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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    Jamill_Passmore.jpg

    Jamill Passmore

    Courtesy of Washtenaw County Jail

    A 23-year-old Detroit man accused of setting up a robbery of Eastern Michigan University students had his case adjourned for two weeks in the Washtenaw County Trial Court Thursday.

    Assistant Washtenaw County Public Defender Christopher Renna asked Judge David Swartz to postpone Jamill Devon Passmore's case "for further investigation."

    Swartz granted the request and set a pretrial hearing for June 20.

    Police say Passmore helped set up a group of four men who were robbed of Rolex watches, Gucci belts and cellphones outside the university’s Westview Apartments near Rynearson Stadium on Jan. 18.

    The men -- including Passmore -- watched a basketball game into the early morning at an apartment. The men testified Passmore kept leaving the apartment to make phone calls. Police believe this is when Passmore called the two men who came up behind the five men as they left the apartment on the way to a party.

    The two men indicated to the group they had a gun and to get down on the ground. Three of them did, one of whom was robbed of his Gucci belt and Rolex. Passmore and another man ran.

    The man told police Passmore assaulted him and tried stealing his Rolex, but was unsuccessful.

    Police testified they linked Passmore to the crime via phone records and a picture of a pawned Rolex one of the men Passmore allegedly spoke with that night posted on Facebook.

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Elected and planning officials from municipalities along Washtenaw Avenue have increasingly touted the vision and benefits of the Reimagine Washtenaw project as plans take shape.

    But what exactly would a “complete street” on Washtenaw Avenue that caters to public transit, pedestrians and bicyclists look like? And how does less traffic impact the street's physical complexion?

    ReImagine Washtenaw's architects offered three scenarios for public discussion at a series of meetings last week, though they stressed the scenarios are only options for consideration and they are continuing to gather feedback.

    But Neil Billetdeaux, a consultant with Smithgroup JJR, said the aim of each is to reduce traffic and increase use of other forms of transit.

    “The goal is to provide options, more options than is available today so people can make that choice,” he said.

    The three scenarios will be online Monday and residents can leave feedback on the website.

    Each scenario offers a mix of different proposals, though each includes connecting sidewalks throughout the corridor, which runs from the Cross Street and Washtenaw split in the city of Ypsilanti to the Stadium and Washtenaw split in the city of Ann Arbor.

    Planners also want to see bike lanes installed and bus ridership increased on the route that traverses Washtenaw, which is already the Ann Arbor Transit Authority's busiest.

    Billetdeaux said the four municipalities—the City of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township and the City of Ypsilanti—working with urban design and transportation consultants have all committed to continuous, buffered bicycle lanes through individual non-motorized transportation plans.

    “All the governments involved and stakeholders are aligned to what we feel needs to be done to improve the corridor,” Project Manager Nathan Voght said.

    Parts of each scenario call for dedicated bus lanes, and the plans incorporate “transit signal priority” that would allow bus drivers to control when lights turn red or green. The faster service would in turn draw more people to public transportation, which is one of the project’s central goals, Billetdeaux said.

    RI_Wash_1_1.jpg

    Officials are hoping to reduce traffic enough along a stretch of Washtenaw Avenue that it could implement a road diet to reduce it from five to three lanes.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Two of the scenarios also include road diets in the eastern part of the county, though Billetdeaux said such an idea is 20 to 30 years off and could only happen when traffic volume has been reduced.

    “This is about a 20- to 30-year horizon on what Washtenaw wants to be, what the community wants it to be,” he said. “It represents a change in ridership, a change in transportation use in the corridor, and the three lane option under today’s conditions would fail, and no one is arguing that.”

    Other ideas mixed into the scenarios include narrowing lane width; installing medians; adding mid-block crosswalks; adding landscape buffers and adding transit “super stops” that would attract more residents and offer better facilities for bus riders.

    Ypsilanti City Planner Teresa Gillotti underscored that the focus at the moment is to gather feedback from residents on each of the ideas an plan’s components.

    “We’re looking for feedback - nobody likes being on Washtenaw how it is now, so we want to hear if people want to have bike lanes, improved pedestrian crossings, where they want the crossings, bus pull offs so the traffic flow isn’t impeded. That’s what we want to hear from residents; what they like or don’t like,” she said.

    Scenario A

    Scenario A offers a cross-section that doesn’t look too much unlike Washtenaw Avenue today.

    The five-lane road would include continuous, buffered bike lanes and sidewalks throughout the corridor. AATA buses would have transit signal priority and officials would better coordinate signals to improve flow.

    The future public right-of-way would be expanded to 97-feet and still contain a dedicated center left turn lane. It also includes an eight-foot landscape buffer on each side of the road.

    Scenario B

    Scenario “B” would keep Washtenaw on the five-lane configuration on busier sections like between Stadium Boulevard and Platt Road. The corridor would narrow to four lanes between Platt and Carpenter, and include a median for part of that stretch.

    East of Carpenter, the road would widen to five lanes until Torrey Street, where a road diet would take it down to three lanes until Cross Street. Parts of those stretches are where officials hope to see denser development that would include on-street parking.

    RI_Wash_1_2.jpg

    Reimagine Washtenaw's designers hope the plan will improve pedestrian safety by adding more crosswalks, among other measures.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    But Billetdeaux stressed the road diet would “not happen under current traffic conditions”, noting Washtenaw sees 26,000 to 45,000 cars travel each direction daily.

    “It would be a horrible idea to go and do that today and create a deadlock,” he said. “The goal is not to slow down traffic so people take buses.”

    Sarah Binkowski, a transportation engineer with Parsons Brinckerhoff, said the traffic count would need to be reduced by 15 percent, or 200 vehicles per hour, to make the scenario feasible. That would require an increase in bus ridership, bike traffic and foot traffic.

    Gillotti pointed out the importance of gaining the support major local employers like Saint Joseph Hospital, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

    Planners are beginning to meet with those employers and discuss ideas such as changing shifts to begin and end at off-peak hours or offer incentives for employees who take public transit and other means to commute to work.

    “We want to have less people driving through peak traffic hours for this to work,” she said. “So if we can get them to talk to their staff, students and faculty about the bus, car pooling, or biking, then that helps make this much more realistic."

    Like scenario “A”, scenario “B” includes continuous, buffered bike lanes and would provide AATA buses transit signal priority. Additionally, bus queues along the corridor would allow buses stopped at lights to jump ahead of traffic.

    Billetdeaux said he heard the most support for scenario “B” during the four meetings with the public, which he partially attributed to the different lane configurations matching the current or proposed land use in each section.

    “I’d also like to think that people are realizing that we don’t have to design our roadways and corridors based on the automobile anymore and we have to consider the pedestrian environment and land use,” he said.

    Scenario C

    Scenario “C” would keep Washtenaw a four-lane road divided by a 45-foot median between Stadium and Carpenter, then shift to a three-lane road with two additional dedicated bus lanes. It would also include continuous sidewalks, continuous bike lanes, bus queues and transit signal priority.

    RI_Wash_1_3.jpg

    A new non-motorized path under U.S. 23. Reimagine Washtenaw hopes to extend it the length of the corridor.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Parts of scenario “C” would require at least 131 feet of public right-of-way, which Voght said would require businesses to either sell or donate part of their property. But he said that would happen piecemeal throughout the next 20 to 30 years and underscored that Reimagine Washtenaw does not plan to go out and purchase large swaths of land in the coming months.

    Larry Krieg, a member of the Ypsilanti Township Planning Commission who has been involved in the committee-level discussions, said he believes developers and investors see the value in projects like Reimagine Wahtenaw that enhance the community.

    “Business people are making an investment when they bring in a business and they want to see that the community to is willing to invest in itself,” Krieg said. “In other words, we cannot expect businesses to invest in us if we, the residents, aren’t willing to invest in ourselves. It’s up to us to get the ball rolling.”

    Land use is a crucial part of the plan. Planners want to see building standards and zoning that promotes development that it is closer to the street, denser and multi-storied. Those characteristics attract more foot and bike traffic and make it easier for people to access commercial space from public transit.

    Kreig contended that its that type of development that will keep a younger generation that is less interested in the automobile in the area. That was one of the questions that sparked the Reimagine Washtenaw project, he said.

    “How do we make our communities more attractive to talented, young people, many of whom are going to the east coast and west coast for a job and are really not interested in an environment totally dominated by automobiles?” he asked.

    “Also, the way a lot of feel is that the corridor now - it’s ugly.”


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    An Ypsilanti man had been out of prison for less than a day before being arrested for stealing clothes and a punching a woman who tried to stop him, according to deputies.

    timothywashington.jpg

    Timothy Washington

    Courtesy of WCSO

    Timothy Washington, 47, is held in the Washtenaw County Jail on a $25,000 cash or surety bond for the May 23 incident at Value World, 1410 E. Michigan Ave. Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Geoffrey Fox said Washington went to the store because he needed to get some dry clothes.

    “He went to the rear of the store and returned up front a couple minutes later,” Fox said. “When he did this, the cashier noticed he had on different clothes than he came in wearing.”

    Fox said the woman approached Washington and confronted him about stealing clothes. Washington then approached the woman and punched her once in the face before running away from the area.

    Deputies were dispatched to the store and ended up arresting Washington outside a nearby apartment complex, Fox said.

    Washington was arraigned this week on charges of unarmed robbery, malicious destruction of fire and police property, second-degree retail fraud, and assault and battery, according to court records. Jail records show he’s being held on a $25,000 cash or surety bond.

    The incident occurred a day after Washington was discharged from prison, according to state records. He served two and a half years in prison for unlawfully driving away an automobile and third-degree fleeing a police officer for an incident on Sept. 23, 2010, records show.

    According to state records, Washington was sentenced to between a year and two months and five years in prison for both convictions.

    Washington will return to court for a preliminary exam at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.


    View Larger Map

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Longtime supporters of the vision for a greenway in Ann Arbor are inviting the community to come learn more at a Sunday afternoon "picnic on the greenway."

    The Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy is hosting the event from 1-4 p.m. Sunday at the parking lot at First and William streets.

    greenway_map_2.png

    The proposed locations of the three greenway anchor parks.

    Courtesy of Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway

    The parking lot is one of three city-owned floodway/floodplain properties — in addition to 415 W. Washington and 721 N. Main — where the conservancy and city officials hope to see greenway anchor parks developed near downtown in the future.

    Organizers say community members are invited to bring their own snacks and seats and enjoy live music and activities for children.

    The schedule is as follows:

    1-2 p.m. — Dorkestra band plays, Kim Easter is the featured singer. Welcome speech by ACGC President Bob Galardi. Activities for children and for "adults who may feel like a child for a day" include imagining the greenway by drawing it with green chalk and making flowers.

    2 p.m. — Short speeches. Poem "A Brook in the City" by Robert Frost, read by local poet Chris Lord (organizers believe the brook from the poem is Allen Creek). A second poem written and read by local poet Nancy Heers, titled "If I had My Choice," inspired by the greenway.

    2:30 p.m. —Dance called "Greenway" by Dancers for Life (Nancy Heers, Shirley Axon, Quincy Northrup, and five more dancers), waving a long green cloth. Followed or preceded with song by Robert and Quincy Northrup: "This Land is my Land."

    3 p.m. — Band plays some more. The so-called "Violin Monster" of Ann Arbor has been invited to join and play with the band.

    4 p.m. — End of party, pick up trash and leave the place as found, except for chalk marks on the parking lot that will wash away with the next rain.

    Watch a video on the vision for the greenway:

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.


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    The annual African American Downtown Festival returned to the area around Fourth Avenue and Ann Street on Saturday.

    The event celebrates African-American culture, and it takes place in the location of Ann Arbor's historic African-American business district. Food, live entertainment, information and vendor booths, and activities for kids are all part of the fun.

    Photographer Daniel Brenner captured these images. The festival continues through 9 p.m. Saturday and admission is free; for more information, see the preview article.


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    Ypsilanti_Farewell_4.jpg

    There was plenty of food and entertainment at Saturday's Ypsilanti Public Schools farewell celebration at the district's high school.

    Lisa Carolin | AnnArbor.com

    Current and former students and staff came to Ypsilanti High School Saturday to bid farewell to a a 164-year-old era. It was a bittersweet celebration: the end of one school district and the beginning of another.

    The Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts officially merge on July 1 to become Ypsilanti Community Schools.

    "The merger is a great opportunity for both school communities to take the best of what we have and improve in other areas that need serious attention," said Dedrick Martin, superintendent of Ypsilanti Public Schools and host of Saturday's event.

    Martin accepted a job as superintendent of St. Johns Public Schools for next school year. He helped organize Saturday's program, which included performances by students and presentations to honor the district including the retirement of the Ypsilanti school district jersey. "There's a lot of potential for improvement with the new district," said Ypsilanti High School student Jacob Moorer, who will graduate in the new district's first graduating class in 2014. "Many students have a passion for this school district and a lot of pride."

    "The merger is supposed to be better for the community and for funding," said Tracy Smith, a 1984 alumnus of Ypsilanti High School. "I just hope it all works out." Kendra Wiedbusch is a 1982 Ypsilanti High School graduate who attended today's gathering.

    "It's very sad but something had to be done because of enrollment," said Wiedbusch, whose parents were 1951 and 1954 graduates of the school and whose sisters graduated in 1971 and 1977.

    Gwen Heard, a 15-year employee of the Ypsilanti school district, says she's been crying a lot lately.

    "I feel really sad," said Heard. "There are a lot of good memories and a lot of good people here. I just came to say goodbye."

    Ypsilanti_farewell_3.jpg

    Dedrick Martin, superintendent of the Ypsilanti school district, hosted Saturday's farewell event and welcomed student Kharee Kinder to sing the national anthem.

    Lisa Carolin | AnnArbor.com

    Martin is optimistic about the transition to the new school district and says it's all about having a positive mindset.

    "While change is always difficult, through the years, I've found that most children are extremely resilient," he said. "I believe that they will be able to handle the changes if we as adults help them embrace the unique and positive aspects to come."

    Student Kharee Kinder received enthusiastic applause for his performance of the national anthem at Saturday's event. Music teacher Crystal Harding's second- through sixth-graders who are part of the "You Can't Stop Me Project" also performed.

    "We just like to sing positive music," said Harding, a 1983 alumnus and 26-year teacher in the district who will be returning in the fall with an unknown assignment.

    Her fellow alumnus Bob Garfield attended Saturday's event because he said, "We were proud to be the Braves. Our class was close. I think that the two school districts should have merged a while ago."

    Garfield's father, James Garfield, was a former superintendent in the Willow Run district.

    Ypsilanti High School Senior Dejanae Jorris will be graduating in the district's final graduation Tuesday, June 4.

    "I'm happy to get out now," she said. "It will be messy at first, but it's nice to have both communities come together. I'm glad to be graduating in the last class of Ypsilanti High School."


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    Several cars were broken into in the city of Ypsilanti Friday, and the city's police department has no suspects at this time.

    All of the break-ins occurred within a 12-hour period Friday beginning just after 1 a.m. when a car was broken into in the 600 block of Rice Street. Several items were stolen.

    The next break-in occurred in the 100 block of North Street at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Tools were taken from that vehicle. The third break-in occurred at 10 a.m. Friday morning in the 100 block of North River Street. Loose change was taken from that vehicle.

    The Ypsilanti Police Department can't say whether the same person was responsible for all three break-ins. The investigation is continuing.


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    Blimpy_Burger_1.jpg

    Brothers Dave and Don Louwsma and their families enjoy a family reunion at Blimpy Burger Saturday.

    Lisa Carolin | AnnArbor.com

    It was a reunion of sorts for the five Louwsma siblings who chose Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger as a gathering spot to reminisce about burgers gone by on Saturday afternoon. There were 27 family members altogether in attendance.

    Eldest brother Jack Lousma—the well-known astronaut, who spells his name differently than his siblings—along with sister Judy Gertz, and brothers Jim, David and Don Louwsma (in that birth order) have a long history at Blimpy Burger. They all grew up in Ann Arbor in the 1950s and '60s, when burgers at Blimpy could be had for a few coins.

    "This was absolutely worth the drive," said Jim Louwsma, who along with his wife, Joanne, came the farthest for the family gathering, from Minneapolis. "I used to eat here back in 1956, when a burger cost 15 cents. I also worked here for a while."

    Several of the Louwsma siblings had paper routes along Division Street that included Blimpy Burger.

    "I'd deliver the newspaper here every day, and then spend my Friday nights eating here," said Don Louwsma.

    The siblings resided on Marshall Court when they were growing up in Ann Arbor, just down the street from Blimpy Burger.

    "This place is special for us, and now we can share it with our grandchildren who are here with us today," said Judy Gertz.

    The siblings—all of whom live in Michigan except Jim and Joanne—wanted to gather along with their families for one last meal at the restaurant while it's still at its current location on South Division Street. The restaurant's building has been sold to the University of Michigan and it will have to move.

    "When they found out it was closing, Uncle Jim said we should have a memorial feedbag, one last lunch at Krazy Jim's," said Laurie Nutt, daughter of David Louwsma, who organized Saturday's reunion. "I grew up in Ann Arbor and remember my dad taking me to Krazy Jim's. I always had fun going there as a kid."

    Blimpy_Burger_2.jpg

    Jack Lousma dines at Blimpy Burger on Saturday.

    Lisa Carolin | AnnArbor.com

    Jack Lousma, a former NASA astronaut who served on the Skylab space station in 1973 and commanded the third space shuttle mission, said, "This has been a family-get-together place ever since I can remember. You can always get as big a burger as you want, and it's hand-made."

    Jack Lousma's photo was taken today with owner Rich Magner, and it was hung on the wall while the family was still there.

    "It's an honor," responded Jack Lousma.

    The 60-year-old Ann Arbor restaurant must vacate its building on South Division Street by Aug. 31 when its lease expires. The property's owner, Patricia Shafer, whose husband, Jim Shafer, was Blimpy Burger's original founder, sold the property to the University of Michigan, which plans to turn that and the adjacent property into a dormitory. Blimpy Burger owner Rich Magner is hoping to reopen at new location but hasn't found one yet.

    "I think when this place closes, it will close a chapter in our lives," said Dave Louwsma. "It would be nice if they open a new Blimpy Burger, but sequels are never quite as good."

    Blimpy_Burger-3.jpg

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    The Neutral Zone teen center sponsored a new teen arts festival, LIVE on Washington, on the 300 block of East Washington Street in downtown Ann Arbor on Saturday.

    Photographer Daniel Brenner captured these images. The event continues until 10 p.m. Saturday; for more information, see the preview article.


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    Ann Arbor police said an armed robbery was reported Saturday afternoon at the BP gas station in the 3700 block of Washtenaw Avenue.

    The incident took place about 2 p.m. Police did not immediately release information on whether anything was stolen or any other details. An investigation is under way.


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    Lincoln-fire.jpg

    A home on Lincoln Avenue burns as firefighters work to extinguish the flames on Saturday. The photo was taken about 20 minutes after the Ann Arbor Fire Department arrived on the scene.

    photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor Fire Department

    A house fire in the 1100 block of Lincoln Avenue in Ann Arbor caused extensive damage to a three-story home Saturday afternoon.

    The Ann Arbor Fire Department got the call just after 1 p.m. and remained on the scene until 5 p.m.

    No people were injured, but one cat was found dead in the home's basement, probably due to smoke inhalation, a fire official said. Two other cats were rescued from the upstairs of the home.

    "The fire started because of some sort of electrical issue and was a very labor intensive fire," said Steven Lowe, Ann Arbor Fire Department battalion chief. "The fire burned in between the floors and walls, which required us to tear down walls, floors and ceilings."

    Lowe said the fire caused significant damage to the basement and first floor of the home, and smoke damage to the rest of the house. The family recently moved into the home, and a contractor has been working on the site.

    The Pittsfield Township Fire Department and Ypsilanti Fire Department assisted on the scene. Huron Valley Ambulance was also called.

    The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


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    Appleby007statetrackD2.JPG

    The Chelsea boys track team celebrates winning a Division 2 state championship Saturday at Forest Hills Eastern High School. It is the first title in program history.

    Latara Appleby | MLive.com

    Related:

    ADA - For the first time since 2003, a Chelsea High School athletic program can call itself state champions.

    The Bulldogs’ boys track and field team brought home that program’s first ever state title Saturday in front of a packed house at the Division 2 finals hosted by Forest Hills Eastern High School.

    “It feels great and it was a true team effort,” said coach Eric Swager. “What made it real special is that we have quality coaches and all the guys bought in that we’re going to work hard from day one.”

    The Bulldogs scored 64 points to beat runner-up Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills by eight points. Highlighted by senior Berkley Edwards’ two state championships in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, Chelsea won three individual and one relay title to pace the team’s effort.

    More coverage: Complete results

    The Bulldogs’ 3200-meter relay team started the day strong, winning the meet’s first race in a time of 7 minutes, 55.84 seconds.

    “We’ve been planning on (winning a state title) since the winter. We talked about it in the winter, we worked towards it, and we knew he had the guys to do it,” said Chelsea senior Zach Rabbitt, who won ran the first leg of the relay. “We came in here knowing that we had a good shot to win this meet as a whole. Coach told us 50 points should win us the meet and we went out and got 10 for our team.”

    With the state title, the 3200-meter relay team of Rabbitt, Jacob Stubbs, David Trimas and Tony Vermilye finished the season without a loss to a Division 2 opponent all season.

    “We knew we couldn’t just walk out there and win it,” Stubbs said. “We knew we had to work for it.”

    That win was followed soon after by the first of Edwards’ two championship races.

    He won the 100 dash in a time of 10.58 seconds (see video below) and later in the day edged Allegan’s Gary Jones by 0.2 seconds to win the 200 dash in 21.37 seconds.



    Both times were personal bests for Edwards, and they couldn’t have come at a better time.

    “I think things went well, better than I expected,” said Edwards, who will play tailback for the University of Minnesota football program in the fall. “It feels real good. I wanted to end senior year on a great note and I did that.

    “It was definitely a close race. The guy from Allegan is a really good runner, I respect him a lot. My strategy was to get out, get out hard on the curve and try to hold on. I heard him coming but I told myself ‘don’t strain.’”

    Appleby023statetrackD2.JPG

    Chelsea senior Michael Hovater competes in the pole vault during the Division 2 state finals. Hovater won the event and the Bulldogs got a pair of individual titles from sprinter Berkley Edwards.

    Latara Appleby | MLive.com

    Chelsea’s third individual title came from senior Michael Hovater, who won the pole vault with a height of 14-feet, 10-inches. Despite being the top seed entering the event, Hovater said he has never been as nervous.

    “There is nothing better. I can’t honestly think of anything I would want more,” Hovater said. “You can be the top seed going in by three feet and still, that much pressure is overwhelming.”

    Aside from the state champions, the Bulldogs got a huge contribution from Austin Horn, who took second and fourth, respectively, in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs.

    The only other Washtenaw County boys team represented at the D2 meet was Milan, whose lone athlete -- Kalif Kelsey -- placed fifth in the long jump.

    On the girls side, it was a different story. Neither the Chelsea nor Milan teams could muster enough points to crack the top 10. Milan finished with 12 points and Chelsea seven.

    Milan’s Tess Odegard finished third in the high jump (5- 4) while Nicole Lange was sixth in the 200 dash (:26.39) and seventh in the 400 (:59.41). Chelsea’s Grace Sauers was fifth in the 300 hurdles (:46.04) and the Bulldogs’ 800 relay team finished sixth.

    But the day belonged to the Chelsea boys team.

    “They were a good group, mostly seniors, but some younger guys too,” Swager said. “We said at the start of the year, when the weather was rotten, ‘We’re going to work hard on Day 1 and not let the weather dictate whether or not we’re going to have a good season.’

    “We worked hard from Day 1 and this is what happens when it comes together at the end.”

    Matt Durr is a freelance sports reporter.


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    D1 State Track12.JPG

    Saline's Quenee' Dale, left races against East Kentwood's Sekayi Bracey in the 100 meter dash during the D1 state track and field championships at East Kentwood High School on Saturday.

    Matt Gade | Mlive Media Group

    Related:

    KENTWOOD -- It took an effort better than their coach thought would be possible, but the Saline High School girls track and field team left East Kentwood with a trophy.

    The Hornets finished as runners-up at the Division 1 track and field state finals Saturday with 55 points, 21 behind three-peat champion Grosse Pointe South. The finish is Saline’s best ever for a girls team at the track and field state meet.

    “We didn’t think we could score this many points,” Saline coach Brian Boze said. “Everybody met or exceeded their own expectations. We knew we could be a contender for second, but we didn’t know we’d have to score this many points to do it.

    “All up and down the board, sprints, hurdles, field, distance, tremendous at every entry really for us.”

    The Hornets had top-eight finishes in eight different events, including one individual state title and one relay state title.

    More: Results | Boys Division 1 coverage

    Junior Quenee' Dale captured the Hornets’ first individual state title since 2002 with a 14.74-second 100-meter hurdles, running into a strong headwind. Dale got what she called her best start of the season and led throughout.

    “I was kind of shocked,” Dale said of her start.

    The race was the first final of what was a challenging four-event schedule for the junior. Nine minutes after her hurdles win, the gun went off for the start 100-meter dash final. Dale crossed the finish line 12.63 seconds later, in fifth place.

    From there, she ran legs in two relays, the 800 and the 400, all within the hour.

    In her final race of the day, the anchor leg of the 400, Dale passed the team from Pioneer with 50 meters to go to give the Hornets their second straight state title in the event. Dale said she was happy to help win the title for teammate Amanda Luurtsema, who missed the finals in the 100 dash.

    “She worked hard all season, she really deserved this,” Dale said. “I was like ‘This is for her.’”

    And even though Dale’s four races totaled just 500 meters, the fact that they were packed in the front end of the meet, and that the 100 and 100 hurdles both had preliminaries and semifinals, meant she had to work on her conditioning to be able to handle the schedule at the state meet.

    “It takes a rare athlete,” Boze said of the schedule. “Cindy Ofili did it very well for Ann Arbor Huron as a junior and senior, Quenee’ did it very well. But you have to be able to manage the rounds at not your full capacity.”

    D1 State Track20.JPG

    Ypsilanti's Endia Francois competes in the 200-meter dash during the D1 state track and field championships at East Kentwood High School on Saturday.

    Matt Gade | MLive Media Group

    Saline’s Randi Bennett also made it on the podium twice, finishing third in the shot put and fourth in the discus. After disappointing performances in the past and a knee injury in the fall that threatened her senior season, Bennett finished with her best state meet yet.

    “She’s been up here three years in a row and has had some issues up here,” Boze said. “Just to get that monkey off her back and to compete really well, she is just a team person.”

    The Hornets also put three runners on the podium for the 3,200-meter run: Elianna Schwayder in third, Abby Rentschler in fifth and Gillian Walter in seventh.

    The Saline boys 3,200-meter relay team also won a state title early in the day, nearly two seconds faster than the second-place finisher.

    Outside of the Saline girls’ six athletes that earned all-state individual honors, 12 other Washtenaw County athletes finished with individual all-state honors on the day.

    Like Dale, Ypsilanti’s Endia Francois had a busy day at the track, competing in the high jump, long jump, 200 and 400.

    The junior found her way to the podium in both her running events, finishing in seventh in the 400 and fourth in the 200. In her 200 performance, her last race of the day, she injured her quadricep, but still managed her best finish of the day.

    “I pulled it coming down the stretch, but I still stuck it out and came in fourth,” Francois said.

    Washtenaw County Division 1 Girls All-State

    Kennedy Beazley, Huron. 800-meter run, 6th, 2:12.07
    Randi Bennett, Saline. Shot put, 3rd, 40-4.75. Discus, 4th, 121-7
    Quenee’ Dale, Saline. 100-meter hurdles, 1st, 14.79. 100-meter dash, 5th, 12.63
    Alexis Dubreuil, Pioneer. 100-meter hurdles, 6th, 15.18
    Endia Francois, Ypsilanti. 400-meter run, 7th, 57.91
    Kami Powell, Dexter. Pole vault, 5th, 11-3
    Chinonye Uche, Pioneer. 300-meter hurdles, 5th, 45.36
    Abby Rentschler, Saline. 3200-meter run, 5th, 10:53.53
    Elianna Schwayder, Saline. 3200-meter run, 3rd, 10:43.58
    Gillian Walter, Saline. 3200-meter run, 7th, 11:01.02
    Natalie Wysocki, Saline. 300-meter hurdles 7th, 45.70
    Huron 3,200-meter relay. 5th, 9:20.31
    Pioneer 400-meter relay. 2nd, 48.66
    Saline 3,200-meter relay. 3rd, 9:15.92
    Saline 400-meter relay. 1st, 48.57

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kyleaustin@annarbor.com or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.


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    KENTWOOD -- The conditions were anything but ideal to pole vault. But three Washtenaw County athletes were able to fight through and make the best of it.

    D1 State Track17.JPG

    Dexter's Noah Gary competes in the pole vault during the D1 state track and field championships at East Kentwood High School on Saturday.

    Matt Gade | Mlive Media Group

    A trio of area vaulters finished top eight and earned all-state honors at Saturday's Division 1 track and field state finals at East Kentwood High School.

    Tyler Leach of Pioneer vaulted 14 feet, 10 inches to finish in second, Noah Gary of Dexter finished in fourth at 14-7 and Kaj Althaus of Saline tied for eighth at 13-4.

    More: Results | Girls Division 1 coverage

    Leach's vault equaled that of state champion Dylan Kole of Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills, but he finished second because it took him more attempts.

    But 14-10 on a blustery day and second place -- one spot better than last year -- still marked a good day for the Pioneer senior.

    “Taking the conditions into effect, it was really good,” Leach said.

    Gary was able to clear 15-7 at regionals two weeks ago, but couldn't clear the 14-10 height that the top three competitors did Saturday.

    But having two of the state's best pole vaulters in the SEC helped both Leach and Gary finish in the top four in the state finals.

    “Him pushing me as far as I can go and pushing him as far as he can go has definitely helped us a lot improving," Leach said.

    Aside from pole vaulters, five other area athletes earned all-state honors in the boys meet, and Saline's 3,200-meter relay team came away with the area's lone state title.

    Field events marked the strongest area for local athletes. Willie Elam of Skyline finished fourth in the shot put, and Lincoln's Tyree Waller was the fifth-best long jumper.

    Pioneer's Tre Brown and Saline's Andrew Kitto were the top finishers on the track, with Brown finishing fifth in the 300-meter hurdles and Kitto finishing the same in the 800.

    Washtenaw County Division 1 Boys All-State

    Kaj Althaus, Saline. Pole vault, 8th, 13-4
    Lucas Arrivo, Pioneer. 1,600-meter, 8th, 4:19.53
    Tre Brown, Pioneer. 300-meter hurdles, 5th, 38.79
    Willie Elam, Skyline. Shot put, fourth, 54-6
    Noah Gary, Dexter. Pole vault, 4th, 14-7
    Andrew Kitto, Saline. 800-meter run, 5th, 1:54.97
    Tyler Leach, Pioneer. Pole vault, 2nd, 14-10
    Tyree Waller, Lincoln. Long jump, 5th, 22-3.25
    Saline 3,200-meter relay. 1st, 7:47.49

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kyleaustin@annarbor.com or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.


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    Related:

    It had been 26 years since the Dexter High School softball program had won a district title and the members of this year’s team are well aware.

    How could they not be, when their coach, Mark Whitley, reminded them of that fact every single day?

    Whitely reminded his team for the final time on Saturday, with one big difference: he was holding a district championship trophy above his head.

    Dexter beat Pioneer 7-4 in the Division 1 district final, putting an end to the drought and leaving Whitley in search of a new favorite motivational speech.

    More coverage: Boxscore | Bracket

    “He brings it up a lot because he really wants to win and we all did,” said pitcher Natasha Drinkard.

    dexter-championship-district-softball.jpg

    The Dexter High School softball team won the program's first district title since 1987 on Saturday, June 1.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Drinkard had no trouble with Pioneer for the first six innings as Dexter entered the final frame ahead 7-1. But she gave up three runs in the seventh inning and had two runners on base when Whitley finally came out to the pitching circle to speak to his pitcher.

    “I said ‘I didn’t come out here to hammer anybody, I just want to come out here to slow the game down and say we’re one out away from a championship. The next girl that hits the ball, we’re going to make it ours,” Whitley said.

    And that’s exactly what happened.

    “We were getting nervous, but I knew I had to pull it together and they did, too. And we did,” Drinkard said.

    “We just left too many people on and had too many errors that were costly,” said Pioneer coach Darcy Thorpe-Knoll.

    Pioneer (12-25) beat Pinckney 3-2 earlier in the day to advance to the final. Dexter beat Huron 16-1 to reach the final.

    Once the district title drought had officially ended for Dexter (21-8), Whitley made sure every players' family members in attendance joined the team on the field for celebratory pictures.

    “Twenty-six years is a along time,” Whitley said. “We had a girl by the name of Jennie Ritter in our program. Jennie Ritter’s one of the best pitchers that’s ever been a part of the Dexter program and the University of Michigan program (she won a national championship in 2005 with Michigan) and she didn’t even get a district trophy.

    “It’s been a long time coming and we really worked hard for it. We really worked hard for it.”

    The Dreadnaughts play next Saturday at the regional championship tournament at Grand Ledge High School. Dexter will play East Lansing with Jackson and Mattawan playing in the other semifinal.

    It didn’t take long for Whitley to find a new favorite motivational speech.

    “We’re not done,” Whitley told his team on the win on Saturday. “This isn’t the end. This is the beginning.”

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


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    marry-hanna-saline-tennis.jpg

    Saline senior Mary Hanna won a Division 1 state championship at No. 1 singles on Saturday.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Saline’s Mary Hanna has twice made it to the semifinals of the high school tennis state finals and twice come up short. Her junior year was especially painful as Hanna came into the Division 1 No. 1 singles flight as the top seed.

    Third was the charm for the University of Nebraska-bound senior on Saturday. Hanna defeated Clarkston’s Lexi Baylis - herself a two-time No. 2 singles champion - 6-1, 6-2 in the finals to claim the Division 1 No. 1 singles championship at the Midland Community Tennis Center. Hanna finished the season undefeated, only dropping a single set all year.

    Alyssa Roopas and Evie VanDewege won the No. 3 doubles flight in spectacular fashion. The Pioneer duo dropped their opening set 4-6, won the second and third 6-4, 7-5.

    Pioneer finished in sixth place as a team with Huron taking eighth. Port Huron Northern won the team title with 24 points total.

    Chelsea made school history at the Division 3 finals as the doubles team of Samantha Jabara and Jordan Jacobs became the first in program history to ever advance to a flight semifinal.

    In Division 4, Father Gabriel Richard took fourth place as a team with Anjali Sood leading the way with a runner-up finish at No. 2 singles.

    Hanna and the Pioneer doubles team were just one of several Washtenaw County athletes to win state championships on Saturday. Several other teams came painfully close while some took their first step toward a state championship with district titles on the busiest weekend of the year.

    Check out all of the AnnArbor.com and MLive.com's High School Sports Network coverage from throughout the day:

    Baseball

    huron-baseball-throw.jpg

    Huron pitcher Domenic DiGiovine.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Girls water polo

    Girls soccer

    Track and field

    berkley-edwards-sprint-champion.jpg

    Chelsea's Berkley Edwards, far right, swept the sprints at the Division 2 boys track and field state championships on Saturday, June 1.

    Latara Appleby | MLive Media Group

    Softball

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


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    APHC.png

    Garrison Keillor performing during the live radio broadcast of his variety show, "A Prairie Home Companion," at Hill Auditorium on June 1, 2013.

    Photo by Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    About 90 seconds before launching into the live broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion" from Hill Auditorium on Saturday evening - which kicked off this year's Ann Arbor Summer Festival - host Garrison Keillor told the capacity crowd that they’d have the chance to play a key role early in the show.

    “After we run through our version … of ‘Hail to the Victors,’ we want you to get up and sing the real thing with real spirit and pizazz, OK?” Keillor said. “Bring tears to the eyes of alumni … across the country.”

    Keillor’s version of U-M’s famous fight song included the lines, “It is a lullaby that’s sung here in Michigan so little children find out where they are from. They are from Michigan, and they must be victors, and they must beat Ohio or else go live somewhere else.”

    “Prairie”’s music director, Richard Dworsky, quickly followed this up with an extra verse dedicated to his uncle, Daniel Dworsky, who played linebacker on a number one ranked Michigan football team in the 1940s.

    Ann Arbor and U-M played various playful roles throughout the broadcast - one of the main characters in “Lives of the Cowboys” wanted to stop in Ann Arbor to visit an old girlfriend, and Guy Noir, Private Eye was working on a case for the YMCA (Ypsilanti Michigan Camping Association) - but one of Keillor’s quieter meditations, inspired by a walk through U-M’s campus, may have been the most incisive.

    “It all comes back to you, those glorious, glorious car crash years of your college education, when you just ran headlong through life, … like you were running through the woods, … thinking this was going to lead to something great,” said Keillor. “Then you got to the end of it without any clue what to do.”

    In another show segment, Keillor noted some highlights of the University’s history, and talked about three of its Presidents and their accomplishments, making a point to include this (former U-M President) Harlan Hatcher quote: ''There is nothing 'cloistered' about a modern state university with more than 15,000 students. In fact, I periodically escape from the rush of the university into the peace and contemplative quiet of New York City.''

    Late in the broadcast, a song referenced several places and people familiar to locals, including the Dawn Treader Used Bookstore; the Woody Allen/Anais Nin/Franz Kafka/Herman Hesse mural on Liberty St.; The Ark; Graffiti Alley; the Michael Jackson-like street dancer; and the cafe called Lab. (“You can tell it is a very hip place/ because all the typography is lower case.”)

    Seeing a broadcast of “Prairie” “was actually on my bucket list,” said Chelsea’s Ruste Wilke, who came with 3 fellow U-M grads. “ … I’ve listened to that show since my kids were babies, and my oldest is 27 now.”

    “I thought it was fun to see the guy with the sound effects, how he was really doing it all,” said Ann Arbor’s Annie Rickert. “ … And I like (Keillor’s) voice. I actually closed my eyes a few times, because I just thought, ‘I just want to sit and listen to him, like I always do.’”

    Chelsea’s Rob Wilke, meanwhile, was impressed with “Prairie” actress Sue Scott: “I like the way you got to see her doing so many different kinds of voices. They didn’t do it today, but a lot of times, she’s the nagging mother, and yet she’s also the sexy woman on the island, and everything in between. That was really interesting to see.”

    Milan’s Mike Neuburger, who’s listened to “Prairie” since he was a young kid, appreciated “seeing how it all works,” while Ann Arbor’s Danielle Frailey was wowed by the way Keillor presented the beloved “News from Lake Wobegon” segment.

    “I didn’t realize that he doesn’t read from a script or anything during that,” said Frailey. “He totally did that from memory. That’s amazing.”

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


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    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The focus of the Michigan softball team shifted from staying alive to staying awake on Saturday night. The Wolverines successfully did both with a 2-0 win over Arizona State in its first elimination game of the Women's College World Series.

    2013 NCAA WOMEN'S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

    softball-stock.jpg

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Thursday

    Game 1 - Washington 4, Nebraska 3 (8 innings)
    Game 2 - Tennessee 9, Florida 2
    Game 3 - Texas 6, Arizona State 3
    Game 4 - Oklahoma 7, Michigan 1

    Friday

    Games 5 & 6 postponed

    Saturday

    Game 5 - Tennessee 1, Washington 0
    Game 6 - Oklahoma 10, Texas 2
    Game 7 - Florida 9, Nebraska 8 (15)
    Game 8 - Michigan 2, Arizona State 0

    Sunday

    Game 9 - Texas (50-9) vs. Florida (58-8), 1 p.m., ESPN
    Game 10 - Washington (44-16) vs. Michigan (51-12), 3:30 p.m., ESPN
    Game 11 Tennessee (51-10) vs. Game 9 winner, 7 p.m., ESPN
    Game 12 — Oklahoma (54-4) vs. Game 10 winner, 9:30 p.m. ESPN

    Monday

    Game 13 — Game 11 winner vs. Game 11 loser, TBA (if necessary)
    Game 14 — Game 12 winner vs. Game 12 loser, TBA (if necessary)

    Championship Series

    Monday: Teams TBD, 8 p.m., ESPN
    Tuesday: Teams TBD, 8 p.m., ESPN
    Wednesday: Teams TBD, 8 p.m., ESPN (if necessary)

    Freshman Sierra Romero hit a two-run shot for her 23rd home run of the season, Sara Driesenga threw a seven-hit shutout and eighth-seeded Michigan became the first team to shut out the Sun Devils all season in a game that lasted past 3 a.m. (EST).

    Romero's third-inning home run against starter Dallas Escobedo (30-6) landed on a walkway at the front of the right-field bleachers.

    "I was seeing the ball really well off Dallas," Romero said. "She's a great pitcher, and I just took the ball where she pitched it."

    More coverage: Boxscore

    Arizona State, the 2008 and 2011 national champions, was shut out for the first time all season. Driesenga (31-8) allowed seven singles and walked three as Michigan (51-12) advanced to another elimination game later Sunday against Washington (3:30 p.m., ESPN).

    Michigan was originally scheduled to play Arizona State at 2:30 p.m., but the game was postponed to a 9:30 p.m. start time because Friday's games were postponed due to severe weather in the Oklahoma City area. The first pitch wasn't thrown until six minutes before midnight because the preceding game between Florida and Nebraska went 15 innings with the Gators winning 9-8. The game didn't end until nearly 2:30 a.m.

    "These are college kids. This is their normal hour," Wolverines coach Carol Hutchins said. "The coaches, not so much. But these are college kids, and they thrive at night."

    The fifth-seeded Sun Devils (50-12) failed to score after loading the bases with no outs in the fifth. Amber Freeman grounded into a double play and, after cleanup hitter Haley Steele was walked intentionally, Bethany Kemp struck out swinging.

    Arizona State also left the bases loaded in the third when Steele grounded out to end the inning. The Sun Devils had ranked fourth in the nation in scoring, at 6.8 runs per game.

    "We had people in scoring position and couldn't get it done," coach Clint Myers said. "We didn't do the timely hitting. That's what wins you ballgames."

    Escobedo, the team's ace as a freshman on the national title team two years ago, walked four and gave up three hits in 2 1-3 innings.

    "I was very anxious out there. I feel like I was trying too hard to put it in the zone when I should have just did what I've been doing all season," she said. "I don't know. It wasn't me."

    The winner of Michigan game against Washington will play Oklahoma at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday (ESPN). Michigan lost its opening round game to Oklahoma 7-1.


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    AADW Donaldson 1 4.2.jpg
    Oh, the places you’ll go!

    Come June, you can often count on Ann Arbor Dance Works, the resident professional company of the University of Michigan dance department, to set up shop somewhere swell. And unexpected.

    One year, it was the Arb. Last year, it was downtown Ann Arbor, where the dancers romped through commercial spaces, cavorted in alleys and courtyards and signaled each other along the railroad tracks. We took our folding stools along, and had a blast.

    This year, the company moves back on campus, but not to your regulation theater or studio. For “Within/Beyond,” which the company presents Saturday and Sunday evening, AADW repairs to the U-M Museum of Natural History, which is collaborating on the concert.

    The museum is more than just an unusual site for the four dances on the program, which come from three faculty choreographers—Jessica Fogel, Peter Sparling and Robin Wilson—and New York guest Edisa Weeks. The dances, all premieres featuring students and faculty, take their cues from the sciences, finding inspiration in research here and elsewhere. Weeks, for example, plans a dance based on the spiraling structures of DNA. She arrived last week to make the work with the student cast.

    When Fogel, who is AADW’s artistic director, set out to plan this June’s concert,“ I was looking for a beautiful or interesting site,” she said. The rotunda of the natural history museum fit that bill; the audience will sit in the round on two levels; the dancers have a 28-foot diameter space in which to move—but not to leap much, given the hard, travertine floor.

    “We’re keeping it pretty grounded,” Fogel said.

    But that’s not keeping the dancers, or the choreographers, earthbound.

    PREVIEW

    Ann Arbor Dance Works

    • Who: Local dance company.
    • What: “Within/Beyond” - dances inspired by the sciences.
    • Where: The U-M Museum of Natural History, 1109 Geddes Ave., on the U-M Central Campus (northwest corner, intersection of Washtenaw and Geddes).
    • When: Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9, 8 p.m.
    • How much: $10. Tickets available from the Michigan Union Ticket Office in the Michigan Union, 734-763-8587, and online at mutotix.com. Also at the door, but seating is limited and advance purchase is recommended.
    Fogel, for example, is thinking about the stars. She was inspired by U-M astronomer Sally Oey’s research on the role massive stars play the evolution of galaxies and by Italo Calvino’s absurdist “Cosmicomics” short stories. Oey’s research—which “she has a gift of explaining with real clarity,” Fogel said - led Fogel to muse on “the poetic implications of stars that develop in relative isolation as well as the huge effects massive stars have upon their surroundings.” U-M composer David Biedenbender’s score, “Liquid Architecture,” is the background for the sections of the dance devoted to Oey’s research. Another U-M composer, doctoral student Robert Alexander, sonified data from the sun for the Calvino-inspired sections.

    As Fogel gazes up, Sparling looks within, with a serio-comic dance called “How Autophagy Works.” What’s autophagy? It’s the cellular process of “self-eating” that is one of the body’s method of cleansing, recycling and defending against disease. And just as Fogel turned to an expert, Oey, for her science, so did Sparling, relying on U-M Life Sciences professor Dan Klionsky and medical illustrator Dave Woodsell to ground his dance. Wendy Lee composed a score for the work, and Sparling and the dancers provide movement models or dioramas (perfectly in place in this museum) for video projections, danced episodes and allied psychodramas.

    Wilson’s dance, a solo she’s making for herself, also has a cellular focus. She was inspired by Rebecca Skloot’s best-seller “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

    Lacks, as Skloot notes on her website, “was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more.”

    Wilson is mapping, in movement, some of the same ethical dilemmas Skloot outlines in her book. "I find it interesting,” she said, “that in a country where it was once legal to 'own' another person as property, it was decided by the California Supreme Court that WE don't have property rights over our own tissue/bodies. I’m talking Cells, Those tiny little units that make up US—our blood, our brains, our cervixes—Henrietta Lacks was never asked.”


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    Sight_Machine_group_wide .jpg

    Sight Machine's Ann Arbor team (left to right: Brooks Ryba, Jim Deakins, Matthew Alto, Kurt Demaagd, Anthony Oliver, and Nathan Oostendorp) in a mock-up car inspection tunnel they built in their new workspace.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    As the Internet expands its reach into our lives, more physical processes are being looped into the virtual world.

    That transition can be tricky when innovative thinkers with new ideas run into an American manufacturing sector that slowly has been changing but still is resistant to large-scale change.

    “The technology used for manufacturing today is still by and large rooted in the 1970s and '80s,” Sight Machine founder and chief product architect Nathan Oostendorp said. “Moving to network-based technology is the new thing and is catching on slowly.”

    Sight Machine, a company founded in Ann Arbor with an office in San Fransisco, has assembled a team that can reach out to both venture capitalists and factory foremen in an effort to bridge the gap between the Internet and the assembly line.

    “We have those rare people who work well with computer science and Internet engineers and can also go out and walk the plant floor,” CEO Jon Sobel said. “That’s really the DNA of our company… We think of ourselves as being both West Coast and Midwestern.”

    Sobel graduate from the University of Michigan Law School in 1990 and made a name for himself in Silicon Valley, holding senior positions at Yahoo! and Tesla Motors. His background with Internet companies and proven track record have helped attract the attention of venture capital firms, and Sight Machine recently closed a $5 million Series A funding round.

    Having lived in both worlds, Sobel is able to identify one reason West Coast entrepreneurs have had trouble bringing their ideas to major manufacturers.

    “In Silicon Valley, failure is common,” he said. “There is a higher degree of comfort with risk and there’s less recognition of how hard it is to make things reliably good. In the Midwest there’s a really nice way of doing business that is intentionally practical and straightforward but is not as receptive to disruptive change.”

    Sight_Machine_computer.jpg

    Sight Machine lead developer Jim Deakins (back left) and chief technical officer Anthony coding together at the company's Ann Arbor office.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    Sight Machine aims to bring a new connectivity to factories that will not disrupt what already is happening but will allow different parts of the process to talk to one another.

    “It used to be that all a camera sensor would do is spit out a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ rating,” Oostendorp said.

    “With our system it still does that, but in addition we have a database system that is archiving what is failing or passing along with other information collected in a single program that gives company usable data.”

    Sight Machine uses SimpleCV, an open source software developed by the company to help integrate cameras and other sensors. Oostendorp said connecting the system to the Internet makes it easier for all of the components of a system to share information with each other.

    “That way, a company can track where they are having issues and whether any problems along a line are related to each other,” he said.

    The Internet connection also allows both cameras and the software system to be updated from a central off-site source instead of manually. This streamlining can save precious hours and minutes that otherwise would take a factory offline and hamper production.

    The software still is under development and Sobel said the company continues to learn and develop the software as it talks to customers at factories across the Midwest.

    “We were careful not to rush to market but to take time listening and figuring out how our product can be useful,” he said.

    Madison Heights auto parts manufacturer Shannon Precision Fasteners was the first company to buy into Sight Machine’s system.

    “Shannon has been a great first customer,” Oostendorp said. “They have really worked with us to make sure that we are delivering them the best product we can and have also been extremely evangelical and helped us spread our message.”

    Since working with Shannon, Sight Machine has begun pilot tests in five other factories including one owned by a “Big Three” automaker.

    Sobel said the company plans to use the new influx of capital to hire more technology and coding experts who mostly will work in Ann Arbor. The company was started in Maker Works, but moved into its own space around the corner in January.

    “In Ann Arbor you have enormous amounts of relatively cheap commercial real estate, a ton of talent, and proximity to the Midwestern factories we want to work with,” Oostendorp said.

    “To keep manufacturing here in America and here in the Midwest it needs to be a technological industry,” Oostendorp said. “It can’t just be the same old status quo."

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2.


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