The Wolverine

May 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS Sachi Sugiyama had always planned on winning a Big Ten championship. She just didn't expect her first one to come this quickly. The freshman from Keller, Texas, continued her sensational Freshman Wins Vault At Big Tens, U-M Has Disappointing Finish The Cornhuskers had two gymnasts tally a 9.925 — a rookie season, claiming the conference title in the vault while, perhaps more surprisingly, taking second on the uneven bars, not one of her stronger events, at the Big Ten meet March 24. "It's an indescribable feel- ing," Sugiyama said of her victory. "It was amazing. Our team got so excited for me. There was definitely a lot of screaming and cheering and hugging. "I knew I could compete, great score, to be sure, but not quite good enough to catch Sugiyama. Unfortunately, Michigan didn't finish so strongly as a team. On floor, no Wolverine finished higher than 14th (junior Katie Zurales, 9.825). On beam, no one did better than seventh (freshman Annette Miele, 9.800). Zurales was the team's top finisher in the all-around, taking seventh (39.275). "We didn't have our best meet, but I never imagined win- ning a medal or two at the Big Tens, especially as a freshman. I knew the Big Ten has such good gym- nasts, and it would be tough." When it came time for Sugiyama to hit the vault, she went with a routine she has perfected over the last few years: the Yurchenko full-and-a-half. The Yurchenko, in and of Ten meet, Michigan finished third at the NCAA Auburn Regional April 7, missing out on a spot at nationals. Two gymnasts will com- Two weeks after the Big " Plocki said. pete in the NCAA Champi- onships April 20 and 22 in Duluth, Ga., for a chance at an individual title. Zurales is competing in the all-around competition and sopho- more Joanna Sampson will compete on the vault. "We can't let this happen itself, is a fairly common vault, involving a round-off onto the springboard and a back handspring onto the vaulting table. Once air- borne, though, Sugiyama separated herself from the pack. Most gymnasts will do a again," Sugiyama said. "We just have to get our team back together. We have the potential. We definitely want to win Big Tens next year. We want those rings. This just wasn't Michigan's " full twist in the air; Sugi- yama adds an extra half- twist, which skyrockets the difficulty of her routine, because she is essentially going into the landing blind. "It's my favorite one," Sugiyama said. "It's been getting easier, and I'm really starting to stick the landing. said. "She has continued to demonstrate a lot of maturity, strength and competitive toughness. And that's exactly what she did, scoring a 9.950. "Sachi had a great meet, wait patiently through the afternoon session to see if Sugi- yama's score would hold. The last team to take the vault, Nebraska, which won the Big Ten Championships by more than a full point — U-M placed fourth, its lowest team finish since 2006 (also fourth) — has a great vaulting team. "It was so nerve-wracking, The Wolverines, who competed in the morning, had to " Michigan head coach Bev Plocki " bert was sitting right next to me, and I was squeezing her arm to death. Nebraska's vaulters were amazing, and you just hope and pray that the judges remember my vault and took that into consideration." " Sugiyama said. "Stephanie Col- " In addition to claiming the conference title in the vault, Sachi Sugiyama added to her stellar rookie campaign with a second-place showing on the uneven bars. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS the services of veteran gymnasts like junior Brittnee Mar- tinez, who provided big points on vault, bars and balance beam earlier this year, or junior Natalie Beilstein, who was expected to be a major contributor on vault, bars and floor. "We don't want to make excuses, However, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for the future. For one, the Wolverines return everybody from this year's squad, and Martinez and Beilstein will be 100 percent healthy by then. On top of that, the Wolverines add incoming freshmen " Plocki said. Austin Sheppard and Morgan Smith. Sheppard, a current member of the Hungarian National Team, finished 11th on vault at last year's World Championships. Smith has been with the U.S. National Team since 2008. "We're very optimistic, At the Big Ten Championships, the Wolverines did not have year. The Wolverines, who finished the year ranked No. 13 in the country, have claimed the last five Big Ten crowns and 18 of the last 20. But injuries have plagued the team all year. ment this year. I'm very proud of the work this team put in, and I know they're going to come back hungry next year. " Plocki said. "I saw a ton of improve- " — Andy Reid MAY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 73

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