Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Long, Long Way From Home

Back by popular demand, I have created the second-annual UC Davis women's lacrosse home state map. I say "popular," as it was the most oft-read of my various blog posts last year. So why not make a ratings grab again in 2012?

As you can see, a majority of the 2013 roster – 14 of the 25 players, more precisely – hail from someplace beyond California's borders. On top of that, two of the three Aggie coaches also arrive from out of state. First-year head coach Kate Henwood calls Glen Mills, Pa. home, while assistant coach Amanda Kammes grew up in the Chicago area. Only volunteer assistant Hilary Harkins (Orinda, Calif.) had the grizzly bear on her state flag.

This year's map even stretched outside the U.S. borders what with the addition of freshman Ellie Delich of Coquitlam, British Columbia. She is the second Canadian to play Aggie lacrosse in recent years, joining the great Britt Farquharson (Mississauga, Ontario), who played for UC Davis in 2009 and 2010.

With only 44 percent Californians, women's lacrosse remains the department leader in interstate/international student-athletes. However, men's basketball continues to catch up. The 2012-13 roster has representation from Arizona (Ryan Howley, Corey Hawkins), Utah (Tyler Ott), Washington (Spencer Clayton), Illinois (Tyler Les), Australia (Iggy Nujic) and Canada (Olivier-Paul Betu).

Seven out of 15? One more out-of-state student and they'll get their own map.

- Mark Honbo, assistant director for athletics communications, traveled the shortest possible distance to attend UC Davis, having graduated from Davis High in 1990.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Men's Hoop Memories

Now physically separated from Hickey Gym, I have to make more strategic trips to our historical archive, which remains in a storage closet near the Dick Lewis Training Room. Odd place with an odd smell, too -- sort of a combination of weed oil, NCR paper, dust and I'm sure a few trapped rodents.

I paid a visit to finish up research for the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame nominations. (No, I won't tell you who I was looking up, but suffice to say I had to dig into our Division II non-scholarship era for a couple of candidates.) Mike Robles also visited to track down some basketball fact for another school. Apparently, UC Davis was the opponent in the first-ever three-point shot in UC Riverside men's basketball history. If this ends up on an episode of Jeopardy, Merv Griffin will roll in his grave.

Also in my hunt was information about the 1973 UC Davis softball team, which ran the table during its conference-championship season. The Aggies went 6-0 in league that year, 7-0 overall. Yes, that's correct -- only one non-league game, a 6-2 victory over Humboldt State, which would become not only a leaguemate but a great conference and region rival during Kathy DeYoung's tenure with the softball program. The team's catcher, Karen Glimstad, hit .583 (14-for-24) and slugged (.983) with 14 RBIs for the year.

However, in the hunt for our various facts and factoids, Mike and I stumbled upon two relatively obscure moments in our Aggie men's basketball team's history, neither of which appear in the boxscores and both of which I photographed for, well, you.

The first was a page in the 1984-85 scorebook:

If it hasn't already, your eyes should immediately head to the top of the image:

That's right, Aggie fans. More avid basketball enthusiasts know this already, but shortly before he began his storied NBA career, and two full decades prior to guiding San Antonio to its first league title, Gregg Popovich served at the helm of Division III Pomona-Pitzer from 1979 to 1986.

Look closely, and you'll see that Coach Hamilton's Aggies won the game, 81-61. A few other names on the UC Davis half of the sheet are worth mentioning, too. No. 20 Jason Rabedeaux later replaced Don Haskins as the head coach at UTEP. He and No. 14 Angelo Rivers are now enshrined in the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame. Oh, and don't feel bad for No. 12 Mitch Campbell with his line of zeroes in the scoresheet -- he ended up as the biggest winner, as he later married Coach Hamilton's daughter, Shana. Campbell, who once served as an associate A.D. here, is now the athletics director over at Sac City College.

By my count, Coach Hamilton went 2-0 against the Sagehens in his career, 1-0 during the time Popovich was there. And from what I can see by the scoresheet, Coach Pop didn't send any of his stars home the night before, either.

* * * * *

Then, on the subject of coaches and their early moments in the game, came the following relic:

More Aggie fans know about this story already. For those who don't go as far back, there is good reason why this moment remains dear to the long-timers. One of the two ball boys in question was Damon Eden, who later came to UC Davis to play football. The other was none other than a member of the 1998 national-champion team and a current Aggie assistant coach, Kevin Nosek.

Incidentally, the shooter of those infamous free throws was Jerry Tolman, whose roommate and teammate was a Cossack sharpshooter named Brian Fogel. Yes, that is the same Brian Fogel who served as Bob Williams' top assistant at UC Davis and who subsequently replaced Williams as Aggie head coach.

'Tis a funny thought that Kevin Nosek was less than 10 years old at the time, and yet he now serves in his 10th year on the UC Davis basketball staff. On that night, Coach Hamilton brought both Damon and Kevin over to sit next to him on the bench. Little did any of them know that a quarter-century later, Kevin would still be sitting next to the head coach on the Aggie bench.

Hmmm, maybe it's worth reminding Coach Les to keep his assistant away from the stack of towels.

-Mark Honbo, assistant athletics communications director, began serving on the UC Davis basketball stat crew at the same time Kevin became a ball boy (thanks to Kevin's older brother, Brian). More than a quarter-century later, he still serves on the UC Davis basketball stat crew, proving along with Kevin just how rooted one can get to the Aggies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No. 1 makes a visit to UC Davis; Are you ready?

The best women's college basketball team in the country is coming to The Pavilion on Friday night and you need to be there, you need to pack the place and you need to be loud. It's as simple as that.

That team is the Stanford Cardinal, currently perched atop the AP and USA Today Coaches polls. Can you imagine the frenzy if Indiana - the top-ranked men's team right now - came to town this weekend? We need that same environment ready to welcome the Cardinal.

It won't be the first time the best college team in a sport has come to UC Davis. I mean, shoot, in 2004 the men's water polo team played No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 UCLA - on the same day! Two years later, top-ranked USC won the NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship right here at Schaal Aquatics Center. Notable moments indeed.

But basketball holds our nation in its hands with its March Madness and, on the women's side, Stanford making it to the Final Four is about as assured as me going back through the Thanksgiving buffet. By the way, it's five straight times and counting. Not me and the buffet, but Stanford and the Final Four. 

The Cardinal, with their Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer, won NCAA titles in 1990 and 1992 and have been to the title game twice in the past five years. This program oozes of excellence. 

No. 1 teams just don't make trips to the homecourts of mid-majors, which makes this visit all the more interesting. Stanford's visit, part of a three-game agreement with UC Davis that ends next season, is the exception rather than the rule.

"We've developed a history with Stanford since we entered D-I," said second-year women's coach Jennifer Gross. "We have such a tremendous amount of respect for the way they do things."

It's a mutual respect that has been parlayed into five games since 2007, including a memorable matchup at Maples Pavilion two seasons ago in the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies' Princeton-style offense is anything but run-of-the-mill which is why the Cardinal like to face it. In the end, Stanford will be better prepared for its annual national championship try. Heck, Gross even went down to The Farm once to help teach it to Stanford.

That's what you call mutual respect.

But this visit is different. It's the first time the Cardinal have come here ranked No. 1. Stanford did win 76-51 on Hamilton Court when it was No. 2, but the general consensus at the time was there was No. 1 UConn and then everyone else. In 2010, the Cardinal ended the Huskies' unfathomable 90-game winning streak and then put an end to defending NCAA champion Baylor's 42-game run almost two weeks ago.

No. 1 indeed.

If you polled 1,000 college basketball players, 99.99% of them would say Stanford's going to win Friday night. The other 00.01%? They'll be wearing Aggie blue and gold and trying to give the Cardinal fits with their back-door passes, crisp screens and, hopefully, accurate shooting.
Former Aggie guard Hana Asano was on Hamilton Court the last time
Stanford came to UC Davis in 2009. (Wayne Tilcock, Davis Enterprise)

"Wer'e going to try and give them our best in every category," Gross said. "We know we're going to have to do that because they're No. 1 for a reason."

But Gross, whose own team by the way has been to three WNIT's besides its NCAA appearance, isn't about to concede the court. 

"We go into every game to compete to the best of our ability and you hope you come out on top," she said. "The things we've been talking about with our team this year is we're not going to back down from anybody. And we're going to improve, and we're going to compete and we're going to get after it."

Check the all-time ledger between the schools and you'll see UC Davis with an 8-6 advantage although Stanford's had the upper hand in the past six.

The Aggies come into the weekend after going 2-0 at Houston Baptist's tournament last weekend, an event that led senior Cortney French to Big West Player of the Week honors. It's a young UC Davis team, in fact five true freshmen are on the roster along with just two seniors.

But life is all about opportunities. That was the message football coach Bob Biggs delivered to his troops in 2009 when they headed up to play No. 5 Boise State. Take advantage of this chance, he told them, because just about every other college football player in the country would love to trade places with you. You never know when life will hand you a golden opportunity. The Aggies gave the Broncos all they could handle in a 34-16 defeat, one of the closer wins in Boise State's perfect 14-0 season.

Opportunity also threw itself at tiny NAIA school Chaminade University in 1982 when it hosted No. 1 Virginia and mighty 7-foot-4 center Ralph Sampson in Hawaii. The Silverswords posted what's regarded as the greatest college basketball upset ever. In the pre-internet, pre-24 hour news cycle era, no one believed the 77-72 final score.

Friday is an opportunity and Gross and her Aggies are ready to embrace it.

"We're fortunate that a team like Stanford does respect our program and will come back because they know the kind of environment that Davis has to offer," she said of the community and the fans. "All of that together, that's the experience of a lifetime, to be able to compete against the best. 

"I don't know how many teams are on Stanford's schedule. Whatever the amount of time that they're No. 1, that's the number of teams that get that opportunity. We're going to make the most of it."

Don't let a familiarity with Stanford cause you to miss out because if you miss the Cardinal this year, you'll have to wait two years for the Aggies to host another powerhouse. 

That's when UConn comes to town. 



While we're on the subject of "No. 1", next Tuesday marks the first edition of "Aggie Sports Update" on KSAC (105.5 FM). It's the next stage in UC Davis' parternship with the local radio station that's in its second year airing our men's basketball games.

So, what's this new show all about? Try interviews with coaches and student-athletes, recaps and updates on all 23 Aggie teams, and ticket and prize giveaways.

Hosted by longtime Aggie broadcaster Scott Marsh, with help from KSAC's Coach Phil Getman, the 30-minute "Aggie Sports Update" will air every Tuesday through basketball season at 6:30 p.m., except for holiday breaks on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. 

If you're not near a radio, you can catch a live stream on which will also archive all shows for on-demand listening later on. Plans for podcasts and maybe some show expansion could be down the road as well.

First up next Tuesday will be Aggie men's basketball coach Jim Les and women's coach Jennifer Gross to give fans updates on their seasons and their programs. Pieces are still coming together but we're excited about this new level of partnership with KSAC which has become a strong supporter of Aggie Athletics in a very short amount of time.

What do you want to hear on the show? What do you want to know? Drop us a line or leave a comment.



Actually, I know of something you want to know and that's who our new football coach is going to be, huh?

Well, for all of you that have asked me, think I know, or plan to ask me, the simple answer is:

I don't know.

But as Director of Athletics Terry Tumey told me, "It might be YOU!" 

Then we'd all be in trouble.

Mike Robles is Assistant Athletics Director who still remembers Chaminade's legendary upset of Virginia 30 years ago.... and still doesn't believe it.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Biggs is the gold standard

Bob Biggs is the gold standard by which I measure all other coaches, and from that standpoint, I've been spoiled. 

For me, I've rarely been associated with a coach such as him that's been as accessible, friendly and appreciative with the media. Gameday interviews - sometimes as close as 20 minutes to kickoff - have routinely been met with a "No problem, just find me on the field" response. That type of open-door policy in my business is rare.

Win, lose or draw, he's always made himself available for postgame media interviews. It hasn't always been easy for him, but he's always done it and he's always represented his team and UC Davis in the highest regard. He's been honest, introspective and, most of all, respectful with the media.

His accessibility to the media is second-to-none. Several years ago I had his assistant coaches upset at me because I would refer a reporter to call his office phone - another rarity, by the way, is coaches willing to give out their direct phone number - and he'd take the call and do an interview right in the middle of their meetings. 

"We can't get anything done," they'd tell me. Coach was just too nice to turn the reporters away.

This week hasn't been any different. I set up a radio interview for him for Tuesday. No big deal except the interview was for 6:45 a.m. and, oh yeah, he had to remember and call in, rather than have the station call him in case he forgot. Of course he agreed to do it and of course it went off without a hitch.

Whether it's been a national reporter or the campus paper, he's treated them all the same. In fact, the California Aggie had a reporter a couple of years ago who was still very green when it came to football. Coach Biggs gave the reporter one of his practice plans along with an offer to sit in on team meetings in order to learn as much as possible.

We used to have a day in the preseason when Coach Biggs and the captains would meet with local media to help preview the season. I increasingly found it harder to encourage media to come out until one of them told me it's because our program was so accessible that they knew they could get whatever they needed, whenever they needed it and that they didn't need a "one-day window" of opportunity. Coach would have it no other way.

Coach Biggs made only one request of me when it came to the media and that was he wanted to know the reporters' names before he met them. I've often whispered names to him as we approached TV crews or reporters and he invariably would greet them by their first names and talk to them as if he'd known them all his life. It was never an act, his interest in them has always been genuine.

That's how he treats everyone and that's why everyone around UC Davis Athletics is going to miss him. I've had colleagues at other schools tell me horror stories about their football coaches and I just smile because I know I've had it good. No, I've had it great.

His appreciation for the staff that helps the program is extraordinary as well. Just yesterday, in fact, with the team gathered around, he brought to the front the student athletic trainers who have toiled in the trenches at every practice this fall. Coach Biggs told them how much he appreciated their efforts and the team gave them all a well-deserved round of applause. And then they all took a picture.

Like the rest of his friends and colleagues, I'm going to miss seeing Coach Biggs around Hickey Gym but I know he deserves all the enjoyment that's ahead of him.

He's been gold.



If I've ever had one hesitancy, though, about Coach Biggs, it's been that he thinks he's a doctor. Jeff Hogan, head athletic trainer, and I jokingly refer to him as "Dr. Biggs" because of his willingness to discuss injuries with the media. Most coaches run away from any talk about a player being hurt but Coach Biggs has done everything but show the x-ray.

"He has a second-degree sprain of the medial lateral miniscus," is an example of something he might say followed by "Am I allowed to say that?" (editor's note: That medical terminology above makes absolutely no sense and I know it.)

There's never been ulterior motives in his "doctor talk" but it's been challenging trying to keep up with him.



It's been a long fall season for the Athletics Communications staff which is why we were excited to welcome Eric Bankston to our staff last week. Eric comes to us from Cal State Northridge where he filled a variety of roles on the Matadors' media relations staff. He's also gained experience with nearly every professional team in Southern California.

In the immediate future, Eric will handle men's basketball responsibilities for us and was barely here a couple of days before we shipped him off to Oklahoma State for the Aggies' season opener. His enthusiasm is contagious and I think I've heard "Thank you" at least a thousand times. He's one of the nicest individuals I've ever met and we're happy he's on our team.

He's excited to be here but I know he's missing his wife and new baby boy, Jacob, who will join him up here in the near future. (Shhh, don't tell his wife but I'm sure he's getting some good sleep right now.)

And while I'm at it, this is my opportunity to publicly thank my co-workers Mark Honbo and Amanda Piechowski for their extraordinary efforts in helping fill in the gaps while we were short a staff member the past few months. Thirteen sports saw some kind of action during the fall season and these individuals helped make sure everything got covered. 

We have 23 varsity teams at UC Davis but I'm appreciative and thankful for the three-person team we had working in overdrive during the fall.

Now, Mark and Amanda, get back to work.

Mike Robles is Assistant Athletics Director, Communications and already misses Coach Biggs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An Aggie Of A Different Uniform

Immediately down the hall from our old Hickey Gym offices were the university's military science and ROTC departments. They were close in proximity: their main classroom was next door to our old Room 120 suite. It served as a meeting room for our offensive line and a media room for our football games during the Toomey Field era. Plus, the smell of good coffee often wafted into our offices from theirs.

Everyday when I arrived at work, I would see the insignia on the door, the "Forged Gold" above the entrance, the U.S. Army posters on the halls next to our own doorway. In roaming the halls, I would occasionally cross paths with an Aggie of a different kind of uniform -- instead of Yale Blue, they wore OD Green.

But until today, I never knew much about our old neighbors.
When sophomore lacrosse player Colleen McGee emailed me to let me know she was being sworn in as a cadet in the ROTC program, I grabbed my camera and headed to that familiar corridor in Hickey Gym.  Always eager to feature my student-athletes in their efforts outside of the classroom,I figured I could grab some stills and video and put something together.

(I am still assembling the video so I'll try not to spoil the plot.)

I actually got there too late to see Colleen sworn in. Not a problem. The new commander and military science professor, Lt. Colonel Patrick Rose, pulled me into the aforementioned classroom, had his staff hold up the broad stripes and bright stars of Old Glory, and recreated the moment for my camera:

The commander's hospitality was both comforting, as the abundance of camouflage can intimidate even a familiar Hickey Gym visitor such as myself; and a sign of his vision for his program.

It's worth noting here that McGee is hardly the first student-athlete to take part in the UC Davis ROTC. Wrestlers Brandon Bear and Derek Moore, the latter of whom is best known for winning the university's only NCAA Division I title to date, were cadets in the program. McGee isn't even the first lacrosse player. All-MPSF defender Jen Sanderson (now Wilson) balanced her ROTC obligations with the rigors of athletics before entering the Army's Medical Service Corps.

However, McGee could be the first of many more. Rose, I soon learned, not only welcomes student-athletes into the UC Davis ROTC program, he has made it a priority. Major Matt Paige, the recruiting operations officer and an interview subject in my upcoming video, was very quick to commend his boss' efforts to that end. (Paige's son is a former semipro hockey player, so needless to say Dad holds a place in his heart for those who commit themselves to sports.)

At first glance, the fit seems obvious: a Division I athlete will immediately be better trained than most students when handling the physical demands of the armed services. An athlete will bear the mindset of forgoing individual goals for the benefit of a team.

On the other hand, student-athletes already face the challenges of time management, having to juggle their academic and athletic pursuits. ROTC would create an added load, especially in the junior and senior years. Again, this is a place where Rose stands as a key figure: he has shown a willingness to accommodate student-athletes as they balance their duties to the two programs.

From the departmental side, it makes fiscal sense to encourage student-athletes -- both current and prosective -- to consider the ROTC program. The Army ROTC offers its own merit-based scholarships that could supplement an athletics grant-in-aid. In other words, a student-athlete could receive a "partial" athletics grant-in-aid that covers tuition and fees, plus an ROTC scholarship that pays for room and board. From the student's point of view, he/she is getting a full ride. To the athletics department, the athlete comes at only a portion the cost.

No, despite Paige's intriguing sales pitch, the university's ROTC program wouldn't be for everyone and it certainly wouldn't be suitable for all student-athletes, who have enough on their plate as it is. But an officer in the U.S. armed forces is a special breed, and one thing I've learned from two decades around here is that Aggie athletes, by and large, stand a cut above the rest.

ROTC and ICA have shared a building for decades. (In fact, Rose says his Hickey Gym locker sits between that of football coach Bob Biggs and physical education director Jeff Weidner.) It's refreshing to see that the two departments can again share the common goal of furthering opportunities for student-athletes.

Anyway, back to work... I've got a video to make.

-Mark Honbo, assistant director for athletics communication, serves as the primary contact for women's lacrosse.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reliving The Great Moments

 The final chapter of Bob Biggs' coaching career will play out over the next several months at Aggie Stadium. In typical Bob fashion, he's trying his best to deflect as much of the attention onto his team, particularly his senior class.

Undoubtedly there'll be plenty of tributes to Bob as the Aggies move through the season which already has built-in excitement because of the move to the Big Sky Conference.

As we count down the days to the Aug. 30 opener against Azusa Pacific, we'll be reliving some of the memorable moments during Bob's tenure as head coach. Starting tomorrow, Aug. 10, we'll be using Twitter, Facebook and our website to present "20 Great Biggs Moments."

They'll probably be no more than a sentence or two and won't be ranked in any order. What they will be is a chance to remind Aggie fans each day of some of the notable things have that have happened during the Biggs era. Will it be comprehensive? Absolutely not. Let's face it, there have been a lot more than 20. But, hopefully they'll bring a fond memory to the forefront.

They might be games, a big catch, a great defensive play, etc. Trying to come up with that list will be tough since there have been so many and also because we're all getting older and sometimes can barely remember where we park our cars.

Those 20 moments will lead up to the first game where we WILL be ambitious and try to rank a top 11 which we'll count down each week during the regular season. We'll even have a poll on Facebook where you can help us decide the top five. In fact, let us know which five should even make up that polling list. You can comment to this blog or on Facebook.

Your list of great moments or a top 11 will likely differ than ours but that'll be the fun of it.

So, start following the Aggies on Twitter (@ucdavisaggies) or "like" us on Facebook (UCDavisAggies) and help us great ready for a memorable season of UC Davis football and a sendoff for a tremendous head coach.


Kudos to coaches and staff of the Intercollegiate Athletics Department for a good deed this summer in helping a worthy organization, "Yolo County Backpacks for Kids."

Besides helping contribute much-needed funds to the group, individuals in the department donated a variety of school supplies that will be distributed to children and schools in need in Yolo County. Pencils, pens, crayons, markers and a host of other supplies will help youngsters in our local area as they get ready for the new school year.

"Yolo County Backpacks for Kids" has helped more than 4,000 children over the past five years and continues to be an integral resource in our community.

To help out, visit their website at


Were you one of the many Aggie fans who got up in the wee hours to watch Aggie volunteer coaches Scott Weltz and Kim Conley compete at the London Olympics? I was and I'm still catching up on sleep.

Thanks to an eight-hour time difference and a lack of courtesy by organizers to schedule events convenient to my life, I relied on my alarm to wake me up at 2:45 a.m. on July 30 to watch Scott swim his 200-meter breaststroke prelim, and then on Monday to watch Kim race in her 5,000-meter prelim.

Mark Honbo, from our staff, was also up although he took the easy route and just stayed awake all night. We wrote recaps for the website and got the results out via social media - duties I can't ever recall doing at that time of day - but even without the work, I would've been up to watch a historic moment for Aggie Athletics.

My dog, Annie, mistook my getting up as a cue for going for our morning walk so at least I had some company as I watched on my iPad. Watching Scott, I just started thinking of the possibilities of him winning a medal. He looked that good in the prelims. With Kim, content that she was right where she needed to be for most of the race, I found myself scanning the stadium crowd, amazed at their level of enthusiasm for the competitors. I kept thinking of the thrill Scott and Kim must've been experiencing.

Both athletes had tremendous performances. Scott eventually finished fifth overall and Kim had a personal-best time. They also capped unbelievable summers that included each of them providing arguably one of the most exciting moments of their respective Olympic Trials.

And, a special thanks to Drew Wartenburg, director of cross country and track and field, who also serves as Kim's coach. He texted me a quote for my recap soon after the race and, as always, it was gold and provided wonderful perspective on the moment.

Now, where's the coffee?

Mike Robles is assistant athletics director for communications, likes to be in bed before 10 p.m. on most nights and very rarely sees the 3 a.m. hour. Annie, his dog, doesn't care what time it is. If there's a walk to be had, she's good to go. Congrats to Scott and Kim for making that middle-of-the-night experience memorable.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Aggie Showcase

Almost a full day after it actually began, I'm finally getting around to watching the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Although the show is known for its grandeur, it is not known for its brevity, so I figured it's worth filling the time with another entry of Thinking Outside The Boxscore.

As most people know, Friday's production was masterminded by filmmaker Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). Rio hosts the 2016 Games, so if the pattern continues of having an esteemed local film director create the next show, then somewhere Fernando Meirelles broke into a cold sweat watching tonight's festivities.

UC Davis Athletics in this Olympiad has centered around Kim Conley and Scott Weltz, the two recent Aggie grads representing the U.S. in the women's 5,000 and men's 200 breaststroke, respectively. The campus launched its celebratory page, adding a third UC Davis student to the watch list: sprint kayaker and incoming vet med student Carrie Johnson.

In fact, there will be a fourth familiar face to Aggie fans. U.S. coxswain Mary Whipple will look to run down a third straight medal as a member of the women's eight. Whipple grew up in nearby Orangevale and earned her bachelor's and master's degree from Washington. So why should she be familiar to those near and dear to UC Davis athletics?

I said her face will be familiar. Mary Whipple's identical twin sister, Sarah, was a member of the Aggie crew that captured the 2002 NCAA Division II championship. Incidentally, Mary Whipple is not the only Olympic star whose sister wore the Yale blue and gold. Natalie Coughlin, the 11-time medalist, is the older sister of former Aggie swimmer Megan Coughlin, a member of the Aggies as a freshman in 2003.


I mentioned before that the Grad will show live coverage of the Olympics, hosting a watch party for those wishing to see Kimmy and Scott compete. Of course, both of their prelim events take place in the morning locally, which means some of you less nocturnal types will need a caffeine boost to watch.

As a reminder, listed below are the competition times for both Weltz and Conley. Please note that this denotes when they actually compete, not necessarily when it will air on your local NBC networks.

Scott Weltz, men's 200-meter breaststroke:
Tuesday, July 31 - Prelims at 2:47 a.m. (not shown at the Grad)
Tuesday, July 31 - Semis at 12:17 p.m. (Grad)
Wednesday, Aug. 1 - Finals at 11:30 a.m. (Grad)

Kim Conley, women's 5,000 meters
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Prelims at 2:55 a.m. (not shown at the Grad)
Friday, Aug. 10 - Finals at 12:05 p.m. (Grad)

Much of the high-profile action will be quarantined for the Peacock's Primetime show in the late evening. So your best bet is to watch it on your computer or iOS/Android device. You can access the web-based stream at NBC's Live Extra site. The various device apps are also available there.


It's worth noting (and I really haven't seen this mentioned in much of the post-Trials coverage) that Kim Conley qualifying for the Olympic Games marks a return to her birthplace. In fact, she was born in Slough, a good-sized suburb on the Heathrow side of London.

I will admit I know Slough (rhymes with "cow") not because of John Betjeman's poem, nor as the home of astronomer William Herschel, nor for electing the country's first black woman mayor, but rather as the setting for The Office.

Ah, yes. Tim, Dawn, Gareth, Finchy, David Brent and Kim Conley.


In the last edition of TOTB, I gave a plug for Brandon Tucker's art show at the First Street Realty office (423 First Street in Davis). While Thursday's reception served as a launch, Tucker's works will remain on display for another two weeks. The event served as a fundraiser for the former Aggie running back, who will enroll at the Laguna College of Art and Design in roughly a month. Already the first member of his family to earn a college degree, Brandon is now looking toward an MFA and a teaching credential.

Those who wish to visit First Street Realty may enter a raffle to win one of Brandon's paintings (he specializes in oil on canvas). His artwork adorns the front two rooms of the office. The staff is very welcoming, so don't feel bashful about stopping in.

Brandon also made T-shirts to further his fundraising efforts. He took a few moments to autograph them for the youngsters in between discussing his artwork and inspiration to the guests.

However, there are two pieces you will not see on display at First Street Realty. One painting entitled Think'n, an homage (and update) of the famed Rodin sculpture, is shown at the California State Fair.

Perhaps more impressively, a painting called Up, depicting a basketball player midflight, adorns the walls some 2,000 miles away. Tucker initially entered it for exhibit at the National Art Museum of Sport on the IUPUI campus in January. Then in May, the painting relocated to the NCAA Conference Center, also in Indianapolis. Tucker's work will remain on display through next January.

This is roughly the same location as the NCAA's new Hall of Champions. We've had a few of those at UC Davis. Injuries derailed Tucker's football career but after seeing what this young man has already accomplished -- and what he still has in store for himself -- BT stands as a different kind of champion for our department.

* * * * *

Finally, if I can possibly tie together two different threads, I hope we'll see a fourth installment of The Art of Athletes in 2012-13. If so, I also hope we can allow an honorary entrant: Carrie Johnson. Watch this clip to see why.

Vet med? An athlete/artist? A town with red double-decker buses? I'd say Johnson found the right place to be.

-Mark Honbo, assistant athletics communications director, extends his thanks yet again to the crew of high school friends who surprised him with an iPad as a 40th-birthday gift last spring. With the NBC Olympics and Live Extra apps ready to go, the retina display will get its best use to date during the next few weeks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Extracurricular Activity

First of all, a welcome aboard to two new coaches and a farewell to a third...

Both men's tennis and women's lacrosse recently announced new skippers. Kate Henwood, the miracle worker who turned a sub-.500 Garnet Valley High School program into one of the highest ranked programs in the nation, has taken over as the women's lacrosse team's third varsity coach. She previously served as the top assistant at Villanova before opting for some experience as a head coach. So Henwood went home to GVHS, her alma mater, guiding the Jags to consecutive 24-3 seasons and two PIAA titles during the last two years.

Now manning the helm for the men's tennis program is former UC San Diego head coach Eric Steidlmayer. If his name sounds familiar to Aggie fans, it should for two reasons: not only did he assist former head coach Daryl Lee while earning a master's degree at UC Davis, but his younger brother Luke was a standout pitcher for the Aggie baseball team. Eric Steidlmayer mentored the Tritons to 12 straight NCAA postseason appearances and a total of 182 dual wins.

Me? I'm excited about both, but especially for Henwood since women's lacrosse is one of my sports and I had the privilege of serving on that recruitment advisory committee.

Henwood came in as a bit of a darkhorse candidate, one of the few contenders whose last stop was a high school, not a university. But it took less than five minutes to get sucked into the vortex of her passion for both coaching and teaching. A half-hour later, I wanted to pick up a lacrosse stick and play for this coach. I offer a sympathetic moment to her GVHS players, who must be beyond saddened to see her go. But I look forward to this coming fall, when the Aggie lax team reports for duty. Coach Kate will resemble a walking Vitamin B shot of energy for the program, which faces a vastly expanded and improved MPSF schedule.

Besides, we're looking at a pretty healthy pattern here. Cross country/track head coach Drew Wartenburg was a high school coach less than two years before his arrival at UC Davis (he had a one-year stint at Oregon State in between). Assistant women's swimming coach Pete Motekaitis had built a dynasty at Davis High when he replaced Darrell Swenson as the Aggie men's swimming coach. Anyone doubting their abilities as coaches may do so to their faces... but you'll have to wait until they return from London first.

However, as Henwood and Steidlmayer enter through the "In" door, women's golf coach Anne Walker makes her exit. When UC Davis added women's golf some eight years ago, I knew it would be a strong sport fairly quickly -- we had a gifted coach (Kathy DeYoung) already in place, the university and town to be a good fit in the so-called "country club" sports. But three straight Big West Conference titles? Four straight years with Aggies repped at the NCAA Championship? Hard to ask for or expect more than that.

When UC Davis announced Walker's hiring four years ago, one of my friends at Cal told me, "Congratulations on a great hire... you're gonna love Anne."

So I say to Stanford, congratulations on a great hire... you're gonna love Anne.


Props to Steffi Brikovich in the marketing & promotions office for finalizing a "watch party" for the two Aggies-turned-Olympians. (I assume the vet med school will do the same for kayaker and incoming student Carrie Johnson.)

As is fitting, the watch party will take place at the Davis Graduate. That's 805 Russell Boulevard, a.k.a. the University Mall. For roughly two decades, this spot has generally served as a gathering place for watching the Aggies on a big screen: NCAA championship selection shows (and ensuing championships), plus a host of football and basketball games. The Grad also lent its big screen to show screenings of MTV's Sorority Life, which ostensibly showed pledges of UC Davis' Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter; and ABC's Expedition Impossible, which featured UC Davis grads Christina Chin, golfer Brittany Smith and hurdler Natalie (Russell) Smith.

The air times, converted to Pacific, for Weltz and Conley are as follows:

Scott Weltz, men's 200-meter breaststroke:
Tuesday, July 31 - Prelims at 2:47 a.m. (not shown at the Grad)
Tuesday, July 31 - Semis at 12:17 p.m. (Grad)
Wednesday, Aug. 1 - Finals at 11:30 a.m. (Grad)

Kim Conley, women's 5,000 meters
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Prelims at 2:55 a.m. (not shown at the Grad)
Friday, Aug. 10 - Finals at 12:05 p.m. (Grad)

Note that the wee-hours slots will not be shown at the Grad.

Those who are having their own viewing parties are encouraged to hashtag their Tweets with #UCDavisOly. You may also post info at the UC Davis Athletics Facebook page.


Brandon Tucker, the former Aggie running back and the founder of the Art of Athletes show, has organized an exhibit at the First Street Real Estate offices at 423 First Street (near the Davis Commons). Although his artwork will be on display through August 16, Tucker is hosting a reception on Thursday, July 26 at 6 p.m. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

Facebook users may visit the event page for more info. For those who have not made that social-networking leap, Brandon's flyer has the details (click to enlarge).

For those who missed previous Art of Athletes shows, here are photo galleries of each:

Art of Athletes I (October 2009):
Art of Athletes II (November 2010):
Art of Athletes III (January 2012):

* * * *

That's about it for now. The calendar summer is only a third of the way through, but my summer winds down -- the first Aggie teams report in less than a week. Enjoy yours, 'cause mine is almost over.

Mark Honbo, assistant athletics communications director, longs for a 24-hour place that could host a viewing party for the two ~3 a.m. events. Bonus points for one that pours Aggie Lager.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Week (Or So) In History

I was born two years after the Beatles split up. The first presidential election in which I voted was the Clinton-Bush-Perot circus. I still have to show an I.D. at bars on occasion (a point of pride). Among those who currently work or have worked for the UC Davis athletics department, I'm still middle of the pack when it comes to my age.

And yet, when any question surfaces about the history of our athletics department -- which finished its 102nd year in existence -- I'll eventually get the call.

Without a doubt, the past eight days sent me digging through the archives more than any similar span except for when I'm fact-checking the annual Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame nominations. A helluva week, without a doubt.

Yesterday, Thursday the 5th, Terry Tumey was announced as the new director of athletics. This culminated an almost year-long process, but it also sent me on an errand to research the complete list of past athletics directors.

That proved to be a tough task, as the actual title of "director of athletics" owns an uncertain history. As far back as 1914, a man named Jimmy Thorburn served as the "physical director" for what is now UC Davis. However, the 1938 edition of El Rodeo listed Irving "Crip" Toomey as being granted the new title of athletics director, a "position worthy of his ability." George Stromgren, who compiled our history into the multiple-volume Mustang Memories, credits Toomey as our first A.D. That's good enough for me.

Thus, the list of those hired as athletics director on a full-time, permanent basis runs as follows:

1938-61: Irving F. "Crip" Toomey
1961-67: Vern Hickey
1967-71: Bill Lakie
1971-84: Joe Singleton
1985-87: Gale Mikles
1989-91: Jim Sochor
1995-2011: Greg Warzecka
2012-present: Terry Tumey

Filling in some of the gaps are several interim directors: Herb Schmalenberger held down the fort in 1972 and 1988, Larry Swanson and Pam Gill-Fisher jointly assumed the role in 1992-93, Dr. Keith Williams guided the department from 1993-95, and Nona Richardson steered the ship during this past school year.

But Toomey to Tumey? No, it is not lost on me that our first athletics director and our new one have, homophonically speaking, the same name.

Without a doubt, when it comes to historic occasions, most UC Davis fans rallied around the amazing successes of distance runner Kim Conley and swimmer Scott Weltz, each of whom qualified for the Olympic Games in their respective sports. Those who somehow haven't seen these moments can do so at the NBC Sports website (links below).

Conley in 5,000M:

Weltz in 200 Breaststroke:

I dare anyone to watch those videos and not feel a little something near the end. I'll admit getting choked up at Conley's reaction when she sees her time on the Hayward Field scoreboard. And it gets dusty in the room during that split second when Weltz' coach, Pete Motekaitis, is shown congratulating his protegé. Motekaitis, who was not allowed on the deck, had to sprint past security to reach Weltz, then sprint back to his seat before he was caught. (Fortunately, Pete is in better shape than most people half his age -- the man can still motor.)

Both races feature astounding comebacks. Weltz was in sixth place at the midway point of the race before storming past the field to set an Olympic Trials record of 2:09.01. Conley was looking at a fifth-place finish with about 120 meters to go before surging past Abbey D'Agostino and Julia Lucas to take third and eclipse the qualifying standard.

When Jim Sochor created the culture now known as "Aggie Pride," he drilled his student-athletes in a simple but powerful motto: never give up when you're behind and play hard when you're ahead.

Yeah, I'd say Scott and Kimmy nailed both parts.

A few people have asked me how many Aggies have gone on to compete in the Olympic Games. This is actually a complicated question to answer, even if you exclude Peter Snell, Debbie Meyer and Cathy Carr, each of whom attended UC Davis after competing on the world stage (the subject of the most recent UC Davis Magazine).

The truth is, I do not know the definitive list because so often a UC Davis alum competes in a different event from his/her Aggie sport. Sure, Colby E. "Babe" Slater won his 1920 and 1924 gold medals in rugby, one of several sports in which he starred in the early days of the University Farm. Linda Somers competed in the marathon at the 1996 games in Atlanta, at least related to her Aggie cross country and track exploits. Of course, Weltz and Conley have made the Olympiad in their chosen UC Davis sports.

But then there is John Powell, who played for the Aggie football team in the mid-1960s. He finished fourth in the discus in Munich (1972) before capturing bronze medals in Montreal (1976) and Los Angeles (1984). He was a member of the Olympic team in 1980 but the U.S. chose to boycott the games in Moscow that year. More recently, we saw Emily Azevedo compete in the bobsled at the 2010 Winter Olympics -- quite a departure from the 100-meter hurdles in which she set a school record.

July 19 Update: in answering some questions loosely related to this blog entry, I discovered I need to give credit to a former Aggie football player named John York, who informed me about Powell earlier this year. Powell only played for the freshman team, so he does not appear on our all-time letterwinners list. He also did not graduate from UC Davis, but rather from San Jose State, so he likely does not appear on the campus's alumni records. I may never have known about him but for York's acquaintance with Powell during that one year and York's kind email back in February.

Tougher still are former UC Davis students who did not compete in an ICA sport. I would not have any records for them, our department would not likely have followed their progress, and yet they would have to be included on an all-time Aggie Olympians list. Perhaps the most famous example of this is skier Jonny Moseley, who briefly attended UC Davis, left school to train full-time, then won a gold medal in moguls at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano.

As I've said elsewhere, I've enjoyed the media references to both Conley and Weltz as "dark horse" performers given that our mascot is, in fact, a dark horse.

Although both went into their respective Trials as underdogs, Weltz' story has begun to rally particular grass-roots support. Conley has trained for the Olympics as a sponsored pro, receiving financial backing from the Sacramento Running Association plus additional support from New Balance.

In contrast, Weltz' year-plus of training has come at a great personal expense, so much so that the local aquatics community launched an online fundraising campaign to help ease that burden. When the stated target was hit (and surpassed), a second effort arose to fund Motekaitis' trip across the pond. The local swimming guru had not intended to accompany Weltz to London, just as he was unable to join his previous Olympian Haley Cope in Athens.

For information on supporting either Weltz or Coach Motekaitis:
Scott Weltz:
Pete Motekaitis:

Meanwhile, those interested in supporting the Sacramento Running Association can do so by going to The SRA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that, among many other things, sponsors a team of elite area runners (like our own Kim Conley).

Scott's time in the 200 breast final set a meet record and vaulted him to No. 5 in the year's world rankings. By now, most Aggie fans have learned these two facts regarding Weltz' race. However, Motekaitis asked longtime assistant coach Rick Henderson - and currently the women's team's administrative assistant - to break down the achievement even further, just to give it even greater magnitude.

Here are just a few nuggets from Henderson's summary:
1. Weltz went from a 2:17 at the start of his training to a 2:14 at the 2011 Summer Nationals almost exactly a year ago to a 2:12.38 at the Winter Nationals last December to a 2:10.90 in the Olympic Trials prelim round a week ago. Then he popped the 2:09.01 in the final to upset Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau.

2. Weltz swam the second 100 of the 200 breast final in 1:05.55. That's a 2.09-second drop from his first 100 (1:03.46). Most world-class breaststroke swimmers will fade by a margin of 3.5 to 5.0 seconds in their second 100. (As a comparison, runner-up Clark Burckle slowed by 5.76 seconds, Shanteau by 4.69 and Hansen by 5.79 in that very race. Japan's Kosuke Kitajima faded by 5.78 when he posted a world-best 2:08.00 earlier this year.)

Henderson concludes that Weltz' second 100 meters may be the fastest in history.

3. Weltz' holds the second-fastest 200 breast in U.S. history by a swimmer in a textile suit, behind Hansen's 2:08.50.

This last factoid may be a tad esoteric to those not familiar with the sport. Until its ban a few years ago, the ultra-slick "speed suit" came into vogue in competitive swimming, shattering previous records. Baseball fans could imagine a scenario in which the MLB allows aluminum bats for a few years, then immediately bans them. Hitting records during that span would have to be evaluated separately from the wood-bat era. Similarly, swim fans rightfully evaluate the speed-suit era separately from the years in which competitors only wore suits made from woven materials.

Finally, no nod to Aggie history could be complete without a mention of Marya Welch, the founder of women's athletics on our campus, who passed away at the age of 95. For more about Dr. Welch's incredible legacy at UC Davis, read here. Oddly, we lost Marya on June 24, one day after the 40th anniversary of Title IX.

You can take any one part of Welch's life and feel humbled by them -- degrees from (count 'em) three prestigious universities, her service in the Navy, her career at UC Davis, her travels in retirement. Pam Gill-Fisher helped me assemble a tribute video that we played at her service on Tuesday. Among the photos was Marya hiking the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu. Pam noted that Marya was in her mid-80s in the shot. I thought it was taken in the mid-80s (which means Marya would have been around 70 years old). Either number amazes me.

Another favorite photo from the video was one of Marya and John McEnroe, who attended the dedication ceremonies for the Marya Welch Tennis Center. The two connected immediately. I like to think it was the first time Mac had encountered someone more headstrong than he.

Gill-Fisher plans on organizing another tribute event to Marya Welch in the fall, when school is in full session. I hope every coach and student-athlete can attend -- every person, male or female, who wears the UC Davis colors owes Marya a debt of gratitude for her dedication to our athletics department.

As she said in her address at then-Chancellor Vanderhoef's 2006 convocation, "I believe that sport is really about the way you live. Be well-prepared. Be fair. Respect your competition. And measure your success by goals you set for yourself, not whether you win or lose."

You can be damn sure Marya would have been proud to see what Scott and Kimmy accomplished last week.

She would have said so, too.

Mark Honbo, assistant athletics communications director, has already marked the following dates: July 31 (men's 200 breast heats/semis), August 1 (men's 200 breast final), August 7 (women's 5K prelim) and August 10 (women's 5K final). In fact, it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world to schedule a viewing party someplace in town, like the Grad.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Whatever It Takes

In my seven-ish years in this industry, there isn't a lot that I won't do for one of my teams. I've driven team managers to road games, ridden home on a bus full of soccer players overnight from Santa Barbara and sacrificed four days in December to make sure the women's basketball team had plenty of coverage in Honolulu. Hey, it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.

When you work with a group of players and coaches for 4-6 months straight during the school year, you tend to get somewhat attached.

It doesn't necessarily stop after the players graduate either. Fans can spend four years watching someone on the court or field and they too can develop that same attachment.

Aggie baseball's first baseman Eric Johnson has been helping Athletics Communications out with a few feature stories on recently-graduated baseball players. In the day and age of Facebook and text messages, it's easier than ever for Eric to get in touch with one of his former teammates and ask a couple questions about where they are and what they're doing.

The first piece he wrote for us, which many of you may have read, was "Catching Up with Daniel Cepin". Cepin is currently playing professional baseball in Barcelona and Eric and I agreed it would be a great feature for the website. So he asked Cepin some questions via Facebook, crafted a great story, then discovered that Cepin had some action shots of himself in his CB Barcelona uniform.

"It would be so great to get these photos for the story," Eric remarked.

Then let's do it.

So after a solid 30 minutes of Google searching and Facebook browsing, I tracked the action shots from Facebook to a Picasa album of a photographer in Barcelona who covers all of the league's teams. And there were some great shots.  So how do I get them from him? Well usually you ask the photographer for use of their photos in exchange for a photo credit.

The catch? I have no idea if he speaks English.

Good thing I'm half-Cuban and spent four months studying abroad in Madrid in Spain.

It's true Aggie fans. My last name may be Piechowski, but my mother was born in Cuba. We grew up speaking Spanish, enjoying all of the Cuban traditions and foods there were to enjoy and, after spending one semester in Spain, I majored in the language.

I'm not entirely fluent, but man I wanted those photos.

And it worked. I greeted him, told him about the story on Cepin and asked if he would send me a photo or two to feature in the story. Like most photographers, he was unsure at first, even telling me he'd charge me a euro per photo if I wanted to use one. I responded with our website link, assuring him I would use just one or two photos and give him full credit. I was thrilled when he responded with the photos I'd requested.

In the grand scheme of thing, it's probably not a huge deal. I got some photos for a story. But it was another SID victory for me. Well and for my mom. She proofread the emails.

Amanda Piechowski has been known to use her secret Spanish-speaking skills to eavesdrop on the soccer field and mess up a lot of plays by the opposing teams. The looks on their faces are always priceless.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Photos, Soccer and Bathrooms


The most expensive camera I've ever used cost about $10,000 and it wasn't even made by Nikon or Canon. It couldn't take anything scenic like a sunset or a family at Disneyland or waves crashing at the beach. In fact, every image had the same background, everyone in it looked elongated and I doubt there was ever an image I'd want to frame.

But it was the best camera I've ever come across.

In actuality, the camera wasn't like anything you're suspecting. It was made by a company called FinishLynx and is specifically used to time track and field meets, among other similar sports. It's taken timing to the most accurate level possible and is truly impressive when you see what it can do.

Today, during the annual Woody Wilson Classic during Picnic Day, the FinishLynx was getting a full workout.

Sean Laughlin is the owner/operator of and, in my opinion, one of the most talented people in making sense of the cables, cameras and computers needed to make the system work flawlessly. In the olden days, as my folks liked to call them, there'd be a bleacher full of people at the finish line holding stopwatches, starting them when they heard the gun and stopping them when the runners crossed the finish line. 

That system worked for many years but it's not the most reliable. For example, everyone has a different reaction time in starting their watch after hearing the gun. There's also a delay from when the gun fires to when the timers hear it - the sound does take a noticeable split-second to travel from one side of the track to the other - and then there's the guesstimation of the exact moment a person's torso crosses the finish line, which by rule is when they're deemed to have finished a race. Oh, and there's also the reaction time from that best guess to stopping the watch. Overall, not all that accurate.

At best, meets only use hand-timing as a backup in the event the automatic timing system - also called Fully Automatic Timing (FAT) - fails. If it's used in the results, a total of .24 of a second has to be added on to each time to account for the inaccuracies listed above. But even with that, most big meets don't accept hand times for entry purposes and they're usually not accepted for record-keeping purposes.

Technology has changed all that. The FinishLynx system - and there are others out there - eliminate the deficits mentioned above. So how does it work?

In most cases, the starter holds a small metal sensor in the same hand as they hold their gun, although there are wireless systems that can detect when the gun is fired. At the slightest hint of the gunshot, a signal is sent to the timing system, which is basically a small computer, and the clock starts instantaneously.

Sitting on a pole above the finish line is the FinishLynx camera - and in Sean's case, a backup as well - which is trained to look right down on the finish line, in fact, just a small piece of the line about a quarter-inch wide. Sean is sitting in a tent at the finish line, controlling the camera with his PC. As runners cross, Sean signals the camera to begin taking images of the finish line.

But, here's the catch. It doesn't take just one image. It takes thousands of images, each of them catching a tiny slice of the runner as they pass. Each sliver is assigned a time from the system. When the race is over, Sean calls up what looks like one image but is really many thousands of images strung together. He slides a cursor line across the image, lines it up with the torso, pushes the return key and, bam, the time is recorded.

The image below was actually taken from Saturday's meet. At first glance, it looks simply like a photo of a runner jogging on the track. In reality, what look like lanes are actually the finish line. What appear to be gray lane lines are actually black markings painted on the finish line to help differentiate the lanes. Without them, the whole background would be one color, just like the finish line.

This image is actually many thousands of images of a runner crossing the finish line on Saturday.

FinishLynx can be set to take hundreds or thousands of frames per second. The more frames per second, the more separated the runners will be on the image which is useful for sprints when athletes are separated by barely a strand of hair.

I remember using the system and having a coach swear to me we had the results wrong. He chastised me for screwing up his athlete's win in a hurdles' race. So, I called up the image and he meekly walked away. And I got an apology.

So does the system fail? Sure. Technology isn't perfect. Sometimes the gun sensor fails, sometimes there's too much light on the image or maybe something else falters. With Sean, I can't recall any of that happening though in the many years he's worked our meets. He's been throwing perfect games time and time again.

Sean, along with his coworker Jim Hume, handle the timing, process all the results and send it all to the web instaneously so fans can see what happens as soon as an event in the meet ends.

As a sports information person, what Sean and Jim do is invaluable. It's not much fun getting results for 75 athletes at the same time when a meet finishes, and then having to digest them, figure out what's happened and write a recap for the media while facing a late-night deadline. Live results allow me to work through the meet a little bit at a time.

Sean handles most of the big meets in Northern California. When I see he's working, I know my life is a lot easier. I was always stressed beyond belief when I was running the system. Sean is cool as a cucumber and always the friendliest guy on the track.

Timing meets and handling results used to fall on our shoulders in this office. Getting that darn camera to line up perfectly on the finish line was the most frustrating job. Then making sure all the pieces - the sensor, the computer, the camera - all work seamlessly was not easy either. Thank goodness for timers who do this for a living.



Sometimes the best assists don't happen on the pitch. Just ask Tom Hinds, the campus's director of marketing, who witnessed a good deed on a recent morning involving the Aggie men's soccer team and made sure the world knew about it.

While riding the Unitrans L line, Tom noticed some passengers in Aggie men's soccer team apparel. Not long after, a female student boarded the bus but she didn't have the necessary ID nor fare to ride. Without prompting, one of the players sprang into action and handed the bus driver a dollar so the student could ride to campus.

No fan fare and no cameras, just a simple act of kindess so a fellow Aggie could make it to class on time.

Tom posted the encounter on UC Davis' Facebook page and within a few hours it had generated a few comments and more than 250 "likes".

Tom relayed the story to me when our paths crossed later that morning and, after perusing the roster online, he thought he recognized the player but wasn't 100 percent sure.

It's probably best that way. Give credit where credit is due but anonymous acts of kindness are sometimes the most appreciated. And it's nice to think that any of the players I see around campus might've been the one who made someone else's day just a little bit brighter.



You know there's not much on TV early Saturday morning when I stop on the DIY Network, intrigued by a show called "Bath Crashers." 

Don't get me wrong, I think "House Crashers" is a pretty good show which led me to occassionally watching "Yard Crashers" but I don't generally seek them out while channel-surfing. I didn't even know there were other ".... Crashers" out there - until a couple of weeks ago when "Bath Crashers" entered my life.

My dog Annie and I set upon "Bath Crashers", me moreso than Annie who decided to just listen while closing her eyes. In case you don't watch these types of shows, an unsuspecting handsome couple goes into a Lowe's or Home Depot looking for some inoccuous items such as, well, light bulbs.

A film crew ambushes them, convinces them their bathroom needs to be flushed, and then follows them home to redesign a whole new sanctuary of peace. My question that morning was, "how come those shows never come to a store in Sacramento?"  

I half-heartedly watched the couple explain their bathroom woes to Matt Muenster, the show's host. Watching TV in the mirror's reflection was only possible on the wife's side of the sink. The shower head, sink and "throne" were too low for the husband. Yeah, I thought, that makes sense. He IS pretty tall.

Dominic Callori and his wife Kassidy talk bathroom plans with Matt Muenster, the host of "Bathroom Crashers".

Moments later, the magic of TV had contractors flooding the house to begin work on a new bathroom. That's when I noticed those shows DO come to Sacramento since all the contractors had local phone numbers. That's cool, I thought, and decided to tape the show and watch it later. 

My wife and I finally cued it up a few nights later, I gave her a brief background of the few minutes I barely watched and told her about the unthinkable odds that "Bath Crashers" had actually come to Sacramento.

(Stop yelling "Bath Crashers" fanatics, yes I now know the show is mostly taped locally although it plays throughout the country).

It didn't take long for the show to hit even closer to home. The husband looked familiar. Really familiar. And when they said his name, "Dominic" and later "Dom", it hit me like the toilet hit the ground they later threw from the second floor of their house.

Dominic Callori. Longtime Aggie fans will remember Dom as one of the top front line basketball players in school history. He's just one of four players on both the Aggies' all-time scoring (9th, 1,339 pts) and rebounding (3rd, 844 rebs) and was an all-region selection. And one of our all-time nice guys.

And he's got a new bathroom to boot.

He and his wife Kassidy, who played hoops at Chico State, got a pretty cool remodel. A huge shower with an embedded flat-screen TV on the shower wall, appropriately heighted his-and-her sinks and - most importantly for Dom - the best seat in the house and one that saves his knees. He embarrassingly tried it out for the cameras.

The unsuspecting handsome couple had a quite bit of fun with the show and visa-versa. Check your local listings. You might just catch the rerun or, if not, maybe another Aggie.

Mike Robles is Assistant Athletics Director for Communications at UC Davis. He still marvels at the technology of FinishLynx and is grateful he doesn't have to try and run it anymore. Robles also hopes that "TV Crashers" - if there is such a show - comes in and saves him from his Emerson special which provided the image above. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Tale Of Two Tournaments

Both of my spring sports -- women's water polo and women's lacrosse -- are one week away from their respective conference tournaments.

The 11th-ranked Aggie water polo team competes in the Big West Conference, for which the championship tourney takes place at Schaal Aquatics Center from April 27-29. (You can buy your tickets at The lacrosse team competes in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, for which the championship tourney takes place at Stanford.

Both conferences are brutally tough. Five of the six Big West teams have ranked in the top 20 at some point this season, and top-seeded UC Irvine sits at No. 6. The league will get tougher next year when Hawai'i and San Diego State enter the fray.

In lacrosse, the league roster features a who's who of some of the major athletics programs on the West: Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Fresno State, San Diego State. USC joins next year. And the league favorite this year has the second-smallest enrollment of the bunch: Denver University.

Both teams recently earned automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Championship. The Big West wraps up its fourth year sponsoring women's water polo, which means its members spent a few years hoping only for an at-large. The MPSF finishes up its second year of qualifying a team to a play-in game; this year's champion will face the Patriot League winner.

With a week and change left before the tournament, it's worth looking at the playoff scenarios for both teams.

Women's water polo closed out the conference portion of the season with wins over UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge. A delayed start to Saturday's game against the Gauchos meant the Aggies already knew of CSUN's loss at Pacific. In other words, they knew a win would clinch the No. 2 seed and the quarterfinal bye at their own tourney. UC Davis took care of business with a thrilling 9-8 win over UCSB, then dispatched the Matadors the following day.

The lone remaining game in the Big West Conference is Thursday's Long Beach State-UC Irvine matchup. The outcome of this game determines seedings. If the 49ers upset the No. 6 Anteaters, they move to sole possession of fourth place. UC Irvine earns the tiebreaker over UC Davis by virtue of the head-to-head matchup. With their 1-4 conference marks, Pacific would become the No. 5 seed and Northridge would slip to the sixth spot:

A Long Beach State win...
1. UC Irvine 4-1
2. UC Davis 4-1
3. UC Santa Barbara 3-2
4. Long Beach State 2-3
5. Pacific 1-4
6. Cal State Northridge 1-4

If UCI beats LBSU, the conference must resolve the three-way tie of 1-4 teams. In fact, according to the conference brass, the seedings would boil down to goal difference among the three teams. Northridge beat the Beach by four and lost to Pacific by one. Long Beach defeated Pacific by three and lost to Northridge by four. Pacific edged Northridge by one and lost to LBSU by three.

A UC Irvine win...
1. UC Irvine 5-0
2. UC Davis 4-1
3. UC Santa Barbara 3-2
4. Cal State Northridge 1-4
5. Long Beach State 1-4
6. Pacific 1-4

Odd that the Mats could either be fourth or sixth, all from a game involving the league's top seed. If ever there was a case for the gravity of regular-season contests, that's it.

UC Davis host the eighth-ranked San Jose State as part of Saturday's Picnic Day festivities. This is the fourth meeting between the two teams. If they get any more familiar, they'll start Facebook-friending each other.

Unlike the Big West water polo tournament, not all conference members are guaranteed a spot in the MPSF tournament. In fact, only the top four will play in next week's bracket. Denver and Oregon both have clinched berths due to their 6-0 records. The Pioneers and Ducks square off on Saturday for the regular-season title.

Three other teams compete for the last two spots: Stanford, California and your own UC Davis.

If the Aggies lose to the Cardinal, they're out of the race: the best they could do is tie for fourth place in the conference, but they would lose the tiebreaker.

If UC Davis can beat Stanford, your blue and gold team remains in the hunt. All Aggie eyes will be focused on the Golden Bears-Cardinal game on Friday. A Cal win, paired by a UC Davis win over 0-5 Fresno State on Saturday, would put our team into the playoffs.

Bottom line: put down what you're doing, set the DVR to record Modern Family (mine is set for series recording) and get yourself out to Aggie Stadium on Wednesday night.

This is the 30th meeting between UC Davis and Stanford in the varsity women's lacrosse era, and the Farm holds a huge edge over the University Farm. But that was then, this is now, and we're talking playoffs.

Here is my slate in a nutshell. Just so my mom knows how to reach me.

Wednesday, Apr. 18 - Women's Lacrosse vs. Stanford, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Apr. 21 - Women's Water Polo vs. San Jose State, Noon
Saturday, Apr. 21 - Women's Lacrosse vs. Fresno State, 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Apr. 24 - Women's Lacrosse vs. Saint Mary's, 3 p.m. 
Friday, Apr. 27-Sunday, Apr. 29 - Women's Water Polo hosts Big West Conference Championship 

Mark Honbo, assistant athletics communications director, extends wishes to the families and friends of Scott Heinig, the former Davis High and UC Davis baseball player who tragically passed away one year ago today. Blue Devil/Aggie football player Josh Reese wore an orange wristband in Scott's honor for a department-related portrait taken last week, while water polo co-captain handed out printouts of John Wooden's teachings, which Scott cherished. Other Aggies have paid tribute this year, so his memory remains in many hearts in this town.