April 20, 2012
Site: Duluth, Ga. (Gwinnett Center)
Event: NCAA Championships (Preliminaries & All-Around)
U-M Team Result: No Team Scoring
Next U-M Event: Season Complete
DULUTH, Ga. -- Junior Katie Zurales (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) of the No. 13-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team earned NCAA All-America second team honors in the all-around (seventh, 39.450) and on vault (eighth, 9.925) on Friday (April 20) inside the Gwinnett Center. She was joined at the meet by sophomore Joanna Sampson (Willow Grove, Pa./Upper Moreland), who finished 30th on vault (9.800). Neither gymnast qualified for the individual event finals, ending the Wolverines' season.
With her performance at NCAAs, Zurales now has three career NCAA All-America honors to her name, going along with her first team nod last season (also on vault). Michigan now has 148 total NCAA All-America honors in program history, including 64 on the second team (84 on the first team). Additionally, Michigan has had at least one gymnast make NCAA All-America first or second team in every NCAA Championship meet dating back to 1992.
Zurales rotated with Arkansas throughout the meet, and began on floor. Despite some trouble getting the correct floor music to play, Zurales was not rattled, promptly hitting a solid 9.825. She moved over to vault in the next rotation and hit a 9.925, which tied a career high, and was a better score than any Arkansas gymnast she was rotating with. Zurales was looking to be in good shape to qualify for the individual event finals on vault until two Alabama gymnasts recorded consecutive 9.950 scores, effectively dropping her out of the top four. She ended up missing qualification by just a quarter-of-a-tenth.
After a bye during the third rotation, Zurales came back and hit consecutive 9.850 scores on bars and beam during the fourth and the fifth rotations, respectively, to end with an all-around score of 39.450, which also tied career high. She ended with the highest all-around score of any Big Ten gymnast competing at NCAAs in either session. Zurales capped a highly successful junior season with two NCAA All-America second team honors and an NCAA Regional title (vault), and was named second team All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten.
Sampson was Michigan's other individual event qualifier, competing as a vault specialist after tying for the regional title. She performed her vault during the third rotation with Oregon State, scoring a 9.800. Though the score was not enough to put her in the individual event finals, Sampson enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore, competing as an all-arounder in every meet but this one. She was one of the team's more consistent gymnasts all season, scoring 9.750 or above in 41 of her 49 routines this season. Sampson won her second consecutive NCAA regional vault title this season and was also named to the 2012 All-Big Ten Championships team after finishing runner-up on vault.
The Wolverines finished the season ranked No. 13, the highest-ranked team not competing at the NCAA Championships. They will return all 11 gymnasts next season and will add three prep standouts to the roster.
Event-By-Event U-M Individual Scores
T1. Kytra Hunter, Florida 9.975
T1. Kat Ding, Georgia 9.975
7. Katie Zurales, U-M 9.925
T30. Joanna Sampson, U-M 9.800
T1. Alaina Johnson, Florida 9.950
T1. Kat Ding, Georgia 9.950
T16. Katie Zurales, U-M 9.850
T1. Geralen Stack-Eaton, Alabama 9.950
T1. Ashley Priess, Alabama 9.950
T1. Jaime Pisani, Arkansas 9.950
T17. Katie Zurales, U-M 9.850
1. Kytra Hunter, Florida 9.950
T22. Katie Zurales, U-M 9.825
1. Kytra Hunter, Florida 39.725
8. Katie Zurales, U-M 39.450
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach Bev Plocki
On Katie Zurales and Joanna Sampson ... "I am really proud of both of them. They both did a great job. It's a difficult thing to be in a meet like this without your team supporting you, but I couldn't be prouder of them. They were amazing."
On Katie Zurales' performance ... "For an athlete who had not competed in the all-around for three years prior to this one, getting her back into it was big. She gained confidence in her ability to compete on all four events as the year went on, and she definitely peaked at the right time. She did an amazing job, and is going to be a big help to us in the future."
U-M Junior Katie Zurales
On her meet ... "It was really exciting. I had a lot of fun rotating with Arkansas. We had been talking before about going out there representing Michigan, and representing each one of my teammates. That motivated us. I just tried to relax, have fun, and enjoy the last meet of the season. All the hard work paid off in the end."
On the start to her meet with the floor music ... "It actually relaxed me a bit. I needed a good laugh before my routine. It helped get the nerves out. It was so cool, too. I was the only one competing at the time. All the other teams were supportive and cheering loud, so that motivated me even more."
On if she is looking ahead toward next season or enjoying the moment ... "I think both. I'm definitely enjoying the moment right now, but I know my team has been back in the gym training and conditioning hard. I'm really excited to get back in the gym with them, getting stronger, and having everyone back healthy. We've just got to take it one day at a time."
U-M Sophomore Joanna Sampson
On her vault ... "The vault felt good and everything. My legs buckled under me a little bit when I landed, and took a small step back."
On her and Katie's mindset at NCAAs ... "I was with Katie a lot, trying to help her out, and motivate her to do her thing. It was nice to start on a bye because that meant I could go cheer for her. I tried to do all I could to help her out. Katie was on bye when I was vaulting, so having her there was nice, too."
On what she takes away from this season ... "Looking back, I think I grew a lot. I can use this year to build for next year. I gained a lot of confidence. This summer, I'm going to continue to work on my skills, maybe learn some new stuff. This year was filled with experiences that I'll definitely use and take into next year."
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423