Andy Baggot: Appropriately, UW honors two worthy champions

2011-03-22T04:30:00Z 2012-05-23T17:55:24Z Andy Baggot: Appropriately, UW honors two worthy championsANDY BAGGOT | | 608-252-6175

It's not often you get to see a breakthrough act and dynasty appear on the same stage, but that's what the marquee said Monday.

In a stroke of promotional smarts, the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department took a moment to acknowledge two of its best stories and neither had anything to do with bracket busters Charles Barkley or Butler.

That's not a dig at the UW men's basketball team and its steely, bloody resolve in beating Belmont and Kansas State to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

It's just a cuff upside the head to the notion that its saga is the only good thing Badgers fans have going for them at this moment.

Nearly 600 people came to the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion to appreciate two keepsake moments.

Over here: The UW women's hockey team, fresh off winning its fourth NCAA title since 2006.

Over there: Senior Maggie Meyer, who became the first athlete in the history of UW women's swimming and diving to win an NCAA individual title.

Outside of watery references and the fact Meyer grew up in hockey-mad Minnesota, there seems to be little to tie them together. After all, team endeavors have so many more dynamics than individual pursuits and there's the undeniable reality that interval training in Hawaii beats a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series in Bemidji, Minn., any day.

But look closer.

Both parties maintained a relentless pace for months, peaking physically and mentally at just the right time.

Both parties had gifts and intangibles that produced a result that others wanted just as badly as they did.

Both parties did extraordinary things that merited kind words from UW chancellor Biddy Martin, acclaim from athletic director Barry Alvarez and sincere applause from people like you and me.

The women's hockey team won the WCHA regular-season and playoff titles before knocking off Boston University in the Frozen Four championship game Sunday in Erie, Pa.

The Badgers closed out the season with an astounding 27-game unbeaten streak (25-0-2) en route to a school-record 37 wins. They had exceptional players — led by senior right winger and captain Meghan Duggan, who received the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top women's hockey talent in the nation - but won because, as coach Mark Johnson told the crowd, "they decided they were actually going to be a team."

That meant love, diligence and respect for one another - the very best kind of chemistry.

After Duggan was named the Patty Kazmaier winner, acclaimed UW strength and conditioning coach Jim Snider said her greatness started with her high level of fitness. He said Duggan is so strong she could squat the two other Kazmaier finalists - Olympians Meghan Agosta from Mercyhurst and Kelli Stack from Boston College - and though he smiled when he said it, he wasn't kidding.

Which makes you ponder the aerobic wonders of Meyer, who swam in 11 events in the three-day meet before her signature victory in the 200 backstroke Saturday in Austin, Texas.

The ultimate tie-in between these two special parties is the future. The La Bahn Arena project, which breaks ground this spring 50 feet from where people were cheering this day, will be a $27.4 million investment in the swimming and hockey programs.

Just as that money will be well spent, the applause was well deserved.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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