Zaziski, McLean carry Wolverines past Utes
The Michigan women’s gymnastics team didn’t need Emma McLean’s score to defeat Utah. But the junior hit a strong floor routine and won the event anyway.
A 9.900 floor score from senior Paige Zaziski had already secured the win over the fourth-ranked Utes, but McLean’s performance increased the margin of victory for the seventh-ranked Wolverines to 0.15 points, winning 196.950-196.800.
Michigan began the competition on vault, with clean performances from the first five gymnasts. McLean stuck the landing of her Yurchenko vault to score 9.900, setting a personal record with her score in the event.
Bars was a strong rotation for the Wolverines, as each gymnast scored a 9.800 or above. Freshman Sydney Townsend led off with a clean routine that she capped with a stuck double tuck dismount, earning a score of 9.850 in the event.
“One of the biggest reasons we try to put up one of our better routines we know we can count on first is to kind of get that ball rolling,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “On bars, Sydney Townsend’s done a great job with that, so it was great, lot of stuck dismounts over there.”
Zaziski hit a difficult routine that ended with a stuck double layout dismount and scored 9.950 to win the event. Senior Brianna Brown followed Zaziski with a stuck double layout dismount of her own, scoring 9.925 to place second to her teammate, a special moment for the duo on Senior Day.
“Me and Paige, I mean, we train a lot together on bars, and we try to stick our dismounts and just hit all the handstands,” Brown said. “Paige is an amazing bar worker, and to go after her, I watched her stick her dismount and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s kinda cool, I probably should try to do that as well.’ ”
Nerves struck the Wolverines somewhat on beam, with both Brown and sophomore Polina Shchennikova requiring large balance checks to keep from falling.
But freshman Lauren Farley remained unfazed as she executed a back handspring-layout-stepout-layout-stepout combination and stuck her Gainer pike dismount to score 9.900 and place second on the event.
“I’m really thrilled that we can have a 49.05 or 49-whatever it was on beam and come away saying that we had a little bit of trouble over there, because that’s still a pretty strong rotation,” Plocki said. “We had a couple of uncharacteristic wobbles, but I think that especially when it’s senior night and you’re trying so hard, that’s when you get that little extra nervousness. I was just glad that everyone stayed on and that it was solid enough.”
The competition was tight throughout, with the Utes hanging onto a narrow lead going into the final rotation. Michigan needed strong performances from all its gymnasts on floor, an event that has been up-and-down for the Wolverines this season.
All three seniors put in clean routines for their final event at Crisler Center, with senior Lauren Marinez sticking her final double pike tumbling pass to score 9.825. Brown stuck all three of the tumbling passes in her challenging routine, ending with a score of 9.850.
McLean’s score wasn’t needed to secure the win, but she still performed well and stuck two of her three tumbling passes, including a stuck double pike to finish. The resulting score of 9.950 tied for first place on the event and extended the victory margin for Michigan in its first win over Utah since 2014.
With only one regular season meet remaining, the team is looking to make a deep run into the postseason and is hoping to capture its fifth straight Big Ten title.
“I’m looking forward to going out and winning the Big Ten Championship with my team,” Brown said. “Continuing to travel to the regionals, nationals, and hopefully qualifying to the Super Six which has been one of our goals for every year that I’ve been here.”