By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 28, 2010
Not too many people have heard of a “Yurchenko layout full” off of the vault. Fewer can perform one. But every head turns for this: a perfect 10.
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Junior Kylee Botterman stunned every member of the audience at Huff Hall in Champagne, Ill. — a hometown crowd for the Illinois native — by receiving a 10.0 score for her vault.
“I just went into it like every other vault that I’ve ever done,” Botterman said. “I knew where I was, I stuck my feet on the ground, but it didn’t really hit me until after the fact when the put the 10 up, then I got it.”
It was a night of highs for the No. 15 Michigan women’s gymnastics team, which trumped the 17th-ranked Fighting Illini by posting a season-high 196.775-196.175 overall score.
Botterman’s run was the Wolverines’ first perfect rating since Olympic captain Elise Ray was awarded one during the 2004 Big Ten Championships.
What’s more, the junior gymnast wasn’t able to touch the floor during most of the week. Luckily for the Wolverines, the mantra, “practice makes perfect,” worked in reverse this time.
“She bruised her heel pretty severely in the Utah meet last week,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “We nursed it along this week, but it obviously didn’t affect her tonight.”
The standout junior bested her career high in the all-around by setting a 39.675 mark — good for 13th-best in team history and the highest since Ray’s performance in the 2004 Big Ten Championships.
Michigan (4-0 Big Ten, 10-1 overall) was boosted by the supporting cast as well, with senior Sarah Curtis and freshman Brittnee Martinez taking silver and bronze in the all-around by setting season bests with scores of 39.425 and 39.200, respectively.
As a team, the Wolverines needed the victory to gain some ground on Penn State and Illinois in Big Ten play. The Fighting Illini (5-2, 7-7) have finished runner-up to Michigan the last two years, and the Nittany Lions are currently ranked 14th in the nation.
The team has shown no signs of slowing down of late, taking down four of five ranked opponents thus far.
“We’re in a good place right now,” Botterman said. “With every meet we’re getting more consistent and confident. Bev keeps saying that we’re chugging along on the train to Gainesville, and we keep getting better, so it’s exciting.”
With the NCAA Championships in Gainesville less than two months away, the Wolverines have first set their sights on conference play.
The win was the team’s 32nd consecutive in the Big Ten, a stretch lasting longer than three years, and it also continued Illinois’s drought against Michigan; the Wolverines have topped them in the last 27 meetings extending back to 1990.
And to the mention that the season is winding down, the veteran coach had a quick response.
“I would actually say that our season is winding up,” Plocki said. “We feel like we’re peaking at the right time, and we aren’t looking too far ahead since we have several meets in front of us, but we’re hoping that we are on the upswing right now.”
With that mindset, Michigan will hit the gym again this week to prepare for a matchup against Penn State next Sunday.