April 16, 2013
The All-Around Podcast | Coach Plocki on WTKA Insider
How the Wolverines Returned to Power in 2013
Fri-Sun., April 19-21 -- at NCAA Championships (Los Angeles, Calif.), 6 p.m./4 p.m./1 p.m. PDT
BUY TICKETS | Championships Central
Live Video: Semifinals | Super Six | Event Finals
Live Stats: Friday | Saturday | Sunday
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For the 20th time in program history, the No. 7-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (29-2, 17-2 Big Ten) will compete at the NCAA Championships, beginning Friday (April 19) at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, Calif. The Wolverines will compete in the second of two semifinals on Friday, facing Oklahoma, Alabama, UCLA, Utah and Arkansas at 6 p.m. PDT. The top three teams will advance to the Super Six on Saturday (April 20) at 4 p.m. to take on the top three teams from the first session, which includes Florida, Georgia, LSU, Minnesota, Stanford and Illinois.
Individual-event finals will take place on Sunday at 1 p.m. The top four performers in each event in each semifinal (including ties) will advance to individual event finals. ESPN3.com (online) will have coverage of Super Six and individual event finals. Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson-Clarke will be on the call. The finals will also be shown on tape-delay on ESPNU on Tuesday, April 30, at 8 p.m.
Similarly, the top four finishers in each event at each session will earn NCAA All-America first team honors, while the fifth through eighth finishers will earn NCAA All-America second team honors. For all-around awards, the scores from both Friday sessions are combined with the highest score earning the individual national title, the top four picking up NCAA All-America first team honors and the fifth-through-eighth finishers earning NCAA All-America second team accolades.
Michigan's rotation for the semifinals will be uneven bars (first), balance beam (second), bye (third), floor exercise (fourth), vault (fifth) and bye (sixth). Oregon State all-arounder Chelsea Tang will rotate with the Wolverines.
Tickets can be purchased through the UCLA Athletics Ticket Office by visiting www.uclabruins.com or by calling (310) 825-2946. Reserved and general admission tickets are available.
Michigan enters the 2013 NCAA Championships as the No. 7 seed (393.960). The pairings for the first day of competition are determined by adding a team's score at regionals to its regional qualifying score (RQS), giving each of the 12 teams a national qualifying score (NQS). Once the NQS is calculated, teams are ranked based on the NQS from 1 to 12. Teams 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 12 were placed in Group A, while teams 2, 3, 6, 7, 10 and 11 were placed in Group B. The host team and its corresponding group will compete in the second semifinal.
The pairings are as follows:
|FIRST SESSION (Noon)
||SECOND SESSION (6 p.m.)
The top three teams from each session will advance to the Super Six on Saturday (April 20) to compete for the national championship.
Michigan has qualified for the NCAA Championships for the 20th time in program history and for the 19th time in the last 21 seasons (not in 2009 or 2012). The Wolverines have reached the Super Six on 10 occasions (1994-97, 1999-01, 2003, 2005, 2011), finishing as high as second (1995, 1999). Only four teams in NCAA history have ever won the national championship -- Alabama, UCLA, Georgia and Utah.
Three former Michigan gymnasts have won individual national championships. Beth Wymer won uneven bars in three consecutive meets from 1993-95. Elise Ray tied for first in the all-around in 2001, won balance beam in 2002 and uneven bars in 2004. Kylee Botterman won the all-around in 2011.
Since 1982, when women's gymnastics became an officially recognized sport by the NCAA, Michigan has had 39 gymnasts receive at least one NCAA All-America honor. Those 39 gymnasts have combined for 148 total honors, including 84 on the first team and 64 on the second team. Elise Ray has the most career NCAA All-America honors (14), followed by Beth Wymer (13), Sarah Cain (12), Jenny Deiley (10) and Wendy Marshall (10). Michigan has three former NCAA All-Americans on its 2013 roster: Natalie Beilstein (2010 - floor exercise, first team; 2011 - floor exercise, second team), Brittnee Martinez (2010 - vault, first team; 2011 - uneven bars, first team) and Katie Zurales (2011 - vault, first team; 2012 - all-around, second team; 2012 - vault, second team).
This weekend also marks the final collegiate competition for seniors Brittnee Martinez and Katie Zurales. This season, both women were NCAA Regional champions and All-Big Ten first team selections. The two have combined for 12 individual-event titles this season (Zurales - nine, Martinez - three). Natalie Beilstein is also a senior but has an option for a fifth year of eligibility. In their four years, the three student-athletes have helped lead Michigan to a trio of NCAA Championships appearances (2010-11, 2013), two NCAA Regional championships (2011, 2013) and two Big Ten championships (2010, 2011).
Michigan has faced three teams this season that also qualified for the NCAA Championships, going 5-1 in those contests (3-0 vs. Illinois, 1-1 vs. Minnesota, 1-0 vs. UCLA). Only UCLA is in the Wolverines' semifinals session.
The last two times the NCAA Championships were held in Los Angeles were in 1998 and 2004, with Michigan finishing eighth both times. At the 2004 NCAA Championships, Elise Ray won the national title on uneven bars. The Wolverines previously competed at Pauley Pavilion this season, winning a quad meet with UCLA, California and Iowa State on March 10.
Katie Zurales is one of six finalists for the 2013 AAI Award, given annually to the nation's top collegiate gymnast. The winner will be announced at the NCAA Championships banquet on Thursday (April 18). This season, Zurales was a Big Ten champion (vault), NCAA Regional champion (balance beam), first team All-Big Ten selection and Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Junior Joanna Sampson received four regular-season NACGC/W All-America honors on April 5. She was awarded first-team honors in the all-around, on vault and on floor exercise, and second-team honors on uneven bars. She was also named NCAA Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year following the NCAA Morgantown Regional on April 6.
For the season, Sampson has seven all-around wins (11 for her career) and has won or shared the floor exercise title in nine meets. For her career, she has 18 scores of 39.000 or above in the all-around, good for 11th most in program history. Eleven of those have come this season, tying her for fourth in program history for most 39.000-or-better marks in a single season. Sampson is averaging 39.448 in the all-around this season, which, if the season ended today, would be the third-highest single-season average in program history behind Elise Ray (39.458 in 2004) and Kylee Botterman (39.450 in 2011).
Michigan has surpassed the 197.000 barrier in five competitions this season, the most in a single season since 2001 (six). The Wolverines' season-high score is 197.550, set March 10 at Pauley Pavilion, which was tied for the seventh-highest score in program history. Season-high scores per event are as follows: 49.625 (FX), 49.575 (VT, UB) and 49.275 (BB).
Through 13 meets, Michigan is averaging 197.009 (best since 2000 - 196.658), 49.313 on vault (best since 2011 - 49.227), 49.246 on uneven bars (second-highest average ever; 49.275 in 2008), 49.103 on balance beam (second-highest average ever; 49.105 in 2004) and 49.346 on floor exercise (best since 2001 - 49.327). Official scores have been kept via the College Gymnastics Information Center (GymInfo/Troester) since 1998.
In the last nine meets, Natalie Beilstein has averaged 9.875 on floor and 9.866 on vault. She has also been in the uneven bars lineup in three consecutive meets, averaging 9.900. Annette Miele scored two top-five finishes at the NCAA Morgantown Regional, finishing tied for third on balance beam (9.875) and tied for fourth on uneven bars (9.850), tying career highs in both events. Primarily an event specialist on those two apparatuses, Miele has averaged 9.825 over her last six meets on balance beam. Austin Sheppard has competed only on vault this season, averaging 9.877 over the last 10 meets.
Q: One of the team's ultimate goals every year is to make it to the NCAA Championships. How does it feel to be going back?
A: It's always an exciting time of year. We expect ourselves to be there every year. I guess it's almost more of a relief than it is an initial excitement. The girls are pumped up and ready. I feel like our preparation has been going really well. We're anxious to get out there.
Q: You mentioned that Regionals is the more nerve-racking competition, because if you don't have it that day, you're staying at home. Now that you're at NCAAs, does it allow the team to be even looser and relaxed knowing that it's the end of the season?
A: As a coach, I would like to think so. We talk to them about the fact that we don't want to have anything left when we're done. We want to give it everything we have, enjoy the experience and have fun. That being said, it's the national championship. I doubt there's any one of them that won't be feeling a little bit of pressure. If we can get off to a good start and get rolling, I think we'll be fine.
Q: Talk about the practices you've had at home since Regionals. The first practice after Regionals, there was a lot of high energy. Then you had a two-day intrasquad last Thursday and Friday to simulate the quick turnaround to Super Six.
A: I thought we had a great deal of energy. We were excited coming off Regionals, winning that title and vindicating ourselves. We're there, but we still have work to do. We haven't had our best meet of the season yet. Everyone has to dig a little bit deeper. We're referring to these days as 'practice opportunities'. During that two-day intrasquad, we did a great job of being focused, paying attention to details and had a much bigger sense of urgency. There's a quality to what we're doing. I thought it went extremely well and we gained a lot of confidence from that. I think the girls feel like it's prepared them well going into nationals.
Q: The general consensus is that the second semifinals session is the tougher of the two, but this team hasn't been afraid or intimidated all season and that isn't likely to start now. That sort of speaks to what they've been about all season, right? Stepping up to challenges?
A: Not at all. As a matter of fact, I think it's much more motivating. If we hit our routines the way we're capable of hitting them, we'll be one of the three teams that move on, but we need to do our job. That's what we've preached all year. Do what you do every day. Do your job. Don't try to be better than you are. Do what you're capable of doing and you'll be fine.
Q: Lastly, now that you're at the end, talk about this season as a whole... From where you guys were at the end of last year, to the offseason, to where you are now. It's been quite a ride, but it has to be a very fulfilling one.
A: I'm thrilled for these young women who have put all the hard work and effort in. You don't mind working hard when you see the benefits from it. We've been able to see those and enjoy it. It's a great feeling and I'm very happy for them that this season has turned out the way we've hoped it would.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan won its 10th NCAA Regional championship in program history, taking top honors at the NCAA Morgantown Regional on April 6. Joanna Sampson and Brittnee Martinez tied for first on uneven bars, and Katie Zurales tied for first on balance beam. Additionally, Sampson was named NCAA Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year, while Bev Plocki was named NCAA Northeast Region Coach of the Year. [ Recap ]
OTHER RELATED LINKS
The All-Around (Tuesday) -- Joanna Sampson and Katie Zurales
Bev Plocki on WTKA 1050 AM (Friday at 8:05 a.m.)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423