in the rest of the
The night was put on ice by a victory
from the 800-yard relay team of Tarwater,
Vanderkaay, freshman Bobby Savulich and
DeJong. The Wolverines relay earned the
first-place finish by handily beating second
place Southern Cal by nearly six seconds
and earning an automatic NCAA time of
On the final night of the meet the Wolver-
ines managed to secure three individual vic-
tories but slipped into fourth place, a mere 12
points behind third-place Southern Cal.
Vanderkaay opened up Saturday night by
edging out rival Mellouli - who outtouched
Vanderkaay in both the 500-yard freestyle
and the 400-yard individual medley over the
weekend - in the 1,650-yard freestyle by
nearly two seconds.
"It meant a lot to get the win in that event,"
Vanderkaay said. "We always seem to go back
and forth in winning events."
DeJong and Tarwater later claimed their own
individual victories in the 200-yard backstroke
the 200-yard butterfly, respectively.
The meet marked the Wolverines' final
competition for the year as the team will not
be in action until Jan. 13 when they take on
Senior Chris DeJong took home a first-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke at the Texas Invitational.
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Wrestlers hit jackpot in Vegas
By David VandeVusse
Daily Sports Writer
The Wolverines felt right at home in Las Vegas.
The No. 3 Michigan wrestling team was at the top of its game
last weekend, winning the team title at the Cliff Keen Invita-
tional for the second straight year with a score of 145 points.
Cornell remained within striking distance of Michigan after day
one, but fell short and finished with 116 points. The tournament
featured 50 teams -10 of which were nationally ranked entering
It's fitting that the Maize and Blue found success at an invita-
tional named after former Michigan standout coach Cliff Keen
and organized by members of the Churella family - a family
rich in Wolverine wrestling tradition.
Fifth-year senior Ryan Churella and his brother, redshirt
sophomore Josh Churella, lived up to their family name by win-
ning individual titles Saturday in the 161-pound and 141-pound
classes, respectively. Fifth-year senior Greg Wagner and redshirt
freshman Steve Luke also took first in the heavyweight and 157-
pound classes. Ryan Churella and Wagner successfully defended
their individual titles from last year's tournament.
"I was happy with the team effort," Michigan coach Joe
McFarland said. "They were aggressive and tough and scored
lots of points."
Ryan Churella's performance earned him the accolade of
most outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
"It's definitely something I recognize and appreciate'"he said.
"It's a kind of cool thing coming here and winning this tourna-
ment that I grew up around and that my dad runs."
Despite Churella's dominance, it was Luke who made the big-
gest strides on Saturday. In his first tournament as a member of
Michigan's starting lineup, he reeled off six straight victories,
including a win in the finals over Alex Tirapelle from Illinois, the
top-ranked wrestler nationally in the weight class.
"My offense wasn't very good," Luke said. "But (Tirapelle) is
a very defensive wrestler, and it was a very defensive match."
Both Luke and Tirapelle made escapes for one point each
during regulation, but neither could mount a takedown. In
the first tiebreaker they once again traded points, setting up
a 3-3 score heading into the second round. It soon became
clear that the match would be decided on riding time rather
Redshlrt senior Ryan Churella and his brother, Josh Churella,
both claimed Individual titles over the weekend.
than points. If Luke could make a quick escape, he would
have a chance to win. Early in the second overtime, he did
"I knew I had to escape," Luke said. "Right when the whistle
blew, I exploded. He slipped and I got away."
Luke finished with a four-second advantage in riding time,
winning the match and the individual title.
"It was a big confidence builder for him," McFarland said.
"He beat some of the best wrestlers in the country."
All four Michigan competitors who made it to the finals
Redshirt sophomore Eric Tannenbaum also performed well,
finishing fourth in the 149-pound class.
"This is just a great start for us and a confidence booster as a
team," McFarland said. "But we can't get full of ourselves as it's
still early in the season."
The Wolverines return to Ann Arbor to face No. 12 Nebraska
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