first_imgDear Wisconsin athletes,Thank you. This has truly been the greatest year to cover sports.I choose to attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2001, based on its recent success in athletics and academics. The football team had just won the Rose Bowl, the men’s basketball team was in the Final Four, the women’s basketball team was in the NCAA tournament, the volleyball team made it to the NCAA Championship game, the crew and track teams were racking up national accolades, and the women’s swim team earned their then highest national finish at 11th.What sports fanatic wouldn’t want to come here after that?The success continued for the Badgers, and after my sophomore year, Madison received the great laurel of being named “the best college sports town,” by Sports Illustrated on Campus.The excitement was there and the accolade gave the Badger faithful another reason to start pre-gamin’ a little earlier. Two-story beer bongs began flowing like Gatorade at a marathon event.But then, things started to taper off. There were no national championship teams; there were no bowl victories or Frozen Four appearances. Season after season, UW sports kept entering preseason polls highly-ranked, and finishing well behind the hype.This year however, things started to accelerate, and that is why I’m calling it the greatest year to cover sports.Was it just me, or were pre-game celebrations the craziest they’ve ever been?For whatever the reason, we drank, we intimated rival fans and we jumped around, all to watch Badger athletics have one stellar fall season.The men’s cross country team had a perfect ending to a perfect season, after finishing first at the national championships for the first time in 15 years. The team also placed three runners in the top ten.The volleyball team also managed to pull off yet another successful season after they reached the Elite Eight at the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, before losing to eventual champions Washington.On my first day on the job as an associate sports editor, the sports staff gathered and debated the future success of the football team. The team was not ranked and the sports staff had few expectations for the gridiron boys.Lo and behold, Brian Calhoun and John Stocco delivered an unbelievable offensive performance and UW finished with a 9-3 record, not to mention a very unexpected Capital One Bowl victory over Auburn, which surpassed all skeptics’ predictions from late August.The team, in my opinion, that had the best turnaround success was the women’s soccer team. After a heartbreaking mid-season that saw the team lose six out its last seven games, the Badgers picked up the pace and finished their season on a four-game win streak to advance to the Big Ten Tournament.There, the Badgers claimed the conference crown and received an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. It was an ideal ending to a rollercoaster season.The celebrations kept going into the spring semester.Like the football team, the men’s basketball team entered the season unranked. And despite losing three prominent reserves, the team finished an impressive fourth in the nation’s toughest conference.The success continued with the women’s swim team, which finished ninth nationally — its highest finish at the national championship, and the men’s indoor track team — who finished seventh nationally.The winter success ended with two national championships from both hockey teams, both of which have been well-documented.What a way to end the chilly winter months.Now spring is here, the weather is warm, and I swear I’ve seen Badger faithful already practicing their pre-game skills for the fall.Slip N’ Slides in 50 degree weather … priceless.Shannon is a super senior who graduates in one month. If for some reason, you want to talk about this column, send an e-mail to [email protected]last_img

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