12 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 2, 2003
Brannen, Willis earn event wins at regional meet4
By Ellen McGarrity
Daily Sports Writer
COLUMBUS - As the bell rang sig-
naling the last lap of the 1500-meter run,
freshman Nick Willis was positioned
dead last among the pack of eight run-
ners racing to get a ticket to the NCAA
Championships. Doubt and anxiety cov-
ered the faces of the Michigan crowd,
but Michigan coach Ron Warhurst
seemed calm as his freshman standout
trailed during the NCAA Mideast
Regionals on Saturday.
"I told Nick, 'Stick to our plan. Don't do
anything until the 500-meter mark. Then
move up, and within that 500-meter mark,
you decide when you're going to go,'"
The coach's strategy worked for his
young runner as Willis gracefully executed
the plan, taking over the lead in a matter of
seconds. The New Zualand native not only
held on to first-place for the remainder of
the race, but managed to finish an amaz-
ing 15 meters in front of the pack with a
time of 3:45.45.
"I looked behind me as I was going
down the backstretch to see what the
gap was like," Willis said. "And I was
quite surprised to see it was a lot bigger
than I expected."
Although this speedy runner knew
exactly what he was doing going into the
race, the freshman confessed that even he
had his doubts.
"Basically I just wanted to get through
the race without tripping over," Willis said.
"I was pretty confident, but if for some
reason I didn't go (to NCAA Nationals), I
would feel like a bit of a tool. I wanted to
stay out of trouble as much as possible."
Willis took the win in the 1,500 at the
Big Ten Championships just a few weeks
ago and was named Big Ten Freshman of
the Year in both the indoor and outdoor
track seasons this year. He will be heading
to Sacramento, Calif. in two weeks to
compete against other nationally-ranked
runners for the NCAA title.
Sophomore Nate Brannen will also join
Willis in California after triumphing in his
specialty event, the 800-meter run. During
Friday's preliminaries, Brannen took an
early lead, but lagged behind Tennessee's
Marc Sylvester as he crossed the finish line
For Saturday's finals, the sophomore
tried a different style. Brannen pur-
posely stayed in the middle of the pack
until the last 100 meters, when his hard
kick propelled him into first and took
him across the line in the winning time
"I said, 'Don't go until you get to the
straightaway - the wind's going to be at
your back,"' Warhurst said about his
advice to Brannen before the race.
"(For preliminaries), I was pretty much
just chasing a time," said Brannen,
explaining his different racing strategies.
"I wanted to be nationally ranked because
if I didn't get in the top five on Friday,
then I could get to the nationals on my
In the Mideast Regionals, individuals
with qualifying times from the outdoor
track season competed for a spot at nation-
als. The top five in each event as well as
the next three fastest runners overall were
chosen to move on.
Sophomore Rondell Ruff and freshman
Andrew Ellerton also came close to earn-
ing a spot at nationals.
Ruff struck out the first day of competi-
tion, finishing fourth in his heat of the
1500-meter preliminaries, missing a
chance at Saturday's finals by just seven
hundredths of a second.
"I kind of fell off the pack with maybe
1100 to go," Ruff said. "Then at 300to go,
the lead pack started pulling away so I
kicked. I made a good strong move, but I
died with 50 meters to go."
Ellerton made it to the second day of
competition in the 800-meter run, but
missed going to Nationals by an even
smaller margin than Ruff - two hun-
dredths of a second.
"Andrew just missed, but he's had a
problem with his knee for the past two
weeks," Warhurst said. "It's better that he
didn't make it so he won't be tempted to
go to nationals (with an injury)."
Ruff admitted he was just happy that
he had the chance to compete at the
"I was pleased because it's a long sea-
son and I wasn't ranked too highly,"
Ruff said. "I did better than a lot of peo-
ple expected - and I've still got two
Brannen and Willis now must look to the
NCAA Finals on June 11 on their own.
"They'll both have an opportunity to get
to the finals at nationals, and then any-
thing can happen," Warhurst said. "The
goal would be to have them in the top
three, but obviously Nate and Nick's goal
is to win."
inued from Page 11 Continue
ett captured the top two spots in the improve
s of the hammer throw. Phillips, the big c
had a winning toss of 1992", also Essentia
the shot put title and will compete to Carlis
>th events at the NCAA Champi- his VHS
ips. Bickett placed second in the was bad
s finals with aheave of 167'1" and Super M
d a third in the shot put finals. She - it's ju
represent Michigan in all three seeming
s at the championship meet. should t
ashman Rebecca Walter and sopho- I knov
Stephanie Linz also qualified for Carlisle
CAA Championships. Walter over- most lik
the cold weather to finish fourth in have a n
5,000-meter run with a time of of the Pt
), while Linz unexpectedly won the intellige
jump with a leap of 5'10 12". thing to
'he four athletes are in a good posi- Scotty B
to do well at the national level," stuck-up
y said. "It's a chance for them to Dumars
individually. I think the throwers, Brown w
rticular, will lead the way for us." that hev
e four qualifiers will have a week Note:
efore they head to Sacramento, Brown it
. for the national championships. end, the
Freshman Nick Willis took the title In the 1,500-meter run at the
Mideast Regionals on Saturday in a come-from-behind fashion.
I from Page 11
d their chances of winning
one with the hiring of Brown.
illy he's the Super Nintendo
le's Nintendo, or the DVD to
. It's not that the predecessor
in any way -- I still play
[ario 3 and record on a VCR
st that when something
ly better comes along, one
w there is a lot of talk of how
upset the front office -
ely everyone that doesn't
umber retired in the rafters
alace - but Dumars is too
nt to just dump the best
happen to Detroit since
3owman because of some
had to have known that
was not only available, but
would become a Piston.
In the rare chance Larry
s a Houston Rocket by week's
crawling back to Carlisle
would need to begin ASAP, and the
tone of this piece of writing would
In the end I'm not surprised to see
Carlisle go. Dumars wasn't known as
the tenacious defender that he was for
doing the same thing over and over
again. He got rid of Jerry Stackhouse
because he could get a player of
almost equal talent for a cheaper
price. Now the Pistons have eight fig-
ures of cap room to go after players
like Jermaine O'Neal (this year) or
Kevin Garnett (last year, maybe this
year). He was able to pull a sign-and- 4
trade with Grant Hill. Now the Pis-
tons have a solid backup point guard
and an all-star power forward.
Dumars gets rid of his Xs-and-Os
coach. Now he has an experienced
and successful coach for reportedly
the next five years.
The only real amazing thing of all
this is how quickly message-board
fans have turned their backs on the
man who got so much for a soon-to-
be defunct Hill.
So I say to you that Rick Carlisle
was man enough Saturday to sit
next to the man who released him
and to actually stand by Dumars'
decision - though he obviously did
not like it. Maybe those who back
Carlisle need to follow his direc-
tion, put a smile on their face and
give Dumars a chance.
- Kyle wants to remind you that the Lions
made the NFC Championship game in
1991, and topped out when they made no
changes. He can be reached at
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