The University Ballroom Dance Team is a prime example of a team that is striving to continue the University’s legacy as an athletic powerhouse. In the nine years since it was founded, the team has won three national championships.
The team competes as pairs in four dance categories – American Smooth, International Standard, American Rhythm and International Latin – against teams from Big Ten schools. Last year, at the Eighth Annual University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Competition, the University’s team placed first in 31 of the 38 categories.
Purdue beat out Michigan in the other seven categories. Team Captain Eric Yu said that Purdue has always been the team’s biggest rival, particularly because their team has a lot of Latin American dancers who dominate the International Latin category.
Yu, an LSA senior who began dancing competitively after being told that he was a “pretty good dancer” during free salsa lessons, said his team’s rivalry with the Purdue team is intense.
During a 2005 competition, the team was significantly lagging behind the then-superior Purdue team the Ohio Star Ball. Yu said former captain Kostas Varsos gathered the team together and pumped up the dancers, à la Remember the Titans.
“He told us that we really need to step it up and focus,” Yu said. “After the next two events, we didn’t only beat them but by far beat them. That was the last year that we were a small organization.”
The Michigan Solar Car Team is an entirely student-run organization that builds, finances and races a solar powered car in both national and international races. Since its first race in 1990 at the 2,400 mile North American Solar Challenge, the Solar Car Team has won five of the past nine races — a feat performed by no other team.
In July, the team took home its fifth national title after winning a 2,400-mile race from Plano, Texas to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
There have been eight cars in the team’s history, but the most successful was 2005’s Momentum. That year, the University’s team placed first in the North American Solar Challenge and eventually went on to place third in the World Solar Challenge.
Engineering senior Steve Hechtman said that the team has close to one hundred members coming from fields ranging from business administration to mechanical engineering. It is these members who not only build and raise financing for the solar car, but also help to race it.
Although it might seem glamorous to be the next Ricky Bobby of the solar car world, Hechtman, a former driver himself, says that life inside the competition isn’t all that nice.
“It’s a three-wheeled vehicle with no driver comforts at all,” he said. “There is one small air vent and no air conditioning so it can get up to 120 (to) 130 degrees in the cockpit.”
Frisbee might seem like an activity just for frequent patrons of head shop Forty-Two Degrees, but the University’s MagnUM Ultimate Frisbee Team is made up of former high school sports stars and renowned frisbee phenoms.
Nearly half of MagnUM’s 25-man squad was recruited from top Ultimate Frisbee programs across the country, MagnUM Assistant Coach Ryan Purchell said.
In 2008, MagnUM placed first out of eight teams in the Michigan Indoor, first out of 30 at the Mudbowl, first out of 16 at the Great Lakes Regionals and tenth out of 16 at the Ultimate Players Association College Championships.
The men of MagnUM are exemplary of the athlete ideal, on and off the field. Last season, while traveling to Texas for a tournament, 16 members of the team were left stranded in Detroit due to a severe winter storm. Instead of calling it quits, these guys drove down to Cincinnati to catch alternate flights.
“We ended up on Saturday upsetting the previously unbeaten national champion,” Purcell said. “The team that hadn’t lost in 16 months, and we gave them their first loss of the season.”
“En garde. Prêt. Allez!” The University Fencing Club provides a competitive outlet for men and women with tendencies toward dueling, sharp things and French.
The Fencing Club competes against other club teams in three categories: Foil, Épée and Sabre. Each of those types of fencing, which are differentiated by the sword’s weight, are split into male and female squads.
Last year, both the men’s and women’s squads placed first at the Midwest Fencing Championship. On the national level, the women’s team placed third and the men’s placed seventh.
Although fencing is primarily an individual sport, Fencing Club President Mario Romero said that teammates and coaches alike have a considerable amount of involvement in each bout. Romero, an LSA junior, said the team’s yells of “fleche!” and “feint!” helped the men’s Foil squad during last year’s national tournament, when they were tied 4-4 with Wisconsin and had only one point to go.
Yelling in French, sword fighting and a winning season: Why don’t you show more support for University fencing?