Like an avalanche storming down a mountain, the Michigan
women’s gymnastics team has been gaining momentum over the
last few weeks. On March 12, Michigan bounced back from a poor
performance and went toe-to-toe with No. 5 Alabama, compiling an
excellent score of 197.025. One week later, the Wolverines captured
the team’s sixth consecutive Big Ten Championship. The team
score of 197.800 was Michigan’s best of the season, and the
second-highest total in school history.

Michigan will now march into the 2004 Northeast Regional
Championships on Saturday at State College. There it will compete
against Georgia, Iowa State, Missouri, New Hampshire and Penn
State. This will mark Michigan’s 13th consecutive trip to the
NCAA Regional Championships and its 14th overall. The timing for
Michigan could not be better, as its confidence is the highest it
has been all season.

“I think our setup for Regionals has been perfect because
we’ve seen our downside, but we’ve also seen what
we’re capable of doing,” senior Calli Ryals said.
“So I think coming off a good win is ideal for us.”

Michigan has to capture either first or second place in order to
advance to the NCAA National Championships; a feat that the team
has accomplished in each of the last 11 years.

Due to past regular-season success, Michigan usually enters this
weekend as a favorite to move on to Nationals. As a result, the
team is used to looking at this weekend as more of a stepping stone
to Nationals. But this year, the Wolverines have been seeded
fourth, and are not expected to advance.

“Usually I worry about Regionals being an emotional
let-down because, when we are seeded one or two, chances are that
we are going to Nationals,” coach Bev Plocki said. “But
this year, we know we’re going in as the underdog, and
we’re definitely not going into this meet with a complacent

“It’s in the back of our minds that people are
thinking we are not going to make it, and I think that that drives
us even more,” Ryals said.

Michigan’s lower seeding this year comes as a result of
poor performances earlier in the season. But Plocki said that it is
not necessarily a bad thing to have a few bumps in the road early
in the season because, for many athletes, the drive to correct a
mistake is very strong.

“I think that in the early part of the season, what
continues to motivate you to work hard is when you come out of a
competition and you know what you need to fix, what you need to
work on and what you need to improve in,” Plocki said.

But coming into the biggest meet of the season, Plocki is glad
that Michigan is coming off a great performance.

“If we didn’t hit at Big Tens, I think we would be
going into Regionals questioning whether or not we could do it. I
think now we know we can do it, and that’s the mentality we
are going into this weekend with.”


Roller coaster ride

Here’s a look back at the up-and-down season for the 2004
women’s gymnastics team.

Michigan’s scores are listed first.

Date         Opponent

Jan. 11     No. 7 Nebraska

Jan. 17     No. 17 Minnesota

Jan. 24     No. 6 Iowa

Feb. 6      State of
out of 5


Feb. 14     No. 4 Utah

Feb. 22     at West
Virginia    2nd out of 3


Feb. 27     No. 2 Georgia

Mar. 7      No. 1 UCLA

Mar. 12    No. 5 Alabama

Mar. 20    Big Tens
out of 8

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