Sampson, Zurales Share Vault Crown, U-M Places Third at NCAA Regional
Katie Zurales

April 7, 2012

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Joanna Sampson and Katie Zurales Interview (Facebook)

Site: Auburn, Ala. (Auburn Arena)
Event: NCAA Auburn Regional
U-M Team Result: 3rd Place of 6 Teams (196.325)
Record: 16-10
Next U-M Event: Friday, April 20 - at NCAA Championships (Preliminaries & All-Around), Duluth, Ga., Time TBA

AUBURN, Ala. -- Despite a season-best score of 196.325, the No. 21-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team came up just short in its bid for a 20th NCAA Championships berth, finishing third at the NCAA Auburn Regional on Saturday (April 7) at Auburn Arena. U-M finished .125 behind runner-up Oregon State and a few points behind champion Georgia.

Though the Wolverines did not qualifying as a team, junior Katie Zurales (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) and sophomore Joanna Sampson (Willow Grove, Pa./Upper Moreland) will represent the Wolverines at the NCAA Championships on Friday, April 20, in Duluth, Ga. Zurales finished fourth in the all-around (39.375) and was the highest all-arounder not on a qualifying team and also tied Sampson for the regional title on vault (9.925).

The Wolverines got off to a hot start, scoring 49.300 on vault to open the meet. Sophomore Stephanie Colbert (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) and freshman Annette Miele (Easton, Pa./Easton Area) were the first two competitors down, contributing solid scores of 9.750 and 9.775, respectively, but it was the heart of the lineup that provided the spark. Zurales tied a career-high 9.925 out of the three spot, followed by Sampson, who received the same score, tying for the event title. After 2012 Big Ten vault champion Sachi Sugiyama (Keller, Texas/Keller) contributed a 9.825 out of the fifth position, sophomore Reema Zakharia (Miami, Fla./Coral Gables Senior High) unveiled a new vault with great success, earning a 9.850 from the judges, a new career-best score.

Michigan came out of its first bye to uneven bars, where it scored 49.050. Sophomore Shelby Gies (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central) anchored the squad with a 9.850, tying for fifth place. Zurales began the rotation with a 9.775 score, but the pressure was amplified after Miele scored 9.550 in the second spot, meaning the rest of the Wolverines needed to hit to prevent from counting a below-average score. Sugiyama and Sampson followed Miele with consecutive 9.800 scores to bolster the team score. But it was the return of junior Brittnee Martinez (Colorado Springs, Colo./Doherty) to the uneven bars lineup that provided a boost, as Martinez scored a 9.825 in her first action since injuring her ankle on March 2 at Penn State. At the halfway point, Michigan had a 98.350 score and was sitting in second place, just five-tenths behind Georgia (98.400).

The Wolverines went over to balance beam for the fourth rotation. Gies kick-started the team with a 9.800 score to leadoff. Sampson and Miele followed, scoring 9.750 and 9.700, respectively, before Zurales came through with a team-high 9.850, tying for third place. Sugiyama and Colbert were the final two competitors in the lineup, with Sugiyama scoring a 9.650 after a slight wobble on her dismount, and Colbert scoring a 9.550. As a team, Michigan scored 48.750 on balance beam and held a total of 147.100 with only floor exercise remaining.

While Michigan was in the locker room on a bye during the fifth rotation, Georgia finished the competition with what ended up being a winning score of 197.100, but it was Oregon State that overtook Michigan for second place with a 49.300 on uneven bars, giving the Beavers a four-tenth cushion over the Wolverines heading into the last rotation.

Knowing what they needed to advance, each of the six Wolverine competitors scored above a 9.800 to equal a 49.225 as a squad. Sugiyama tied for fourth place and tied a career high with a 9.875, followed by Sampson and Zakharia with identical 9.850s. Zurales and Colbert each scored a 9.825, while Miele was the sixth at 9.800. Oregon State hit its routines down the stretch, however, to pass Michigan for second place.

Sampson (vault) and Zurales (all-around) will represent Michigan as individual competitors in two weeks at the NCAA Championships, held in Duluth, Ga. The two gymnasts will rotate with one of the 12 teams that previously qualified for NCAAs at one of the two preliminary sessions on Friday, April 20 (time TBA). Individual Event Finals take place on Sunday, April 22 at 1 p.m. EDT.

Team Standings Vault Bars Beam Floor Total
Georgia 49.300 49.300 49.100 49.400 197.100
Oregon State 49.125 49.300 48.950 49.075 196.450
Michigan 49.300 49.050 48.750 49.225 196.325
Auburn 49.325 48.900 48.975 48.900 196.100
West Virginia 49.200 48.925 48.825 48.950 195.900
Michigan State 49.000 48.900 48.325 47.825 194.050

Event-by-Event U-M Individual Scores

Stephanie Colbert         9.750
Annette Miele             9.775
Katie Zurales             9.925 (t1)
Joanna Sampson            9.925 (t1)
Sachi Sugiyama            9.825
Reema Zakharia            9.850
Uneven Bars
Katie Zurales             9.775
Annette Miele             9.575
Sachi Sugiyama            9.800
Joanna Sampson            9.800
Brittnee Martinez         9.825
Shelby Gies               9.850 (t5)
Balance Beam
Shelby Gies               9.800
Annette Miele             9.700
Joanna Sampson            9.750
Katie Zurales             9.850 (t3)
Sachi Sugiyama            9.650
Stephanie Colbert         9.550
Floor Exercise
Sachi Sugiyama            9.875 (t4)
Annette Miele             9.800
Katie Zurales             9.825
Joanna Sampson            9.850
Reema Zakharia            9.850
Stephanie Colbert         9.825
Annette Miele             38.850
Joanna Sampson            39.325
Sachi Sugiyama            39.150
Katie Zurales             39.375 (4)


• Michigan misses qualifying for the NCAA Championships as a team for just the third time in the last 21 seasons (did not qualify as a team in 1992 or 2009).

• With Joanna Sampson and Katie Zurales qualifying, the Wolverines have sent a team or individual(s) to 19 straight NCAA Championships meets.

Joanna Sampson won the regional vault title for the second year in a row.

• Due to their tie on vault, Joanna Sampson and Katie Zurales give Michigan 54 NCAA Regional event titles in its history.

• Michigan has crowned at least one NCAA Regional individual event champion in 14 of its last 15 appearances at NCAA Regionals.

• The Wolverines have finished below third just once in its history at NCAA Regionals (1993, fourth).

• Michigan's team score of 49.300 ties for the third-highest total this season. The Wolverines scored a season-best 49.400 on Feb. 24 at Oklahoma and 49.375 on March 24 at the Big Ten Championships. They also got 49.300 in the opening meet of the season against Ohio State back on Jan. 13.

• The previous career high for Reema Zakharia on vault was 9.725, set on Feb. 11 at the Masters Classic.

Joanna Sampson scored above 9.825 on vault in every meet this season and scored 9.925 in three of the last four meets.

Katie Zurales hit 9.925 for the second time this season (also on March 9 against Georgia).

Uneven Bars
• Michigan's team score of 49.050 is the third-highest total this season. The Wolverines went 49.125 against Illinois on Jan. 27 and 49.100 at Penn State on March 2.

Shelby Gies tied a season high on bars. She also scored 9.850 against Illinois on Jan. 27 and against Georgia on 9.850. Additionally, she averaged 9.830 over the last four meets on that event.

Sachi Sugiyama went above 9.800 on in all but two meets this season.

Brittnee Martinez returned to the lineup after injuring her ankle on vault on March 2 at Penn State.

Balance Beam
• Michigan's team score of 48.750 is tied for the fourth highest this season. The Wolverines scored a season-high 49.150 on March 16 against Michigan State, 49.050 on March 2 at Penn State, and 48.975 on Feb. 11 at the Masters Classic. They also scored 48.750 on Feb. 24 at Oklahoma.

Katie Zurales scored above a 9.800 in all but three meets this season.

Shelby Gies hit above 9.800 in four meets this season.

Floor Exercise
• Michigan's team score of 49.225 tied for its highest this season. It received the same score on Jan. 13 against Ohio State and March 9 against Georgia.

Sachi Sugiyama (9.875) and Annette Miele (9.800) tied career highs on floor.

Reema Zakharia scored her highest floor routine since scoring a 9.875 against Georgia on March 9.


Michigan Head Coach Bev Plocki
On the team's performance ... "To be very honest, we had our highest score by a quarter-of-a-tenth, but we didn't have our best meet. That was the difference."

On how the team began and finished the meet ... "I thought we started and finished the meet like we were the champs. This team has always had a lot of fight. We started out great and finished super strong. I thought were okay on bars. We didn't hit all of our handstands and didn't stick many of our dismounts. On beam, we made some silly errors and we're sitting at home by .125 because of it. It breaks my heart for this team because I felt that with the season we had, I was hoping it would be the Cinderella story ending. We almost had it. We could have had it. It was within our grasp and we didn't close the deal."

On if the third-place finish at regionals will make the team hungrier for next year ... "I certainly hope so. I am proud of them for a lot of reasons. We fought through a very difficult season. A lot of people came up to me after the meet and told me how incredibly impressed they were with how we performed and how we finished the season. Everyone knew what we were going through. That's nice and great to hear but losing by .125 is a little hard to swallow."

On the fight of the team ... "I'm really proud of the way they kept their heads up. Floor had been a tightly scored event all night. We could have gone over there after beam and fallen apart, and instead, we had our best floor performance of the season to end the meet. It was fantastic to finish the meet like that and make it a nail-biter. I thought that was very positive."

U-M Sophomore Shelby Gies
On the team's performance ... "We left with no regrets. We left everything on the floor. It's upsetting coming in third, especially by such a small margin, but we're not disappointed at all. This is our best meet of the year and that's what we wanted to do. We wanted to come out and hit 24-for-24, and we did just that. We had nothing to lose, so we're proud of where we are now."

On her performances on uneven bars and balance beam ... "Obviously, I wanted to contribute to the team. After Annette (Miele) had a mess-up on bars, I knew there was no room for error. I just went out there, felt confident, and trusted myself. It worked out."

On if the result at Regionals makes the team hungrier ... "Oh definitely. It just makes everything next year mean a lot more, knowing how hard we worked this year. We didn't get what we wanted, but that'll mean even more next year."

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423

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