The Wolverine

August 2022*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 32 of 59

AUGUST 2022 THE WOLVERINE 33 inside our athletic department, what she's done for the Big Ten — it's never- ending, the mark that she is leaving across the board. "I say it so much about Naz but she's generational. Transformational. She means so much to our entire commu- nity. Obviously, on the basketball court, she's incredible, but she's even better off the court. If you can imagine that to be possible, that's the kind of person she is." Leading a team on and off the court is a lot of pressure for any student-ath- lete, but Hillmon used advice from her mother to stay grounded. "My mom's message has just been to have fun," Hillmon said during the NCAA Tournament run. "Sometimes that gets lost when you're putting so much pressure on yourself, and you don't enjoy every moment that you can. "Especially being a senior, I want to enjoy every single moment with this group of girls, playing the game that I love and finishing out this season." Barnes Arico had a special talent she knew she could always count on, whether it was to get a rebound, guard the opposition's best player or handle whatever task was thrown her way. Barnes Arico saw a similar makeup in the rest of Hillmon's 2018 freshman class, which also included guards Amy Dilk and Danielle Rauch and forward Emily Kiser. "Her legacy is deep, and she's going to be missed," Barnes Arico said. "But her entire class, they came in together ,and they said we're going to create some- thing incredibly special here. And they believed it, they owned it and they've done it." Hillmon was the ultimate teammate and a selfless personality in Ann Ar- bor. It made her an extension of Barnes Arico on the floor. "She's so humble, and she's such an incredible, incredible teammate," her head coach said. "She doesn't even care if she scores. She just is the best team- mate in the world, and she gets excited about everyone else's success. "It just makes everyone want to be on board because Naz doesn't care — it's just a special kind of thing. She con- nects with each person in her kind of way." The synergy between Hillmon and Barnes Arico has always been apparent, making them one of the best player- coach combos in school history. Hill- mon is grateful for the opportunity to play for her. "Seeing some of that stuff about what my coach said about my jersey, know- ing how many great players that she's coached and has been around, for her to say that means the world," Hillmon told the media. "That's someone who took a chance on me when I was 18 years old, wanting me to come to her university." The highlights and memories are endless for Hillmon at Michigan, but she went out the way she always does — by hyping up her teammates and the people that helped her along the way. It was a family effort all the way. "There are just too many memories to point out," Hillmon told the media after the season-ending loss to Louis- ville. "This is just a really special group. And not just the ones from this year but my four years here. Just a group of peo- ple who accepted me into their family through all of the trials and tribulations of my freshman year. Everybody knows how that goes. "They just really supported me throughout this entire time here. … They were something special." Hillmon's basketball career entered its next chapter in April when the At- lanta Dream selected her in the 2022 WNBA Draft. As of July 18, she was av- eraging 3.5 points, 4 rebounds and 1 as- sist per game on 47.7 percent shooting in 23 games played with the Dream. ❏ Runners-Up Naz Hillmon took the top spot in this year's female athlete of the year honors, but there were plenty of other standout performances and seasons across the depart- ment. Here are the women that staked their claims for consideration this go-round: 1. Maggie MacNeil, Swimming — The 2021 Olympian for Team Ca n a d a wo n a g o l d m e d a l i n t h e 1 0 0 - m e te r b u t te r f l y, b e co m - ing the first U-M women's swimmer since 1964 to take gold in an in- dividual event. She also finished with a silver medal in the 4x100- meter freestyle relay and bronze in the 4x100-meter medley relay, swimming the butterfly leg. MacNeil was the first U-M varsity swimmer, male or female, to win three medals in a single Olympic Games. This year, she finished third in the 50-yard freestyle (21.38) and third in the 100- yard butterfly (49.18) at the NCAA Championships, and won Big Ten titles in the 50 free (21.32), 100 free (47.10) and 100 butterfly (49.74). MacNeil grabbed 2022 CSCAA All-America honors in three individual events and four relays. 2. Alia Martin, Soccer — Martin started all 20 matches she suited up in during the fall 2021 season and played a full contest in 18 games. She missed four games due to injury. Martin notched 2 assists on the season and had 2 shots, one coming on goal. She racked up a laundry list of honors for her work on defense in 2021, grabbing first- team All-America praise from Top Drawer Soccer and the United Soccer Coaches. She was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy and also added Defensive Player of the Big Ten Tournament and first-team All-Big Ten honors to her trophy case before signing a pro contract with the Washington Spirit of the NWSL. 3. Natalie Wojcik, Gymnastics — Wojcik was honored with the AAI Award for best senior gymnast in the country, while helping Michigan to Big Ten champion- ships in the regular season and postseason. Wojcik grabbed a pair of WGCA All- America honors in the uneven bars (first team) and all-around (second team), and four WGCA regular-season All-America nods in the uneven bars and beam (first team) and the all-around and vault (second team). She was also first-team All-Big Ten and an Individual Big Ten beam champion. She shared team co-MVP honors with senior Abby Heiskell and junior Sierra Brooks. Wojcik will return for a fifth season in Ann Arbor in 2023. 4. Aurora Rynda, Track — Rynda made an impact for Michigan during both the indoor and outdoor track seasons. She was a first-team All-American in the indoor 800 meters and second-team All-American in the outdoor 800 meters. Rynda also won Big Ten championships in the indoor 600 meters, outdoor 800 meters and distance medley relay. She took eighth place in the 800 meters at the Canadian Championships.

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