The Wolverine

August 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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24 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2018 whole race was a waiting game, trying to stay as comfortable as I could, no matter how fast the pace was." Early on, Flanagan lurked as far back as 20th, but steadily began mov- ing up. He found his way to the top eight, keeping in mind those first eight spots garner first-team All-America status. He eventually fluctuated between third and fourth place for much of the race, and then moved into second on the final lap. Kiprop remained in front, the Alabama All-American striding confidently toward the finish. Flanagan battled Kiprop two weeks earlier, at the NCAA East Regional pre- liminaries. Kiprop won that day, but Flanagan insisted he understood why and learned a valuable lesson. Now, the final hurdle remained. "I envisioned Kiprop and I going down that home stretch a million times before it actually happened," Flanagan assured. "But I knew it was going to be so tough, because he's a phenomenal athlete. "He's pretty well known to accel- erate from the 100-meter mark all the way to the finish line. I knew if I wanted to beat him, I was going to have to bring my 'A' game." Flanagan brought everything he had, sprinting and straining and surg- ing past Kiprop in the final 10 meters. When he flashed across the finish line first, his mind screamed out one thought. This can't be real. "Right before I hit the finish line, I went absolutely ecstatic," he recalled. "I couldn't contain the emotion any more. As soon as I crossed the line, it was just utter disbelief. I couldn't truly accept the fact of what had just happened. "I didn't know what to do with my- self. I just wanted to show gratitude to those in my life who had gotten me to this level and believed in me." He acknowledged the fans that went crazy over his stretch kick and hailed his fellow competitors. Then he had to find his mom, who could be heard on all 25 laps of the race. "She gets pretty excited," Flanagan said. "She's going to support me either way, whether it's good or bad. She's been in my corner through the ups and downs, my entire collegiate career. We are very close. "I knew she was there watching, and I knew she would be ecstatic and filled with disbelief. I just wanted to share that moment with her." Contrast that moment with others more than a year earlier, when Flana- gan couldn't run a single step. A foot injury and a sacral stress fracture in his back left him on the sidelines. Back then, he noted, winning didn't involve crossing the finish line first in front of a thunderous crowd. "You just have to reframe your mindset and goal-setting, and take ev- ery small victory," he recalled. "When you have 12 weeks of no running and you're spending your days with long hours in the pool or on the bike, a 'W' might be getting your heart rate up to 180 that day, or pushing a teammate in the pool. "Sometimes the 'W' that day is just getting the workout in, because you're so mentally exhausted. Luckily, I have an amazing support network to rely on. I had some incredible teammates during that process that played a huge role in motivating me on a daily basis." Flanagan isn't done running now, either. He and Sullivan are putting to- gether a plan to meet his goals. Among them is representing Canada in interna- tional competitions at the highest level, including a future Olympic Games. In the meantime, he's in Ann Arbor through the fall, finishing up a mas- ter's degree in social work and pos- sibly adding a dual master 's in the School of Information. He's going out a champion, after staying strong to the end. "I love the University of Michigan," Flanagan said. "I love the athletic de- partment, providing me with the sup- port. I'm going to be forever grateful to everyone involved." ❏ Filling Out The Top Five Male Athletes Ben Flanagan's race to a national championship elevated him to top honors among male athletes at Michigan this year. He needed to finish strong, given this field of contenders. 2. Adam Coon, Wrestling — After redshirting last year, he came within a single point of a national title at heavyweight, losing to Ohio State's Kyle Snyder 3-2. Coon wrapped up his career as a three-time All-American and two-time NCAA finalist. In his final year, his only two blemishes during a 29-2 campaign came against Snyder — an Olympic gold medalist who had not lost a college bout in more than two years, until Coon beat him in the regular season — while running up an unblemished 14-0 dual meet record, including 9-0 in Big Ten dual meets. 3. Felix Aubock, Swimming & Diving — The Austrian sophomore enjoyed a huge follow-up to his Big Ten Swimmer of the Year efforts as a freshman. He finished as the national runner-up in the 500-yard freestyle (4:09.03) and the 1,650-yard freestyle (14:29.42). He also earned Big Ten titles in those two events, with times of 4:09.29 and 14:34.10, respectively, plus a pair of All-America honorable mentions (200-yard freestyle, 800-yard freestyle relay). 4. Moritz Wagner, Basketball — The junior from Germany helped drive Michi- gan to the national championship game, serving as captain and a key cog for the NCAA runner-up. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest, both marks led the squad. His 278 boards were the most at U-M since 1997-98. He paced the Wolverines to a second straight Big Ten Tournament champi- onship, scoring a career-high 27 points against Michigan State along the way, before becoming a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers. 5. Kyle Mueller, Golf — The senior rewrote the Michigan record book in his final year, posting the best single-season scoring average (70.76) in U-M history. He became the first Wolverine to lead the squad in scoring in all four of his sea- sons, fashioning the best career scoring average (71.71) in school history. He also became an All-Big Ten first-team selection for the third straight year, af- ter making the second team as a freshman, and was named a PING second-team All-American. The Athens, Ga., native is just the sixth multiple-time All-American (honorable mention last year) in program annals and the first since 2011 — and fifth ever — to earn a spot on the first, second or third team. A model of consistency, he never missed a start, was the team's first-ever four- time all-conference selection and tied the school record with six event titles, including three his final season. — John Borton

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