By Cindy Yu, For the Daily
Published February 3, 2013
Only one word could describe junior captain Joanna Sampson on Saturday afternoon: untouchable.
Sampson finished first in every individual event and set a career high in the all-around en route to leading the No. 3 Michigan women’s gymnastics team to a 196.675-195.200 win against Iowa (0-3 Big Ten, 3-3 overall) at Crisler Center.
“Joanna’s been great,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “She came back this year with a great attitude and great work ethic, and it’s showing.”
The Wolverines captured a 49.275-48.900 lead after vault, their first event, and never looked back. Sampson took first with a 9.900, followed closely by senior Natalie Beilstein who scored a season-high 9.875 for her difficult Yurchenko one-and-a-half. Senior captain Katie Zurales rounded out the top three with a 9.850 to help Michigan sweep the event.
On the uneven bars, all six Michigan gymnasts scored a 9.800 or higher. Sophomore Annette Miele commenced the event, scoring a 9.800 in her season debut on bars. Sampson topped the standings and tied her career best with a 9.900 for her clean routine underlined by her upgraded full-twisting double layout dismount. When she stuck the dismount, the crowd immediately erupted in applause and many fans mouthed the word “wow.” Zurales and sophomore Sachi Sugiyama tied Iowa’s Sydney Hoerr for second in the event with a 9.850.
Miele, who returned from a nagging ankle injury from the week before, went first again on the balance beam but only scored a 9.125 due to a botched dismount.
“It’s mental toughness,” Plocki said. “Physically, I knew she was ready. I just don’t know if she was mentally because she had not done as many reps.”
Junior Reema Zakharia competed next and was able to hit under pressure, bringing the Wolverines back on track.
“I was honored to finally be in the lineup again for the second consecutive week,” Zakharia said. “There was a fall in front of me and I knew that I had to keep my nerves down and go out there confidently.”
Junior Shelby Gies followed Zakharia with a solid routine that scored a 9.775 and featured a unique flight series that 2012 Olympic champion Jordyn Wieber also competed: one-handed backhandspring connected to a layout step-out. Sampson, Zurales, and senior Brittnee Martinez went one-two-three with scores of 9.875, 9.850 and 9.825, respectively.
“The back end of the beam lineup has been rock solid,” Plocki said. “They just really have to rely on being aggressive and confident, and they were able to do that. We still came out of what I think was a poor beam performance with a 49.000, which is pretty awesome.”
Michigan (3-1 Big Ten, 7-1 overall) finished the meet on floor with a 49.175. Sampson shined with a personal-best 9.925, highlighted by an upgraded double layout for her opening pass.
“I did it once earlier this season,” Sampson said. “But we’ve been putting it in and out just to make sure my ankles can last through the entire season.”
Added Plocki: “Her floor routine tonight – to me – I was hard pressed to find a deduction in it.”
Despite having a successful meet, there is still much room for improvement.
“I’m pretty happy with it (the meet),” Sampson said. “We definitely had some areas where we gave away a few tenths and we need to continue to work on sticking our landings and making sure that we’re just really hitting our lines as clean as we can. But overall, I’m pretty happy with how we did tonight.”