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What Else Is Blue: It’s Senior Day

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With some athletes missing out on their senior days, we pay tribute to them here.

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

It’s time for our last columns of the season, so we’re celebrating the same way every sport celebrates its last game: Senior Day. Over the next two weeks we’re going to discuss every single person who might have abruptly finished their careers in Maize and Blue.

There’s truly no group I feel for more than those who had their final games denied to them. I’m going to do my best to pay tribute to them here. Yes, I recognize that some of them did in fact get to have their actual Senior Day. I also recognize that some of them (specifically the spring athletes) will get another year of eligibility when it’s all said and done. But it’s impossible to know who will take that year of eligibility, so rather than try to sort it out I’m just going to be inclusive.

Some athletes have storied careers and I’ll have a paragraph about them. Some of them I am simply going to say what their career highlight was. Either way, everyone who ever wore the Block M was an important contributor in their own right, and deserved to get a proper Senior Day. This is the least I can do.

One last thing: there is very, very little rhyme or reason to the way I split sports. If your favorite is missing here, they’ll make it in next week.

Baseball

This year’s baseball senior class will go down as one of the most important in the history of Michigan baseball. Christian Bullock, Dominic Clementi, Matthew Schmidt, Ben Keizer, and Joe Pace helped Michigan to three top-three Big Ten finishes, two NCAA Tournament appearances, as well as a College World Series appearance where they were national runners-up. It is possible that several of them will take the extra year of eligibility if offered.

Bullock, an outfielder, may be best known for his two runs in the College World Series-clinching Super Regional Game 3 against #1 UCLA. Down 2-1 in the fifth, Bullock opened the inning with a leadoff walk, stole second, and advanced to third on a Jack Blomgren single. Ako Thomas sent them both home and the Wolverines had a permanent lead. Bullock would score a 9th inning insurance run, leading off with a triple and reaching home with a sac fly.

Ben Keizer was an important relief pitcher during Michigan’s run to the CWS. Like Bullock, he had a huge role in advancing past UCLA. Keizer pitched the final two innings of Game 3, striking out two and allowing no runs to pick up the save. Keizer was again getting steady relief work this season, and led the bullpen with 13 K’s.

Clementi was All-Big Ten as a sophomore, with a team-leading .368 average. He earned 29 RBI that season, and started 33 games in the outfield.

Pace recorded two three-strikeout innings as a relief pitcher in his career, both against rivals in 2019. He earned on against MSU, and one against OSU. He pitched 4 strikeouts in 4.2 innings in 2020.

Schmidt transferred to Michigan during his junior season. He had two hits during this year’s season opener against Vanderbilt.

Women’s Basketball

Akeinreh Johnson and Kayla Robbins will graduate as part of the first Michigan women’s basketball class to ever make two consecutive Big Ten Tournament semifinals. They won the WNIT tournament in their freshman year, and made the NCAA Tournament the next two year. Michigan was a lock for inclusion this year.

Akienreh Johnson was a regular starter for the first time during her senior year, and rose to the occasion. Johnson was a prolific scorer as the bench was continually shortened by injury. She averaged 10.3 points per game, and put in four 20 point performances, including two in Big Ten play.

Kayla Robbins was averaging 11.6 points per game when her senior season was ended by injury. As a junior, she got better as the season went on, concluding with double-digit efforts in both of Michigan’s NCAA Tournament games.

Men’s Tennis

Nick Beaty worked his way into Michigan’s starting lineup during his senior year, compiling a 20-6 record in singles. This included a straight-set win during Michigan’s victory over #4 Texas.

Connor Johnston went 4-1 his sophomore year, and earned a starting spot for the rest of his career. He finished his senior year as half of a doubles team that was ranked in the top 100 in the country. Johnston and Ondrej Styler had gone 13-4 this season.

It is possible that either or both will take the extra year of eligibility if offered.

Women’s Gymnastics

Lexi Funk, Maggie O’Hara, and Maddy Osman will each leave the University of Michigan with three Big Ten Championships and a clean sweep of four regular season Big Ten titles. They were on a team that won a regional championship as freshmen in 2017, and advanced out of the Ann Arbor regional in 2019.

Funk’s best event was the balance beam, where she took three event wins in her career and was a second-team All-American as a Junior. As a senior she recorded four scores of 9.9 or better on beam, along with a 9.925 on floor in her final meet.

O’Hara spent much of her junior season injured but came back to be part of the regular lineup on beam. She scored career-high 9.875s on both bars and beam this year.

Osman was also a second-team All-American as a junior on beam. She scored a 9.850 on beam in the NCAA Championship semifinal that season, and her career high was 9.9. Osman missed her senior season due to injury.

Women’s Lacrosse

This is only the fourth senior class to graduate after having spent all four years playing varsity lacrosse, and the most successful. These seniors led Michigan to its first 10-win season, first NCAA Tournament appearance, and looked well on their way to a second appearance. It is likely that some of these players will take the extra year of eligibility if offered.

Catherine Granito scored five goals in her career, with three of her four career assists coming in a single game against Niagara.

Chandler Kirby played in every single game over her career at Michigan. She will graduate at #8 in school history in points, with 53 goals and 16 assists. As a senior, Kirby tied for second on the team with 14 points this season, including 10 goals. In her final game she exploded with a career-high 5 goal day against Vanderbilt.

Lilly Grass scored 11 points her senior season. As a junior, her 48 points tied her for second in school history on the single-season points list, and she will graduate at #7 on Michigan’s career points list.

Bronwyn Shields had an assist against Niagara during her junior season. Regardless of NCAA eligibility extension, she missed her sophomore and may be eligible for a medical redshirt.

Sydney Whitaker started all four games she appeared in during her senior season, on defense. She caused three turnovers during her senior season.

Quinn Melidona started every game on defense in her final three seasons as a Wolverine. She had two games in her junior year where she caused three ground balls each, and caused four in six games this year.

Sara Parnes made three appearances in her career, winning a draw control in a game against Kent State.

Nadine Stewart started five games this season, with five goals. Stewart holds the school record for most ground balls in a single game, with 6 against Cincinnati her senior year. Her 27 that season put her in third on the team.

Molly Garret started every game in her sophomore through senior seasons. At mid-season of her junior year, she was named to the watch list for the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse’s highest individual honor. She was named to the preseason list as a senior. Garret scored 29 goals as a junior and 11 as a senior, and will finish her career at 7th in school history in goals.

Caroline Bilger appeared in one game her sophomore year, recording a ground ball against CMU. She took a medical redshirt her junior year and is likely eligible to return.

Maggie Handlan was a fifth year senior after taking a medical redshirt her senior year. Her junior year, she started 16 games on defense. She led the team in ground balls with 30, and was second in turnovers caused, with 20.

Alli Kothari was also a fifth year senior, and played in goal. She started one game as a fifth year senior, the win over Louisville, and had a 3-0 record as a junior including a program-defining win over Johns Hopkins.

Men’s Swimming

The men’s swimming graduates will exit on a high note. After three straight second-place finishes, the Wolverines captured the 2020 Big Ten Championship. They ended the season ranked #3 in the country.

Felix Auböck will graduate having won nine Big Ten Championships, including a four-year sweep of the 1650 freestyle. As a junior, Auböck won the National Championship in that event. In both his freshman and sophomore years, he was the runner up in the 1650 free, and over the course of his career scored five total top-three NCAA finishes. He holds the school record in both the 1650 and 200 yard freestyle.

Jeremy Babinet earned four top-ten finishes in the Big Ten Championships he participated in. He was invited to compete at the NCAA Championships in seven events, including a career-high three during his senior year.

Tommy Cope won the Big Ten Championship in his senior year in the 200-yard breaststroke. That was one of three top-threes for Cope during his senior season. As a junior he finished 9th at the NCAA Championships in the 400-yard IM, one of eight career NCAA Championship events he was invited to. He holds the school record in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Jake Herremans had one career win as a diver, in the one-meter against Louisville his freshman year. He qualified for the one-meter NCAA Championships his junior year.

Alex Martin had one top-ten finish at the Big Ten Championships, in the 100-yard breaststroke his junior year.

Jacob Montague finished with eight career top-ten finishes at the Big Ten Championships, his best being a silver medal in the 100-yard breaststroke his freshman year. He was invited to participate in seven NCAA Championship events during his career.

Miles Smachlo will graduate with three Big Ten Championships, including two consecutive 100 butterfly championships in his final two years. He came in third in that event at the NCAA Championships in his junior year, and holds the school record. Smachlo was invited to the NCAA Championships for both the 100 and 200 fly all four years.

Charlie Swanson is a five-time Big Ten Champion, having won the 400-yard individual medley all four years he was at Michigan. He also was one leg of the team that won the 800-yard free relay in his senior year. His best performance at the NCAA Championships came his sophomore year, when he finished sixth in the 400 IM, one of twelve NCAA Championship events he received invites for during his career.

Leo Zabudkin transferred to Michigan from DII Wingate as a junior. His career-best finish is a fifth place finish in the meet against MSU his senior year.

Rob Zofchak placed fourth at the Big Ten Championships in the 200 backstroke his senior year, and earned his first NCAA Championship invitation in that event.

Rowing

The rowing seniors will graduate as the defending Big Ten Champions after their win in 2019. In both their freshman and junior years, the rowing team finished in third place at the NCAA Championships, where they finished seventh. It is possible that any or all of them will take the extra year of eligibility if offered.

As a quick reminder how rowing works: much like tennis, coaches rank their boats, and compete against the other boats that are ranked the same within their teams. So if you win the second varsity fours (which can be written shorthand as 2V4), you won the race among all of the second-best four-person boats on each team. The most team points are available in first varsity races, but winning the second or third team races is still considered a win.

Tate Aronstein won a silver medal in the third varsity fours race at the Big Ten Championships as a sophomore. As a senior, she helped the 2V8 boat come in 16th place among all competitors at the Head of the Charles meet in Boston.

Tayla-May Bentley helped the first varsity eights to second place in the Big Ten Championships her freshman year, before winning gold as a junior. She participated in two NCAA Championships, winning fourth with the 2V8 as a sophomore and bronze with the 1V8 as a junior.

Madison Byrd joined Bentley on the gold-medal winning 1V8 boat in the B1G Championship her junior year, as well as the NCAA Championship boat that won bronze. As a senior, Byrd helped row the 1V8 to ninth overall at the Head of the Charles.

Audrey Gordon transferred to Michigan from Marquette as a junior. She competed with the third varsity fours, compiling five event wins at dual meets in her career.

Tracy Greissinger raced in the 4V4, and had one career win over Michigan State.

Lilly Miller, a coxswain, won two silver medals at the Big Ten Championships. As a sophomore, she won silver with the 2V4, and repeated the feat with the 3V4 her junior year.

Anahera Nin earned a bronze medal with the first varsity fours at the Big Ten Championships her sophomore year.

Madeline Schneider joined Miller in the 2V4 boat that won silver at the B1G Championships as a sophomore. She came in fourth with the 1V4s at the NCAA Championships in her junior year.

Erika Yasuda coxed the second varsity eights to a gold medal at the Big Ten Championships and a bronze medal at the NCAA Championships her junior year. As a sophomore, she coxed the 1V4s to bronze at the B1G Championships and fifth at the NCAA Championships.

Perry Bower, a fifth year senior, competed with the first varsity fours her senior year, winning silver at the Big Ten Championships and fourth at the NCAA Championships. As a junior, she got silver and fourth in those events as well, but with the 2V8 boat.

Rebecca Joyce is also a fifth year senior, and competed in two NCAA Championships. She won the Big Ten Championships as a sophomore with the 2V8 boat, and finished third with the same boat at the NCAA Championship that year.

Men’s Track

If I don’t specify, assume that I have combined the Indoor and Outdoor Big Ten or NCAA Championships into a single category. It’s inexact, I know, but this is getting long as it is. Additionally, there’s a lot of people on the track roster who are primarily cross country athletes. While in most sports I included seniors who logged zero minutes, I’ll be omitting any athletes who did not compete as seniors but did compete in cross country.

Andrew Liskowitz will graduate as one of the most decorated shot putters in school history. He earned two consecutive Big Ten Indoor Championships in that event his junior and senior year, and has competed in numerous national competitions. He once set a school record while achieving the qualifying standard for the 2020 Olympics, at 21.15m. He qualified for the NCAA Championships five times, including as a senior. He was a fifth year senior.

Roland Amartiefio had three career top-5 finishes at the Big Ten Championships, and qualified for one NCAA Outdoor Championship in the 400m hurdles his junior year.

Anthony Berry had three career top-five finishes at the Big Ten Championships.

Isaac Harding’s best finish at the Big Ten Championships was an 11th place finish in the 3000m his senior year.

Sierra Hendrix-Williams has two career ninth-place finishes at the Big Ten Championships, both in the outdoor 110m hurdles.

Alex Klemm had one 10th place finish in high jump at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships his freshman year, and two fourth place high jump finishes in indoor events his senior year.

Jacob Lee earned 10th place in the 10,000m his sophomore year at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

Joe McCarthy took the event win at home in the 200m dash, in the Silverston Invitational his senior year.

Desmond Melson and Alex Schwedt were part of the 4x400 relay team that participated in the NCAA Outdoor Championships their junior year. They came in 14th place.

Devin Meyrer transferred to Michigan his junior year after two years at Baylor. As a junior, he came in fourth in the 10,000m at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

Joost Plaetinck came in ninth place in the steeplechase in the Big Ten Outdoor Championships as a junior.

Manning Plater earned three top-10 finishes in the Big Ten Championship in the weight and hammer throw. He most recently came in third in the weight throw as a senior, and had qualified for the NCAA Championship.

Max Wagner is a high jumper, who will graduate with three top-ten finishes at the Big Ten Championships.

Ben Hill came in fifth place in the mile at the Big Ten Indoor Championships as a senior, and previously had two top-ten finishes in that event.

Brandon Piwinski participated in the NCAA Outdoor Championships as a junior, placing 18th in the high jump. He was a fifth-year senior.