The Wolverine


The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MAY 2020 THE WOLVERINE 37 meant for U-M cannot go under- stated. The Wolverines were just on the right side of the bubble coming into Indianapolis, but left no doubt that they should be dancing after knocking off the Wildcats. Best Individual Performances Male Sport — Basketball guard Zavier Simpson against Purdue: Simpson led U-M in a double-over- time victory over the Boilermakers Jan. 9. Simpson finished the game with 22 points, nine assists and three rebounds. He shot an efficient 9 of 13 from the field. The most impressive part of Simp- son's performance was how he seem- ingly willed his team to gut out the win down the stretch. He started the game by feeling things out on offense. He dished out six assists in the first half, but didn't attempt a shot until there was 1:33 left in the first stanza. However, the senior point guard took over late. Fourteen of his 22 points came with less than one min- ute to go in regulation and in the overtime periods. A clutch Simpson layup with 27 seconds to go in regulation knotted the game up at 62. U-M then out- scored Purdue 16-10 in the second overtime, after Simpson hit a deep three early in the period and nailed two free throws late to seal the deal. Simpson had a stellar career, but scoring more than 20 points was a rarity for him. This was one of just four games where he was able to do so. Female Sport — Cross Coun- try runner Ericka VanderLende at Ohio State Invite: She led U-M to a dominating victory over the other 11 schools at the Buckeye Preview Invitational Sept. 28. The Wolverines swept the individual and team ti- tles, with the freshman VanderLende leading the way. This was the newcomer's first six- kilometer race as a collegiate athlete, and she shined. She finished well ahead of the rest of the competition, running a 20:17.85, almost 16 seconds ahead of Ohio State's Lainey Stude- baker, the next runner to finish. The second half of the race was where she turned up the heat. At the halfway point, VanderLende was just ahead of three others in the lead group in what appeared to be a race that would come down to the wire. By the end, there was nobody else in sight while VanderLende created enough separation to win comfortably. VanderLende went on to have an excellent freshman campaign. She earned All-America honors by finish- ing 25th in the six-kilometer race at the NCAA Championships. She also finished sixth at the Big Ten Championships en route to first- team All-Big Ten and Big Ten Fresh- man of the Year honors, and crossed the line fourth at the Regionals for All-Region laurels. She was U-M's top finisher in all three postseason races. Top Rookies Of The Year Male Sport — Paul Juda, Gymnas- tics: He wasn't just the top rookie in U-M men's athletics this past season, but he was one of the best rookies in the country for any sport. Being a member of the United States Senior National Team is one reminder of just how good Juda is. Juda was awarded Big Ten Fresh- man of the Week twice, and also took home College Gymnastics Associa- tion Gymnast of the Week, Rookie of the Week, and Big Ten Gymnast of the Week and Rookie of the Week at different points throughout his debut campaign. He led the country with a 14.083 average on high bar. He held a 14.433 average on floor exercise, which was good enough for fourth nationally. The highlight of his season was winning the high bar and the all- around title in a team victory over No. 2 Oklahoma. He scored a 14.400 on parallel bars for the top spot and earned another title in the all-around with a mark of 84.050. Female Sport — Sierra Brooks, Gymnastics: Her standout freshman season didn't go unnoticed. Brooks was recognized as the Big Ten Fresh- man of the Week in each of the last seven weeks of the season. Brooks was also honored nation- ally, regionally and in the Big Ten conference. The Plainfield, Ill., na- tive was tabbed as a two-time reg- ular-season All-American, earning second-team honors for vault and all- around, and the Northeast Regional Gymnast of the Year. Brooks recorded the highest- ranked all-around in the region for the season, and she ranked in the top three in her region in all four of her events. She finished the season ranked in the top 50 nationally on vault (tied for 15th), bars (T-32nd), beam (35th), floor (T-37th) and the all-around (11th), showing her ver- satility. In her freshman season, she won 11 event titles, including two on vault, two on bars, two on balance beam, two on floor and three in the all- around. ❏ Paul Juda led the country with a 14.083 average on high bar and ranked fourth nationally with an average score of 14.433 on floor exercise. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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