Sampson Crowned Big Ten Gymnast of the Year for Runner-Up U-M
Brittnee Martinez

March 23, 2013

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Site: East Lansing, Mich. (Jenison Field House)
Event: Big Ten Championships
Result: 2nd Place of 8 Teams (197.225)
Record: U-M (23-2, 12-2 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Saturday, April 6 -- at NCAA Regionals (Site TBA)

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The No. 4-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team scored its fourth-highest all-time score at a Big Ten Championships meet (197.225) -- and highest since 2004 (197.800) -- finishing second on Saturday (March 23) inside Jenison Field House. Nebraska won the championship for the second straight year, totaling a 197.800 score.

Junior Joanna Sampson (Willow Grove, Pa./Upper Moreland), who was named 2013 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, finished third in the all-around (39.575) and tied for second on floor exercise (9.950). Senior Katie Zurales (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) won the program's 78th Big Ten individual championship, tying for first on vault (9.950). Seniors Natalie Beilstein (Butler, Pa./Knoch) and Brittnee Martinez (Colorado Springs, Colo./Doherty) both finished runner-up on uneven bars (9.900). All four gymnasts were named to the All-Big Ten Championships team.

By virtue of being the overall No. 1 seed, Michigan started the championships on floor exercise, scoring 49.250 as a team. The Wolverines got off to a great start courtesy of Beilstein, who energized the crowd from her very first pass, a stuck full-in double tuck. They were under pressure, however, after freshman Briley Casanova (Dallas, Texas/Spring Creek Academy) fell in the second spot. Co-captain Zurales got the team back on track, hitting a routine for a 9.750, followed by junior Reema Zakharia (Miami, Fla./Coral Gables Senior High), who hit for a 9.775. Michigan got a 9.900 from sophomore Sachi Sugiyama (Keller, Texas/Keller) and a 9.950 from Sampson in the final two performances.

The Wolverines moved to vault and recorded their highest score of the season, a 49.575 with no counted scores below a 9.900. Zurales stuck her Yurchenko full for a career-high 9.950 to lead the way, followed by Sampson at 9.925. Former Big Ten vault champions Beilstein and Sugiyama recorded 9.900s, as did freshman Austin Sheppard (Dallas, Texas/Spring Creek Academy). Beilstein and Sugiyama both hit Yurchenko one-and-a-halfs, only getting slight deductions for small hops on the landings, while Sheppard hit her Yurchenko full with a tiny step on her landing. After two rotations, Michigan led the second session with a score of 98.825, followed closely behind by Nebraska (98.600), Minnesota and Penn State.

Michigan moved to uneven bars during the third rotation, and following a miscue from Sugiyama in the second spot, the Wolverines exploded for a 49.400 on the apparatus, the second-best team score of the season. The seniors led the way, with Beilstein and Martinez coming through with 9.900s, each hitting her release move: a Tkachev for Martinez and Gienger for Beilstein. Junior Shelby Gies (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central) led the rotation off with a 9.875, the same score as Zurales in the third spot. The other counted score was Sampson, who received a 9.850. Michigan still led heading into the last rotation with a score of 148.225, but Nebraska was right behind at 148.075 with vault still to go.

The Wolverines scored an even 49.000 to close out the meet. Sampson and Gies tied for the team lead with a 9.850 score, followed by Zurales with a 9.825. Sophomore Annette Miele (Easton, Pa./Easton Area) scored a 9.800, while Casanova was the fifth counted score at 9.675. The Wolverines were overtaken by Nebraska, however, as the Cornhuskers scored a 49.725 to take the title and push Michigan to second.

The Wolverines now turn their sights to NCAA Regionals on Saturday, April 6. The NCAA Regionals Announcement Show will take place on Monday (March 25) at 3 p.m., and it can be seen via web stream on The six regional sites this season are Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon State and West Virginia.

Team StandingsVaultBarsBeamFloorTotal
Ohio State48.75048.92549.15049.125195.950
Penn State48.92549.17548.60049.125195.825
Michigan State48.950 48.90048.77548.825195.450

Event Winners/U-M Finishers

Stephanie Colbert         9.825
Katie Zurales             9.950 (t1)
Natalie Beilstein         9.900
Joanna Sampson            9.925
Sachi Sugiyama            9.900
Austin Sheppard           9.900
Uneven Bars
Shelby Gies               9.875
Sachi Sugiyama            8.600
Katie Zurales             9.875
Brittnee Martinez         9.900 (t2)
Joanna Sampson            9.850
Natalie Beilstein         9.900 (t2)
Balance Beam
Shelby Gies               9.850
Brittnee Martinez         9.600
Annette Miele             9.800
Briley Casanova           9.675
Joanna Sampson            9.850
Katie Zurales             9.825
Floor Exercise
Natalie Beilstein         9.875
Briley Casanova           8.450
Katie Zurales             9.750
Reema Zakharia            9.775
Sachi Sugiyama            9.900
Joanna Sampson            9.950 (t2)
Joanna Sampson           39.575 (3)
Katie Zurales            39.400

Natalie Beilstein, Michigan
Lisa Burt, Michigan State
Holly Blanske, Nebraska
Janelle Campbell, Minnesota
Jessie DeZiel, Nebraska
Janelle Giblin, Nebraska
Jennifer Lauer, Nebraska
Lindsay Mable, Minnesota
Alyssa Marohn, Ohio State
Brittnee Martinez, Michigan
Sarah Miller, Ohio State
Sharaya Musser, Penn State
Kassanda Nathe, Nebraska
Taira Neal, Michigan State
Joanna Sampson, Michigan
Amber See, Illinois
Brittany Skinner, Nebraska
ALina Weinstein, Illinois
Emily Wong, Nebraska
Katie Zurales, Michigan

Freshman of the Year: Lindsay Mable, Minnesota
Coach of the Year: Meg Stephenson, Minnesota


• The Wolverines' score of 197.225 is their fourth-highest ever at a Big Ten Championship meet. It is also their fifth-highest score of the season.

Joanna Sampson is the seventh U-M gymnast to receive Big Ten Gymnast of the Year. The last Michigan gymnast to receive Gymnast of the Year was Kylee Botterman in 2011.

• It is Michigan's fifth score above 197.000 this season, a feat that had not happened since 2000.

Katie Zurales won the program's 78th Big Ten individual title after tying for first on vault (9.950). The Wolverines have crowned at least one Big Ten individual champion in 23 straight Big Ten Championships. A Michigan gymnast has also won the vault title for the third time in the last four years, joining Natalie Beilstein in 2010 and Sachi Sugiyama in 2012.

• Michigan's team score of 49.575 on vault was its second-highest postseason score on that apparatus in program history, trailing only its 49.650 from the 1995 NCAA Regional Championships. The Wolverines' score on Saturday is also a season best, surpassing its previous best of 49.550, set on March 10 at UCLA and March 16 vs. Iowa State.

Joanna Sampson's all-around score of 39.575 is tied for sixth highest by a U-M gymnast at the Big Ten Championships (Jenny Deiley - 2003, Calli Ryals - 2003, Lisa Simes - 1997).

• The Wolverines' uneven bars score of 49.400 was their second-highest of the season, second to only its 49.575 from March 10 at UCLA.

• The Wolverines came into the meet as the nation's No. 1 team on floor exercise (49.450 RQS) but received their second-lowest score of the season (49.250). It is the team's lowest total since Feb. 8 at Ohio State (also 49.250).

• Katie Zurales' previous career high on vault was a 9.925, set March 9, 2012, vs. Georgia.

• The Wolverines improved their RQS from 197.175 to 197.235 after Saturday's meet. They dropped one of their two scores of 196.925 (Feb. 8 at Ohio State, Feb. 24 at West Virginia).

• The team's performance on Saturday gave them its 20th season of 20 or more wins in the last 24 years under head coach Bev Plocki.

Teresa Arthur was tabbed as the team's nominee for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.


Michigan Head Coach Bev Plocki
On the rotation ... "It's difficult, starting on floor and ending on beam, but that's what we drew. We're a much better team than what we showed. We should have come out of the gate and blown the doors off of floor, and we didn't do that. We opened the door for other people to come in and do well, and that's what they did. It made it very tough for us. Even though we were two tenths-of-a-point going into the last event, Nebraska was going to vault, and we were going to beam. The judges were giving high scores if you did good routines. Beam is obviously a tougher event to get 9.950s down the board. When you have that realization, you tend to tighten up. We didn't have any falls on beam, but we were tight. We had some wobbles and made some mistakes that cost us tenths here and there. If you made a mistake, the judges absolutely deducted for it."

On the team's mindset following the meet ... "We can't walk away from this meet feeling great about our performance, but we have to pick ourselves back up and compete at Regionals. I'd rather win a national championship than a conference championship, but we have to make some improvements on what we're doing. It's not our gymnastics. It's our aggressiveness. We have to go out and take it. We can't wait for it to happen."

On the team's mistakes ... "The difference between regular season and championships is that you can fight back from mistakes like that, not count falls and still score well. When you are head-to-head against the best teams in the country, any mistake you make could end up being the difference between winning a championship or not."

On the seniors' performances ... "We had a lot of very good individual performances. All those seniors did a great job. I'm so proud of them. I think every competitor tonight has something they can feel good about and something they can improve upon. We've just got to go back to the gym, pull ourselves together and get ready for the rest of the season."

U-M Senior Natalie Beilstein
On the pressure on uneven bars ... "I actually didn't know there was a fall. When I came back, the girls told me, 'You got it,' which gave me the impression that somebody messed up. I like the pressure spot. I like going last. It was a thrill. I'm just happy I could go out and do it for the team."

On her meet-opening floor exercise performance ... "I wanted to start the meet off strong for everyone behind me in the lineup. The goal was to go out, have fun and get the crowd going for the evening session."

On vault ... "We've been working hard on our landings on vaults. It's been a strong event for us this year. It seems every meet we go into, we seem to be getting stronger. It felt good to come back after a mishap on floor and hit some real good vaults."

U-M Senior Katie Zurales
On her meet performance ... "It felt really good. I was excited to go out there and nail a good vault for the team. Even more than that, I was excited to go to floor and keep the momentum going."

On the meet environment ... "It was a great competition. You have to appreciate that. There are definitely some places where we could have been better. We've got a weekend off but after that, it's time to get back in the gym, work harder on landings. We've still got big goals."

On the team's performance ... "Tonight was a true team effort. We were fighting from the start to the finish. It's hard starting on floor. You don't have that energy built up, and it's equally harder ending on beam because you have to calm yourself down sometimes under a lot of pressure. We stayed together as a team. Everyone was out there with each other in each routine. We still have some things to work on, as I said, so we can only improve from here."

On the rotation order ... "It's always a challenge. We tried to rise to that. That being said, it was great practice for us. I'm excited for what else is in store. We're still hungry for more. We'll heal up any aches and pains so we're fresh for Regionals and work on perfecting the little things."

U-M Junior Joanna Sampson
On the team's performance ... "We had mistakes everywhere today. I think we definitely let some nerves get to us. We need to get back in the gym, keep working and find out ways to simulate situations that would come up in Regionals and Nationals so we can get better."

On her floor exercise performance ... "I just did what I always do. There was nothing different about it. I knew I had to hit my routine since we had a fall early on, but I just tried not to let those things affect me. I'm just going to train and continue to do what I've done all season long."

On her Gymnast of the Year honor ... "I'd trade it in for a team championship any day. I know it's a special honor and it's so cool to have it. I'm excited, but like I said, I would absolutely trade it in for a team award."

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423

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