The importance of senior leadership was shown in the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s final rotation on Saturday at the NCAA South Central Regional Championship in Lincoln, Neb.
In the sixth rotation, the Wolverines needed a 49.075 on the uneven bars to regain the lead over Nebraska, who had already completed its meet.
Michigan seniors Lauren Mirkovich and Elise Ray were up to the challenge. As the last Wolverines to compete, they stepped up to the apparatus, needing to be perfect. The Wolverines had suffered one fall early in the lineup and couldn’t afford another mistake.
The seniors put up identical scores of 9.925 to become co-champions in the event and clinch Michigan’s 196.600-196.300 win over second-place Nebraska.
“It was a tough position,” Ray said. “The last event of a regional competition is very nerve-wracking, and we had a fall in the middle. So (as) the last two, we knew we had to hit because we weren’t exactly sure where we were. So, it was a little nerve-wracking, but I think we handled it pretty well.”
The Wolverines started on beam as strongly as they finished. They rearranged the beam lineup before the competition, putting sophomore Carol McNamara up first to kick off the meet for the Wolverines.
“Her practices have been incredible this past week, and we just really felt that she was the person we needed to get us started,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “I thought she did a great job, very composed. (Composure is) very important on beam where you have all that adrenaline and nervous energy, and I think that she really started us off great in that competition.”
Michigan, which struggled on the balance beam at the Big Ten Championships, needed a strong score in the event on Saturday
“We were extremely relieved and excited once we had it and once we got through it,” Plocki said. “I think it really relaxed everybody once we got beam behind us, and we were really able to keep the energy high through the rest of the meet.”
Michigan carried the momentum into the floor exercise where it posted the highest team score for the event (49.225) and didn’t have to count a score below a 9.825. And Ray tied for second place with a 9.900.
“I thought that our floor performances were very good,” Plocki said. “I thought the performance quality was good. I thought the tumbling and landing was good.”
The Wolverines continued to perform consistently on vault, scoring a 49.175 and positioning themselves well for the final rotation.
“I thought we came close to sticking several vaults but still took little steps here and there,” Plocki said. “I think our vaults were very good. Our vaults were very big and dynamic, but we know that we still have places that we can still improve on, as well.”
Michigan’s three all-around competitors — Ray (39.375), junior Jenny Deiley (39.350) and sophomore Lindsey Bruck (39.250) — went two, three and four in the all-around on the way to the Wolverines’ victory.
By winning its sixth regional title in nine years, Michigan secured a spot at the NCAA National Championships April 21-23 in Auburn, Ala.