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Plocki, gymnastics team ready to start season

BY
BY MELANIE KEBLER
Daily Sports Writer
Published December 4, 2003

In her 13 years as coach of the Michigan women’s
gymnastics team, Bev Plocki has become the most successful coach in
program history.

Beginning in 1990, Plocki turned a program that had won just one
regional championship since 1976 into a consistent contender at the
highest levels of the sport. Eleven Big Ten Championships, five
regional titles and five national champions later, only one thing
has still eluded Plocki and the Michigan women’s gymnastics
team — the national title.

“I tell my athletes if we take care of our business day to
day, do everything in our power to be the best we can be and
improve from meet to meet, we will put ourselves in a position to
win a national championship,” Plocki said. “I
don’t want them to be so obsessed with the almighty title
that they forget the important things.”

According to Plocki, one of the team’s most important
goals for this season is to “carry on the same spirit,
competitiveness and determination that our team had last year.
Those are qualities that really helped us overcome a lot of
adversity in our season,” she said.

In 2002-03, the Wolverines’ biggest blow was the loss of
former Olympian Elise Ray, who spent the season on the sidelines
with a shoulder injury. After a major surgery, Plocki says Ray is
ready to start all over again this year.

“I’m hoping that this year will be similar to her
freshman year,” Plocki said. “She started out that
season a little bit slow because she had come off the Olympic year
and was coming back from a similar injury. We started with
watered-down routines and continued to build throughout the season
until she was at her peak.”

Ray definitely peaked at the end of her freshman year, when she
was named an All-American and was an NCAA all-around
co-champion.

“She won’t start the season with her ideal
competitive routines,” Plocki said of Ray’s comeback.
“We hope that she’ll get a solid start and build to her
peak in the postseason.”

Also on the list of things to overcome this year is the
graduation of Janessa Greico, a three-year All American and
consistent leader for the team.

“She was a solid, consistent performer that we knew we
could count on at every single meet and every single event,”
Plocki said. “She was also a very strong leader, in and out
of the gym. We’ll have to see when we get into competition
who will fill her shoes.”

The Wolverines will look to their four entering freshman to help
fill the void Greico left behind. Carol McNamara, Lindsey Bruck and
Claire Flannery have all participated in Junior Olympic
competitions and Sarrie Rubin competed with the U.S. Senior
National Team in 2001. Bruck once earned a perfect 10.0 at a USA
Gymnastics meet in 2002, and Plocki expects her to do “great
things for us this year.”

Lastly, Michigan will face tough opponents during one of its
trademark challenging schedules. Top teams Utah, Georgia and 2003
national champion Alabama will visit Ann Arbor, and the Wolverines
will travel to Nebraska and UCLA as well.

“Those are the teams that are in the Super Six year in and
year out, and we’re meeting all of them,” Plocki said.
“We have a very challenging schedule. I believe in doing that
because I think you’re only as good as the teams you compete
against.”

With plenty on its plate for 2004, Michigan will warm up with an
intrasquad meet this weekend, which Plocki says helps her discover
who will play what role in the upcoming season. The Maize and Blue
Intrasquad competition will take place this Saturday starting at 7
p.m. at Cliff Keen Arena.