Week #11: Wolverines Look for Six-Peat at Big Ten Championships

March 20, 2012

The All-Around with Katie Zurales | Coach Plocki on WTKA

Saturday, March 24 -- at Big Ten Championships (Iowa City, Iowa), 1 p.m. CDT
TV: Big Ten Network (Live) | Live Results | Championships Central

The No. 21-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (9-5, 4-2 Big Ten) looks to grab its sixth straight conference crown when it competes at the Big Ten Championships on Saturday (March 24) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. By virtue of ending the regular season ranked fifth in the conference, Michigan will compete in the first session at 1 p.m. CDT, along with Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State. The Wolverines will start the meet on balance beam, followed by floor exercise and vault, before closing on uneven bars.

Due to having eight teams with the inclusion of Nebraska, the meet is split into two sessions, with the lower four teams in the rankings competing in the afternoon session, and the higher four teams competing in the evening session. Because of the meet's format, the conference champions (both team and individual) will not be known until the evening session concludes.

The meet will be televised to a national audience on the Big Ten Network (channel finder), with Lisa Byington and Kylee Kolarik (Botterman) calling the action. Kolarik (Botterman) was a four-year letterwinner at Michigan from 2008-11, having won the NCAA all-around title in 2011 and earning nine NCAA All-American nods during her career.

Michigan at the Big Ten Championships
Michigan has won each of the last five Big Ten titles and 18 of the last 20 championships, finishing second in 1997 and fourth in 2006. The Wolverines scored 196.600 at last season's meet in Minneapolis, edging Penn State (196.375) and Illinois (196.075) for the program's fifth straight crown. Ohio State and Minnesota are tied for second in the Big Ten with five team titles each.

In its history, Michigan has claimed 76 Big Ten individual titles, including at least one conference champion in every Big Ten meet going back to 1991. Nine U-M athletes have been named Big Ten Gymnast of the Year and nine have been named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Additionally, 93 athletes have been named All-Big Ten first team selections, while 23 have been named to the second team; the Big Ten began listing first and second team honors in 2003. Head coach Bev Plocki is a 10-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (including shares).

This is the fifth time that the Big Ten Championships will be held in Iowa City. The Wolverines won the title in 2005 (196.250), finished fifth in 1983 (170.750), seventh in 1989 (183.200) and second in 1994 (194.900).

The Rankings 4-1-1
Michigan once again improved on its RQS following last week's big win over Michigan State but held steady at No. 21 (195.710) in the GymInfo/Troester Top 25. The Wolverines are ranked 13th on vault (49.150), 19th on uneven bars (48.990), and 25th on both balance beam (48.795) and floor (48.990).

Qualification for regional competition is based on a team's and an all-around competitor's six best regular-season-meet scores, of which three must be away. To obtain the regional qualifying score (RQS), the high score is eliminated and the remaining five scores are averaged. The team's RQS for this week is based on its results from the following meets:

    1. 196.300 - at Oklahoma/TWU (Feb. 24)
    2. 196.025 - vs. Michigan State (March 16)
    3. 195.900 - at Penn State/UNC (March 2)
    4. 195.825 - at Masters Classic (Feb. 11)
    5. 195.500 - vs. Ohio State (Jan. 13)
    6. 195.300 - vs. Georgia (March 9)

Team Average 197.395, Florida 195.710 (21)
Vault 49.490, UCLA 49.150 (13)
Uneven Bars 49.365, Florida 48.990 (19)
Balance Beam 49.410, Florida 48.795 (25)
Floor Exercise 49.380, Oklahoma 48.990 (25)
All-Around 39.590, Jaime Pisani, Arkansas 9.885, Joanna Sampson
9.885, Sachi Sugiyama (NR)
Vault 9.935, Sara Stone, Oklahoma 9.845, Brittnee Martinez (NR)
Uneven Bars 9.930, Kat Ding, Georgia 9.855, Katie Zurales (NR)
Balance Beam 9.925, Marissa King, Florida 9.855, Joanna Sampson (NR)
Floor Exercise 9.940, Megan Ferguson, Oklahoma
9.940, Jaime Pisani, Arkansas
39.185, Joanna Sampson (NR)


Zurales Honored
Junior Katie Zurales was named a second team All-Big Ten selection on Monday (March 19) by the conference head coaches. It is the first All-Big Ten honor of her career.

Countdown to 600
Head coach Bev Plocki is nearing the 600-win milestone. With the Wolverines at 9-5 so far this season, her current win-loss record stands at 580-207-2.

Power Conference
With the inclusion of Nebraska in the field for this year's championships, six conference teams are ranked in the top 25. Nebraska leads the conference at No. 6 (196.960), followed by Penn State at No. 12 (196.230), Ohio State at No. 13 (196.115), Minnesota at No. 16 (195.880), Michigan at No. 21 (195.710), and Illinois at No. 23 (195.545). Iowa and Michigan State are the only unranked teams in the conference.

Individually, six Big Ten gymnasts are in the top 25 of the all-around rankings, headlined by Sharaya Musser (Penn State), who ranks second in the nation (39.540). Nebraska and Illinois each have two all-arounders ranked in the top 25, with Jessie DeZiel (3rd, 39.505) and Emily Wong (T-5th, 39.450) representing the Cornhuskers, while Kelsey Joannides (17th, 39.290) and Alina Weinstein (22nd, 39.260) represent the Fighting Illini. Penn State's Madison Merriam is the sixth, tied for 23rd (39.245).

The only conference to have more teams represented in the top 25 is the SEC (seven), while the Big Ten and PAC-12 each have six each. Together, the three conferences combine for 19 of the top 25 teams in the country.

Last Time Out
The Wolverines closed the regular season crushing in-state rival Michigan State, 196.025-192.700, last Friday (March 16) in front of a sellout crowd at Cliff Keen Arena. It is the Wolverines' best score of six home meets this season, and second-best overall score. [ Recap ] [ Photo Gallery ] [ Joanna Sampson Interview (Facebook) ] [ Michigan Daily ]

Dynamic Duo
For the second week in a row, the Wolverines were well represented on the podium by Joanna Sampson and Katie Zurales. After finishing one-two in the all-around against Georgia on March 9, Zurales and Sampson shared the all-around crown against Michigan State (March 16), with each scoring a 39.350. Zurales won individual event titles on floor exercise (career-high 9.900) and balance beam (9.875), and finished second on vault (9.875). Sampson won the uneven bars title (9.825), finished third on floor exercise (9.850), tied for third on balance beam (9.825), and placed fourth on vault (9.825).

Competing as all-arounders all year, Zurales has set four new career bests (vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, all-around), while Sampson has set three (vault, uneven bars, all-around).

The Wolverines' other duo, freshmen Annette Miele and Sachi Sugiyama, tied for third in the all-around against the Spartans, each scoring a 39.075. The score is a new career high for Miele.

Peaking At The Right Time
Michigan has improved its scoring average/RQS each of the last eight weeks. Additionally, four of the team's top six scores that it contributes to its RQS have come in the last four weeks. The Wolverines have tallied better than 196.000 twice this season, scoring 196.300 at the Oklahoma tri-meet on Feb. 24 and 196.025 against Michigan State on March 16.

Beam Improvement
In the win last Friday (March 16) over Michigan State, the team's first four gymnasts -- Shelby Gies, Annette Miele, Joanna Sampson, and Katie Zurales -- each scored better than 9.8, headlined by Zurales at 9.875. The team scored a season-best 49.150 and has not counted a fall since Feb. 17 against Utah.

The Wolverines have had four of its highest beam scores of the season over the last four weeks, averaging 48.918 over that span. In the six meets prior to Feb. 24 against Oklahoma, Michigan averaged 48.225 on balance beam.

Vaulting Ahead
Michigan snapped a two-meet streak of scoring sub-49.000 scores on vault after scoring a 49.075 in the win last Friday (March 16) against Michigan State. The Wolverines have scored above 49.000 on vault in eight of 10 meets this season, ranking 13th in the country (49.150).

Podium Toppers
Michigan gymnasts have won or tied for 25 of 40 event titles in dual meets this season. Additionally, the Wolverines have had three different gymnasts win at least one all-around title; Joanna Sampson has won it four times (West Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma/TWU, Michigan State (share)), Katie Zurales has won it three times (Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan State (share)), and Sachi Sugiyama has won it once (Minnesota).

Looking Ahead
The next stop for Michigan after the Big Ten Championships is NCAA Regionals, which will be held at six different sites across the country on Saturday, April 7. The sites include Arkansas, Auburn, Illinois, North Carolina State, Utah and Washington. The NCAA Selection Announcement will be next Monday (March 26) at 3 p.m. and can be seen on www.ncaa.com.


Injury Update
The Wolverines were dealt another blow on March 2 at Penn State after junior Brittnee Martinez injured her ankle on her vault landing. Martinez is the fourth Michigan gymnast to suffer an injury this season, but could return in the postseason. She joins fellow junior Natalie Beilstein and sophomore Kristin Nagle, who suffered season-ending injuries earlier this season, and Teresa Arthur, who has battled a lower leg injury all season. [ Brandon's Blog: Women's Gymnastics Facing Challenges ]

Among The Big Ten's Best
The Wolverines, fresh off winning their fifth straight Big Ten championship last year, were picked to finish second in 2012 in the Big Ten Preseason Coaches poll, second to only new conference member Nebraska. Additionally, freshman Sachi Sugiyama and junior Katie Zurales were named Big Ten Women's Gymnasts to Watch. [ Release ]

2011 Recap
Led by a dynamic group of seniors, including NCAA all-around champion Kylee Botterman, the Wolverines kept numerous streaks alive in 2011. They won their fifth straight (19th overall) Big Ten title, advanced to their 20th NCAA Regional Championship and reached the NCAA Championships for the 19th time in the last 20 years. In all, Michigan finished sixth at the NCAA Championships, reaching the Super Six for the 10th time in program history (first appearance since 2005). Michigan lost Botterman, Sarah Curtis, Kari Pearce, Jordan Sexton and Trish Wilson to graduation after last season.

Returning Wolverines
Headlining the returning Wolverines are juniors Katie Zurales, Natalie Beilstein and Brittnee Martinez, as well as sophomores Joanna Sampson and Reema Zakharia. Sampson is the 2011 NCAA Regional vault champion and Big Ten runner-up on floor, Zakharia (floor), Beilstein (vault) and Zurales (beam) each placed runner-up in events at Regionals, and Martinez tied for sixth on bars at the NCAA Individual Event Finals.

New Faces
There are two new faces on the 2012 roster in freshmen Annette Miele and Sachi Sugiyama. Miele is a native of Easton, Pa., and trained with Parkettes National Gymnastics Training Center. She was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team (2008-09), and was a three-time USA Visa Championships qualifier. Sugiyama is from Keller, Texas, and trained with Top Flight Gymnastics. She placed ninth on all-around at nationals in 2010.

Following You, Captain!
Junior Katie Zurales and sophomores Teresa Arthur and Shelby Gies have been named team captains for the 2012 season. There are no seniors on the roster this season.

Wolverines in Waiting
On Jan. 11, the Wolverines announced the addition of Lindsay Williams (Northville, Mich./Northville) to its 2013 recruiting class. Williams is the third member of the class, joining prior signees Austin Sheppard (Dallas, Texas/Plano East) and Morgan Smith (Clermont, Fla./East Ridge). Williams trains with Splitz Gymnastics in Canton, Mich., and was the 2011 National Invitational Tournament all-around champion. [ Maize and Blue Sign Smith, Sheppard For 2013 Season ] [ Wolverines Add Williams To 2013 Recruiting Class ]


Social Media: Twitter (@umichwgym) | Facebook (Michigan Gymnastics)

The All-Around
The All-Around is the official audio podcast of the University of Michigan women's gymnastics team, posted every Tuesday during the competition season to MGoBlue.com. This week's guest is junior Katie Zurales. [ iTunes ]

Tickets for the 2012 U-M women's gymnastics season are now on sale. To purchase season or individual meet tickets, go to MGoBlue.com/tickets or call 866-296-MTIX (6849).

Saturday, April 7 -- at NCAA Regionals, Site/Time TBA

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423

»  Learn about 2017 Michigan women's gymnastics ticket opportunities.