Michigan finishes strong at Regional behind Gallo's upset

BY ERIC AMBINDER
Daily Sports Editor
Published May 31, 2004

With 150 meters to go in the finals of the 1,500-meter race at
the NCAA Mideast Regional, Michigan’s Lindsey Gallo was hot
on the heels of Mississippi State’s Tiffany McWilliams.

McWilliams, the NCAA record-holder in the event is a United
States Olympic hopeful for the upcoming games in Athens.

An Olympic hopeful.

“I saw (Gallo) running with (McWilliams),” Michigan
women’s track-and-field coach James Henry said. “I was
content. I was pleased. I was satisfied. I thought, ‘With 150
meters to go, she was going to run a great time.’ ”

Henry didn’t expect what happened next.

“And then all of a sudden she stayed with (McWilliams) and
got closer,” Henry said. “Then she started chomping on
her tongue and I’m thinking, ‘Gosh — she’s
going to stay with this girl.’ It wasn’t until 20
meters to go (when I thought), ‘(Gallo) is going to beat this
kid.’ (Gallo) mowed (McWilliams) down, and I think that kid
was surprised.”

Gallo won the race with a personal best 4:11.29, 0.06 seconds
shy of the Michigan record set in 1983 by Sue Foster. The effort
helped the Wolverines finish third out of 42 teams at the regional
final in Baton Rouge, La.

Two weeks ago, Gallo won the 800- and 1,500-meter races at the
Big Ten Championships; an injury-plagued McWilliams did the same at
the SEC Championships, setting a conference-record time of 4:09.19
in the 1,500.

McWilliams — who had not lost a race the entire year
— hurt her foot against Ole Miss four weeks ago and was told
by Mississippi State coach Al Schmidt to hold back in the 1,500
regional final.

But Gallo’s accomplishment will always be remembered.

“That’s probably the best running performance that
I’ve seen from a young lady on my team in my (19) years as a
coach,” Henry said. “It was a breakout performance for
her.”

Before the race, Associate Coach Mike McGuire told Henry that
Gallo had the confidence to compete with the best, but she never
had the chance to compete at such a high level — either she
was going to run a great heat or “pack it up.”

Gallo will pack the socks she wore on Saturday — a must
for the superstitious runner — for the NCAA Championships in
two weeks.

After Gallo’s improbable win, the first question she asked
Henry was how her teammates had fared.

“She didn’t want to hear about (herself),”
Henry said.

Gallo learned she wasn’t the only Wolverine capable of
heroics.

Michigan sprinter Carly Knazze saved her best for last.

Well, sort of.

Every time her feet hit the track during the 200-meter-dash,
worsening a nagging injury, Knazze kept repeating in her head,
‘This is the last race I’ll ever run in my
life.’

She was wrong.

Knazze’s determination earned her a fifth-place finish,
good enough to receive an individual bid to the NCAA
Championships.

“I told her, ‘use that pain to run faster, and
don’t let that pain be an excuse as you finish out your
college career,’ ” Henry said.

Three other Wolverines earned spots to the NCAA Championship.
Seniors Lindsey Stephenson and Melissa Bickett will compete in the
javelin and discus throw, respectively, while sophomore Elizabeth
Boyle competes as a pole vaulter.

Even if all five women win their respective events, their
combined score would not be good enough for a team national
championship.

But, for James, trying your best is all that matters.

“I always tell (the team), ‘Do your best and
I’ll be happy. Do your personal best, and I will be
satisfied. If you do either one, you can’t go wrong.’