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December 14, 2009 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-12-14

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4B - December 14, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com 6

4B - December A, 2009 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom *

, , ,

My Daily memories, from my
futon to the Big House turf

4&

st was Oct. 22, 2006, and I had
just turned in my firsc story
for the Daily. I received a few
edits in red pen and a healthy dose
of horror stories. "The Daily will
suck you in," one of the seniors
told me. "You think you have other
interests right
now, but the
Daily will take
over your life."
I didn'tfind
that funny. So
I was careful
not to get too
involved as COURTNEY
a freshman, RATKOWIAK
volunteering
to write stories
only when it
wouldn't get in the way of watching
"American Idol" with my roommate
on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
I had absolutely no interest in giv-
ing up my weekends to travel to
away games, soI didn't.
It was Sept. 10, 2007, and I
wasn't going anywhere fast. Not
on foot, anyway. I had had foot
surgery three weeks before,
which meant on this particular
Monday night, I was lying on
my futon with a bright blue ice
pack strapped to my cast. My cell
phone rang. I only answered it
because I didn't have the number
saved in my phone.
Then-Daily sports editor Nate
Sandals was on the other end, tell-
ing me the editors really wanted
me to come in that night to inter-
view for a position on the hockey
beat. I purposely hadn't signed up
for an interview, I told him. I was
perfectly content writing about the
men's swimming team for the next
few years, which was a four or five
hour-per-week commitment.
But somehow, after an hour-

long phone conversation, I hobbled
to 420 Maynard St. to meet with
six upperclassmen I barely knew.
They were apparently desperate
for someone to fill that spot on the
four-person beat, and I didn't really
understand what I was signing up
for.
Turns out I had only lasted 11
months before gettingsucked in.
There's no way I would have
known how lucky I was.
It was Oct. 18, 2007, and I was
quickly forced to change my mind
about road trips. Hockey coach
Red Berenson allowed fellow beat
writer Mike Eisenstein and me to
hitch a ride with the hockey team
on its charter plane to Marquette.
It was an unprecedented invita-
tion for any Daily writer, and we
went through about two minutes
of security, walked right onto the
plane and found out the "airplane
food" included Reese's Peanut
Butter Cups and beef jerky.
We were just starting to feel at
ease when Berenson rose from his
seat, turned around and addressed
his team before takeoff.
"Be on your best behavior," he
told them. "Reporters are in atten-
dance."
He turned to give us one of his
legendary stares. I don't think Mike
or I said a word to each other the
entire flight, out of sheer intimida-
tion.
But we got to know Coach Beren-
son better after that. Each day after
hockey practice, the coach would
trod out of the locker room, wear-
ing socks (no shoes) and holding a
steaming mug of hot coffee. He'd
take his seat on the couch and
patiently answer all of our ques-
tions. He wasn't as intimidating
then, and I knew I was lucky to be
there.

It was April 12, 2008, and I
found myself wedged between big
guys holding bulky photo equip-
ment, craning my neck to see the
final seconds of the NCAA hockey
national championship tick down.
Michigan had lost in the Frozen
Four two days before, but Boston
College was about to win the NCAA
title and we wanted to be in the
middle of it when it happened.
Our media credentials said NO
ICE, but beat writer Andy Reid and
I snuck past security to try and
blend in with the all-access guys
and their neon press armbands. The
buzzer sounded, the arena went
crazy and we ran out, taking turns
feverishly snapping pictures of the
celebrating Boston College players
with my point-and-shoot Nikon as
if we were really doing our jobs.
We must have looked ridiculous,
but I didn't care. That was as close
to a national championship as I got
in my time here at Michigan, and I
knew I was lucky to be there.
It was Nov. 21, 2009, and I had
just watched Michigan football
lose its 16th and final game of my
two years in the press box. I had
been sure to pull out all the stops
for this Ohio State game - wak-
ing up to blaring tailgate music
at 7 a.m., heckling Buckeye fans
from my friend's house on State
and Hill, then changing into
business casual and watching
from 10 feet away as the football
team stormed out under the GO
BLUE banner.
After conducting postgame
interviews, the four seniors on the
football beat walked back down
the tunnel and onto the Michigan
Stadium turf for the last time.
Andy joked about playing a game
of pickup football on the field, and

I burst into tears. And the tears
didn't stop, even as I transcribed
football quotes for the last time
and as we slung our press box
chairs over our shoulders to take
them home as souvenirs.
All of our group photos from
after that game suck. My eyes are
red and puffy, and I'm forcing a
smile.
Now that I look back on it, it was
embarrassing, really. But it only
happened because even though
I covered two terrible football
teams, I knew as I walked out of
the Big House press box for the
last time that I was so, so lucky to
be there.
It's now December 14, 2009, and
this is my last byline for the Daily.
Over the past three years, one
month and 22 days, I've written
more than 320 articles and logged
16,800 away game road trip miles.
I'm currently the second-high-
est paid member on the Daily edit
staff, but my monthly salary evens
out to a cool $1.25 per hour during
football season.
And the thought of never writ-
ing for a newspaper again terrifies
me, so I'm going to try to make
sure that doesn't happen.
When I was prone on my futon
a couple years ago, that bright blue
ice pack on my cast, I was worried
I wouldn't get the real "college
experience," whatever that's sup-
posed to be, if I was working in the
press box instead of screaming in
the stands.
But now I know the brightest
part of Michigan blue has to be
writing sports at 420 Maynard St.
And for that, I'll always feel
lucky.
- Ratkowiak can be reached
at cratkowi@umich.edu.

Senior Kylie Botterman impressed those in attendance at the annual intrasquad
meet this weekend
Tu-mblers get
chanc e to warm
up for '910 seaso-n

THANKS FOR READING THE DAILY THIS SEMESTER.
WE'LL BE BACK IN PRINT NEXT YEAR WITH MORE
COVERAGE OF THE SPORTS YOU LOVE.
OVER WINTER BREAK, READ ABOUT THE WOLVERINES AT
WWW.MICHIGANDAILY.COM/SEcTION/SPORTS.

By STEPHEN NESBITT
For the Daily
On a Saturday night that was
meant to showcase some of Ann
Arbor's brightest young athletes,
the Maize team trumped its Blue
counterparts in a thrilling 6-5
finale at the Michigan women's
gymnastics team's annual intra-
squad meet.
The competition pitted Maize
- seniors Sarah Curtis, Kelsey
Knutson and Jaclyn Kramer and
freshman Natalie Beilstein -
against Blue - seniors Maureen
Moody and Jordan Sexton, junior
Kylee Botterman, and freshman
Brittnee Martinez.
The evening's judges were
WTKA radio personalities Sam
Webb and Ira Weintraub, noted
author and University professor,
John Bacon, and former Wolver-
ine running back Jamie Morris.
The match, held at Crisler
Arena, came down to the final
floor exercise between Botter-
man and Beilstein - a proven
veteran against an incoming sen-
sation.
After Beilstein finished her
routine, Botterman took the
microphone and pleaded with the
judges.
"Professor Bacon, I'm just won-
dering if you're up for any type of
negotiations," she said in playful
banter with the judge, her Ameri-
can Culture professor. "How
about if I do this floor routine up
to your standards, I get sO 'A' in
your class?"
Her ensuing routine was as
good as promised, but one unsta-
ble landing allowed Beilstein to
swipe the final point and win the
competition for the Maize team.
Michigan coach Bev Plocki and
her gymnasts said they were con-
tent with the team's performance
as a whole.
"We know that our beam (rou-
tines) have been really, really good

in practice, and (tonight) we had a
few falls under pressure," Plocki
said. "But all the makings of a good
team are here, and I think we had
a lot of highlights tonight."
Added Sexton, a senior captain:
"We know that our routines are
not up to national quality yet, but
we want to get out there and we're
feeling confident. We just wanted
to go and get those routines and
keep on moving up the ladder and
gettingstronger and stronger, get-
ting ready to start in January."
"We have the
same goals
pretty much
every ylear.1
No. 14 Michigan enters the sea-
son with five seniors and three
freshmen, but the most impres-
sive outings may have come from
Beilstein and Martinez, two of the
newest Wolverines.
"I was very impressed with
(the freshmen) in their first ever
collegiate-type situation," Plocki
said of the duo. "I thought they
did very well."
The Wolverines, who have won
15 of the last 17 Big Ten titles,
begin their regular season in Ann
Arbor against Iowa and Bowling
Green on Jan. 9.
According to Plocki, who is in
her 20th season of coaching at
Michigan, the team's aspirations
remain the same..
"We have the same goals pretty
much every year, and we never
back down from those," Plocki
said. "Ultimately, we want to win
a national championship, but first
and foremost, we always focus on
a Big Ten Championship."

*I

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SELECT SPACES
LEFT FOR 2010

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