Just before the fourth and final rotation Saturday night, the No. 5 Michigan women’s gymnastics team met in a mid-mat huddle at the Crisler Center. The Wolverines were already a point ahead of No. 29 Ohio State, and to clinch their first Big Ten meet, all they had to do was perform on the floor.
Luckily for Michigan, floor is traditionally its best event.
“We haven’t demonstrated that yet,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “I told them, ‘I want you to dig down and I want you to work. You need to fight for every ten out there today.’ And they did.”
Aided by a handful of the Buckeyes’ stumbles on the balance beam, the Wolverines pulled ahead even further and earned the highest score in the country thus far, with a 197.550 to 194.925 victory.
In the first rotation, freshman Syd Townsend found redemption. After missing her vault last week against then No. 4 Alabama, Townsend hit a Yurchenko one-and-a-half vault for a team-high 9.925.
Assistant coach Scott Vetere ran to Townsend to congratulate her with a hug, tripping and falling over a mat in excitement.
“I think having the first meet under my belt was an eye-opener, knowing how to train and what to do,” Townsend said. “Last week, I messed up on vault. Knowing that we still pulled out a win against Alabama, and knowing that my team had my back and that they can pull up the score, that was awesome.”
On uneven bars, Michigan was confident. Despite a fall from junior Olivia Karas, the Wolverines boasted five high-scoring performances. Freshman Lauren Farley scored a 9.85 on her collegiate uneven-bar debut. Both Townsend and senior Brianna Brown scored a 9.90.
Townsend showed off her elite skills with precise handstands and a massive full to a double tuck — not to mention, she stuck the landing.
Brown’s height on the bars is what set her apart, allowing for a clean, double layout dismount.
Michigan continued to perform on its third rotation — the balance beam. Senior Paige Zaziski brought precision and power to her “Dancing in the Moonlight” routine, sticking a Gainer layout off the side of the beam for a 9.875. She continued her dominance throughout the night, winning all-around with a total score of 39.450.
Zaziski was only bested by Brown on the beam, who earned a 9.90 for her graceful split-switch leap and side-somi finish.
The highlight of the evening came from junior Emma McLean, who boasted a career high 9.975 on her floor routine. Her showmanship was evident from the moment the song began, and the crowd clapped along.
“I love the noise. I’m having a party when I do my floor routine,” McLean said. “That takes my head away from what I’m actually doing. It’s a good distraction.”
McLean’s score tied for the top floor score in the nation, as did her 9.950 on vault.
After earning Big Ten Gymnast of the Week last week, Karas wrapped up the meet with a cheer-inducing double Arabian pass, earning a 9.950, though the crowd was flashing “tens.”
“Emma and Olivia both love floor,” Plocki said. “They love to entertain. Their confidence and energy just exudes.”
And with a hot start to the season, the Wolverines look to maintain such energy throughout the rest of their schedule.
“It’s all about really playing up to the crowd and enjoying what you’re doing out there,” Plocki said. “I’m really very proud of them all.”