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February 12, 2009 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

ports

Thursday, February 12, 2009 - 9A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, February 12, 2009 - 9A

WOMENS TR

LD

- Wade's renewed faith
fuels her track success

Ultimate Frisbee club team
hopes to travel to Nationals

Sprinter's interest in
nondenominational
church helps her put
sports in perspective
By AMY SCARANO
Daily Sports Writer
A yellow wristband on her left
wrist reads "confident," and a navy
blue band on her right wrist reads
"heart."
Michigan women's track and
field captain Bettie Wade wears
the "heart" band because she gives
it her all every time she competes,
her whole heart is in the sport. And
she stresses the need to be confi-
dent in order to perform her best,
a lesson she has learned after years
of competition.
For the senior, confidence and
heart are just two of the key ingre-
dients necessary to always compete
ather best.
But those she can find in herself.
It took a few falls before she looked
to God, but she hasn't looked back
since.
As a high school senior, she was
the one of the top high jumpers in

the stat
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e of Michigan but didn't Growing up in a Baptist family,
or the state championships Wade went to church as a child,
been slated to win. Wade but the eiperience didn't resonate
astated. with her.
did, however, qualify for It was not until she and twin
the long jump, an event brother Marcellus visited their
learned just a month ear- sister Patrice, who was studying
d later that year, she won college ministry at Grand Valley
e outdoor championship in State while Wade was still in high
t. school, that they decided to give
church another try.
"In high school, we always grew
up in the church but we didn'thave
(Track) has a relationship with Christ," Wade
said. "But when my sister went to
ade my faith college and got involved and we
went up to visit her, we were like,
onger,"W ade 'Oh, church can be kind of cool."'
sad Fade withdrew fom the Baptist
said. church and joined a nondenomina-
tional one in college.
Four years later, she wears a
cross around her neck and relies on
ind of made me be like her faith in God more than ever.
can't control everything in "(Track) has made my faith
" Wade sasid. "So I picked stronger,"Wade said. "With my ups
p and was like, 'You know and downs and trials and struggles,
od has a plan for me.' I it has helped me to lean on God
magined God would give more. I'm just on fire for God right
ething you never imagined now, where before it was just likeI
for." was lukewarm.
s then that Wade re-evalu- "But now I am hot just because
role faith could play in her all he has blessed me with in track
and field and just in life."

After finishing
undefeated in fall,
'Flywheel' beats cold
by practicing indoors
By JACK FERNBACHER
Daily Sports Writer
In the bitter cold of winter, fris-
bees have disappeared from the
Diag, but they are still flying around
Ann Arbor. The women's Ultimate
Frisbee club team, Flywheel, prac-
tices during the entire academic
year.
The Wolverines started strong
this year with a 16-0 record in the
fall and won the Michigan Indoor
Tournament in January.
The players practice indoors dur-
ing the cold months in The Sports
Coliseum and at Oosterbaan Field-
house to work on conditioning and
improve their game. And it's that
year-round dedication that led Fly-
wheeltoafifth-placefinishatNation-
als in Boulder, Colo., last year.
"We definitely deserved to make
it to Nationals last year," senior cap-
tain Nell Turley said. "We worked
really hard and earned our spot.
The team came together and played

really well at the end."
Martha Carlson, who has coached
Flywheel for nine years, is a doc-
toral student at the University and
traveled to Nationals in 2003, 2006,
and 2008.
"I came to Michigan for gradu-
ate school," Carlson said. "Flywheel
was looking for a new coach, and
since I had experience playing in
college, they asked if I would help
coach and now I am still here nine
years later."
There is a club A and a club B
team, with three volunteer coaches
heading the A team and two with
the B team. Keely Dinse and Janet
Jin also coach Flywheel.
"We have a lot of enthusiastic
coaches this year, which makes a
huge difference," senior captain
Emily Baecher said. "The team is
much more dedicated this year
because of the time put in by the
coaches. They put in more time then
they ever should."
Ultimate Frisbee is becoming
more popular around the country,.
and Michigan is no exception. Fly-
wheel has a combined 32 players on
the A and B teams this year.
"There are only some people that
have done it before they come to col-
lege," Turley said. "Ultimate Frisbee

is great because it is something that
anyone can pick up and succeed in."
Flywheel hastryoutseveryyear in
the fallto findnewtalent.Tryoutsfor
Ultimate Frisbee are different from
other sports, because many people
trying outhave never played.
"Tryouts are really exciting,"
Carlson said. "We look for raw ath-
leticism, and the people that make
the team are easy to teach because
they are excited about sports. At
tryouts, there is a ratio of one per-
son who has played Ultimate to six
people who have never played."
The Wolverines will be playing
on the road for the rest of the sea-
son. The next tournament for Fly-
wheel is the Queen City Tune Up in
Charlotte, N.C. on Feb. 14. Flywheel
will play in four tournaments before
sectionals, the first tournament of
the postseason.
Flywheel lost two of its captains
from last year, including the third-
ranked player in the nation. Even
with the losses, the Flywheel cap-
tains believe the team will again be
a top contender at Nationals.
"We played above our expecta-
tions last year," Baecher said. "Now
we know that we can play with the
best teams in the country and want
to be a top contender at Nationals."

* From China to Ann Arbor, Xiao fosters champion gymnasts

By COLT ROSENSWEIG
Daily Sports Writer
Over a decade ago in China, Xiao
Yuan was a coach for the Chinese
National men's gymnastics team.
Li Xiaoshuang, one of China's most
famous gymnasts, introduced the
coach to a quiet, young boy as pro-
spective student.
No one, not even Li, thought the
boy would amount to much. He had
bad body lines and many bad habits,
both of which boded poorly for his
future in international competition.
But Xiao, now an assistant coach
at Michigan, gave him a shot.
And this past summer, Xiao's
former pupil, Yang Wei, won the all-
around gold medal at the Olympics.
Another ofhis former gymnasts,
Oklahoma's Jonathan Horton, led
the U.S. gymnasts to a surprise
bronze medal in the team compe-
tition while winning an individual
silver on the high bar.
So how did Xiao end up with the
Wolverines?
A COACH FROM THE BEGINNING
Xiao got his start in gymnas-
tics at 10 years old, and just a few
years later, his instructors were
already speculating on his future as
a coach.
"My coach said, 'We know, Xiao,
maybe you're not a good gymnast,
but you're a good coach,"' Xiao said.
"They (knew) I was training more
with my brain than my body."
Xiao wasn't abad gymnast,by any
means. In fact, he won his regional
high bar championship. But com-
peting against the likes of Li Ning,
the gymnast who lit the Olympic
torch for the 2008 Beijing Games,
and Tong Fei, who invented the
pommel horse skill that now bears
his name, Xiao knew his future
wasn't in competing for the Chinese
National Team.
When he retired from competi-
tion in his mid-twenties, a coaching
opportunity quickly lured Xiao to
stay in gymnastics. Both the men's
and women's teams from his prov-
ince competed for his services, and
Xiao took ajob with the men's team.
Then, in 1994, a coaching posi-
tion opened up with the Chinese
National Team. Until 1999, he
coached some of the top gymnasts
in the world, developing stars like
Yang Wei and Xing Aowei. In 1997,
he even earned a Lifetime Achieve-
ment award.
Xiao met current United States
head coach Kevin Mazeika at a
high-level junior meet in Japan, and
the two quickly developed a rap-
port. And when Mazeika eventu-
ally offered Xiao a job, Xiao, already
thinking about leaving China,
jumped t the chance.
"I just wanted to find a different
life," Xiao said. "The U.S. was my
first choice."
In 1999, Xiao moved with his fam-
ily to Houston to coach for Mazeika
at the Houston Gymnastics Acad-
emy. But Xiao, who calls himself an
"education guy," wanted to coach at
the college level, which he believed
would be similar to coaching the
Chinese National Team.
And within less than a year, Okla-
homa came calling.
STRENGTHENING THE SOONERS
In 2000, Oklahoma coach Mark

Williams was searching for a
replacement for his first assistant
coach. Williams had just taken over
the program, and started to revamp,
a year before.
Convincing Xiao to come to Nor-
man wasn't hard.
But there was one major obstacle
- Xiao struggled with speaking
English. So Williams set up English
classes for him and arranged for an
interpreter to come to the gym a few
times asweek to make sure they were
on the same page.
Xiao, along with Williams, played
a crucial role in changing the atti-
tude that pervaded the Oklahoma
gymnastics program.
"At times, I think the previous
head coach had allowed for the bet-
ter athletes to sometimes do less
because they were better and could
talk him into it," Williams said. "I
just felt like if it was going to be a
team, the whole team would do the
same things."
With the addition of Xiao and an
Olympic hopeful, Guard Young, to
the coaching staff, changes began
happening fast.
Xiao provided technical exper-
tise that neither of the other coaches
possessed and helped devise a tough
new training program based on his
experiences. A rookie coach might
not have gotten away with admin-
istering the strenuous workouts,
but Xiao's track record convinced
the gymnasts to give ita try.
The results spoke for them-
selves. From 2001-2005, Okla-
homa won three national titles.
And under Xiao's tutelage, Guard
Young realized his goal of making
the 2004 Olympic team.
"I helped Guard make his
dream, be an Olympian like his
father," Xiao said. "I've been a
part of his life in that moment. I
think that's a great thing (from)
Oklahoma, the best moment."
COMING TO ANN ARBOR
AfterOklahomawontheNCAA
Championship in 2005, Xiao was
ready to move on.
He'd become friendly with
Michigan coach Kurt Golder
through competitions, and often
went out to dinner with him when
the Wolverines came to Norman
for a meet.
Golder had an opening for the
2005-06 season, and at Michi-
gan, Xiao would get to try to build
a team up to the championship
level again.
"Sometimes it's more exciting
to be building a program to that
level than trying to maintain it,"
Williams said. "It just got to be a
time where it seemed like it was
good for both of our programs,
both Michigan and Oklahoma, to
have some changes."
Xiao's credentials gave him
immediate credibility at Michi-
gan.
"It gives you that extra confi-
dence in your coach," said senior
Jamie Thompson, one of eight
gymnasts who were freshmen
when Xiao arrived. "I trust him
fully. Whatever he says, you usu-
ally end up doing anyway, and it
usually works. Might as well keep
doing it. Xiao is always right."
He quickly became a team
favorite for his technical advice
and the strong bonds he devel-
oped through his one-on-one

work with the gymnasts. Williams
said Xiao was always at his best
working individually with a gym-
nast, and he has continued that
trend at Michigan.
Xiao devises unique drills to help
improve the Wolverines' technique
on different events. Senior Scott
Bregman said he's convinced some
of the drills are made up on the spot,
but they're so intuitive and helpful it
doesn't matter.
One of Bregman's most vivid
memories of Xiao, who the senior
calls the best coach he's ever had,
came early in his Wolverine career
during a rough day at practice.
"He told me, 'When you miss a
set, that's my problem. I have to fig-
ure out how to fix it. When you hit
a set, that's yours. You get to keep
that,' " Bregman said. "There's a
sense that he's in it with you."
THE LAUGHING WOLVERINE
Xiao constantly cracks jokes to
keep his gymnasts upbeat, even
when they're having tough work-
outs in the gym. His one-liners are
legendary among the team. Last
season, the gymnasts designed a
team T-shirt with apicture of Xiao's
face, reading, "I Lika Dat." It was
received with universal amusement,

(LEFT TO RIGHT) Michigan assistant coach Xiao Yuan, senioriJamie Thompson, junior David Chan and alumnus Dan Rais.

especially on Xiao's part.
"Xiao is a character," Thompson
said."He's always making fun of peo-
ple, whether they know he's making
fun of them or not. ... He'll just have
little remarks, and if you're paying
attention, they're really funny.".
And as a coach, Xiao is an attrac-
tive force for recruits. Sophomore
and U.S. Senior National Team
member Chris Cameron said that
Xiao's presence was a major factor
in his decision to attend Michigan.

WhenXiao chose to add Cameron
to his coaching group, Cameron said
"it felt like I had won the lottery."
And senior Ralph Rosso credits
Xiao with muchmore thanjusthelp-
ing the gymnasts with their sport.,
"Without Xiao, most of us would
not be the gymnasts that we are
today," Rosso said. "But most impor-
tantly we would not be who we are
today without Xiao's guidance over
the last four years. Personally, Xiao
has been a father-like figure to me

... Our private chats are something
that I will never forget, and I will
take those wherever I go in life."
Still far behind Oklahoma's level
of success, with the Wolverines
Xiao has high hopes for the coming
months and years.
"We've never had a team win,"
Xiao said. "I think this year, we need
to grab that chance. Don't let it go
sliding away. That'sthe picture we're
looking for. So my best moment is not
present, it's in the future."

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