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July 12, 2004 - Image 12

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2004-07-12

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, July 12, 2004

SPORTS

Eurotrip
a happy
venture
,,,f W or is *
br Willis
By Sharad Mattu
DailySports Editor
As Nick Willis and Nate Brannen
have traveled to Oregon, Canada, Eng-
land, Croatia and Italy, one thing has
become abundantly clear: Qualifying
for the 2004 Olympics in Athens,
- Greece, is not easy.
"There's a lot of luck involved in
making the Olympic team and the
timing matters," Michigan coach
Ron Warhurst said. "Everything has
to be just right."
For Willis, everything was just right
on July 2 in Rome. At the Golden Gala,
he hit the Olympic 'A' standard in the
1,500 meters with a time of 3:32.68.
Willis, who received one of the few
wild card entries, felt fortunate to even
be in the race.
"It was a really big relief," Willis
said. "I knew once I got into the race it
wouldn't be too much of a problem. I
really didn't have to do too much work.
I just had to get into the pack and get
tagged along for the ride. I was really
lucky to get into the race."
It was an especially big relief
because Willis hit the necessary
time in his first race following the
Norwich Union Super Grand Prix
on June 27. Willis was among the
leaders in that race, but was tripped
up with just 350 meters left.
"I may have hit (the time)," Willis
said. "It would have been borderline. I
was really frustrated for the entire week
after that. But, in the end, it worked out,
so I suppose it happened for a reason."
Now, after more than a month on the
road, bored by living in hotels and
"watching foreign TV" Willis is glad to
be back home in Ann Arbor with his
Olympic berth secured. Later this
month he will go to New Zealand's
training base in France and will likely
run in two races before the Olympics.
"He's just two races from the
Olympic finals," Warhurst said. "It's
really incredible. The preliminaries, the

SWIMMING
Continued from Page JI
ably the best swimmer in the world
right now, so that feels good to be on
the same team with him."
The reigning three-time individual
NCAA Champion - Vanderkaay won
the 200-meter, 400-meter and 1,500-
meter freestyle races in addition to his
800-meter relay title - will also com-
pete in the 1,500-meter freestyle on
Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I'm thrilled with the race I
swam, but I have to refocus now for
Athens," Vanderkaay said. "I will
still try my best to make the team in
(the 1,500-meter freestyle) but the
pressure is definitely off a little bit
now that I have already qualified.
This opportunity is a real honor."
One. Two. Three. Four?
If having three Wolverines on the
U.S. relay team weren't enough,
Michigan will actually have four
swimmers in the pool for the 800-
meter relay. Junior Andrew Hurd all
but assured himself a ticket to

Athens with an impressive perform-
ance at the Canadian Olympic Trials.
Hurd won the 400-meter freestyle
race with an Olympic qualifying and
Canadian record-time of 3:49.67,
which should put him on the top of the
nomination list of athletes to represent
Canada at the games.
In addition, Hurd placed third in
the 200-meter freestyle, which
earned him a spot on the Canadian
800-meter freestyle relay team and
in the pool to compete against his
Wolverine teammates.
"Andrew did a super job. He
made up his mind to swim the 200-
meter freestyle and 400-meter
freestyle and he medaled in both,"
outgoing Michigan head coach Jon
Urbanchek said. "Both (Ketchum)
and (Vanderkaay) were expected to
make the team, so it's not really a
surprise. But just because they were
supposed to make it on paper, it
doesn't mean they were going to.
You have to do it in the water.
(Making the Olympics) was theirO
goal and now they have done it.
I'm very happy for them."

After numerous attempts that fell just short, Michigan sophomore Nick Willis earned
a spot on New Zealand's Olympic team that will head to Athens later this summer.

semi-finals, and he's there. He'll be able
to do it too. The times won't be too fast.
He's just got to beat the others."
Willis' training partner, Brannen,
also returned from Europe last week.
But he was still seeking an Olympic
berth in the 800 meters. He hoped to
get it yesterday at the Canadian
Track and Field Championships in
Victoria, B.C., but his dreams may
be on hold for four years.
Brannen entered the weekend having
to finish in the top four and hit the
Olympic 'A' standard of 1:45.71.
"I'm confident I'll run well there and
finish in the top four at least," Brannen
said before the weekend. "Hitting the
standards is the tough part. It's not easy
to go out there and run a 1.45 by
myself. I'm going to need someone to
help me through the first 400 or 600. It
just takes a lot of energy to go out on
my own from start to finish."
Warhurst told Brannen that if the
weather was good, he should consider
going for the time in the preliminary
heat to get it over with before the finals.
While he did finish second in the heat,
Brannen's time was just 1:49.84.
In the finals, Brannen's worst fear
came true. He came in fourth place but
struggled to keep up with the leaders
and finished with a time of 1:48.23.
Warhurst had hoped that with a top 4
finish and a time close to the 'A' stan-

dard, Brannen could petition for addi-
tional opportunities to hit the time. But,
since he finished well short of the time,
it is unclear whether a petition is being
planned.
For Brannen, what is most frustrating
is the fact that the first-place finisher in
the race ran a fast time of 1:45.34, and
he was unable to keep up. Ever since an
ankle injury about two months ago,
Brannen has had trouble getting back to
his earlier form.
"I was really fit before the injury. I
think I could have run a 1:45 by myself
at that point," said Brannen, who has
been receiving treatments daily ever
since. "Now, with this nagging injury,
I've just been a lot more down."
Warhurst has tried to help Brannen
keep his confidence up, but it hasn't
been an easy task.
"When you're limited to doing one
thing in 1:45 and you get three opportu-
nities and you train six months for it, it
can be frustrating when your ankle is
sore and it hurts and you just can't do
it," Warhurst said. "It's just been a real
tough time for him."
Andrew Ellerton, who did not red-
shirt the outdoor track season as
Willis and Brannen did, was in the
same situation as Brannen before and
after the weekend. Ellerton finished
in third place in the 800 finals with a
time of 1:47.68.

COURTEsY OF DANNY MOLOSHOK
Peter Vanderkaay (left) and Klete Keller after the 400-meter US Olympic qualifying race.
OLYMPICS WILL BE BLUE
When the flame finally makes its way into Athens Olympic stadium, marking the
beginning of the 2004 Olympic games, Maize and Blue will be one of the most
prominent colors. Four current Wolverines have spots and the number will con-
tinue to grow with five Michiga0 athletes still looking for a ticket to Athens.
ATHLETE EVENT COUNTRY
Andrew Hurd Swimming - 400m freestyle Canada
Swimming - 800m freestyle relay
Dan Ketchum Swimming - 800m freestyle relay United States
Peter Vanderkaay Swimming - 800m freestyle relay United States
Nick Willis Track - 1,500m run New Zealand
MICHIGAN ALUMNI AND CLUB WOLVERINE OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS
Kate MacKenzie - W Rowing pair (US), Kate Johnson - W Rowing eight (US),
Ste phen Warner - M Rowing tightweight four (US), Klete Keller - Swimming
40Gm freestyle, 200m freestyle, 800m freestyle relay (US),
Tom Malchow - Swimming 200mbreaststroke (US)
STILL IN THE RUNNING
Peter Vanderkaa - M Swimming 1,50Gm freestyle (US), Lindsey Gallo - Track
1,500m run (US) ,Vera Simms - rack 400m hurdles (US) ,Melissa Bickett -
Track discus (US), Nick Brannen - Track 800m run (CAN)

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