The maturation of the No. 3 Michigan women’s gymnastics team has shown a complete turnaround from last year.
Senior Brittnee Martinez, the Big Ten co-Event Specialist of the Week, is the epitome of the team’s consistency and experience. She has hit on all 13 routines she competed in this season.
Not only is Martinez a reliable teammate, but she also continues to improve from week to week. At Cliff Keen Arena against Penn State last Saturday, Martinez claimed the uneven bars and balance beam titles with career highs on each event: 9.950 and 9.900, respectively. Her performances marked her first individual victories of the season.
“Brittnee had a great night,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “Her uneven bars routine was flawless, one of the best I’ve seen her do.
“On beam, our first two routines were okay, but they weren’t awesome. Joanna Sampson did a good job in the third spot. Then Brittnee goes up in the fourth position and just rocked it. We changed her dismount, too. The old dismount off the side was hurting her knee a little bit and this was the second time that she’s performed her new one. To do a routine of that quality and stick the dismount was pretty great to see.”
Ranked 16th nationally on bars (9.858 average) and 17th on beam (9.846), Martinez said the two events are her favorite. Martinez competes what is arguably the highest Tkatchev release move on bars, a skill where she propels her body in a backwards motion and releases the bar near the top of her swing, then launches herself in straddle position back and over the bar to grasp it on her way down.
She has also been practicing on the other two events, vault and floor. She hopes to exhibition on floor on senior night, March 16.
A two-time NCAA All-American on vault (2010) and bars (2011), Martinez injured her ankle on her vault landing at a tri-meet last year in early March against Penn State and UNC. Her vault aside, this year’s meet against the Nittany Lions nearly mirrored her performance against them the previous year, when she tied for first on bars with a 9.900 and second on beam with a 9.875.
Martinez said her fondest memory was when the team competed in the Super Six – the most prestigious NCAA meet – her sophomore year, and now recovered, she has high hopes for the remainder of her final season.
“It was just an amazing feeling to be able to get to that point,” Martinez said of competing in the Super Six. “With the team chemistry we have this year, I think I’m going to top that memory.”
Like Martinez, the Wolverines have continued to show improvement throughout the season. Just last week against Penn State, they recorded their highest team total, a 197.375. And Michigan has the potential to be even better by working on pressure sets on beam and sticking its landings on each event.
“Practice has been going great. Everyone is just getting more confident on everything, becoming more precise with handstands, form, just the little things we’re focusing on right now and going on for season, I think we’re just trying to improve every meet.”