Even in a team-oriented sport like women’s gymnastics, individual performances can steal the show.
Sophomore Sarah Curtis and fifth-year senior Lindsey Bruck finished one-two in the all-around competition in Michigan’s season-opening win over West Virginia and Arkansas.
Both athletes suffered season-ending Achilles heel injuries early last year. Their returns bring the Wolverines to full form.
The two gymnasts certainly looked dominant Friday night in Crisler Arena during No. 9 Michigan’s (196.075) victory over No. 14 Arkansas (195.250) and No. 22 West Virginia (190.300).
Bruck won the beam individual title (9.875), while Curtis captured top marks in vault (9.850) and floor (9.90). Curtis’s all-around score of 39.425 was a career high.
All the Wolverines showed off strong routines and posted solid scores, but Curtis and Bruck’s performances stood out.
“To see them both come back off of very serious injuries last year and come out in the very first meet and go one-two in the all-around, it’s pretty darn impressive,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said.
Curtis, focusing instead on the team, refused to talk about her individual scores.
“It’s great to win the all-around, but I wasn’t thinking about it,” Curtis said. “I was focusing on how many routines can we put up there and how high can we get our score to start the season off.”
The entire team performed at a high level from the start, taking the lead after the first event (vault) and never relenting.
Michigan’s strongest event was the uneven bars. With a near-perfect team score of 49.375, higher than any bars score from last season, the team showcased what will probably be its strongest event for the remainder of the year. Including exhibition scores, the Wolverines stuck seven of eight landings.
“I was so impressed with our stuck landings and dismounts,” Plocki said. “Bars could not have gone any better – it was outstanding.”
The home crowd went wild after each landing. Wearing glow-stick necklaces and singing “The Victors,” the fans were visible and loud. For the athletes returning from injury and the three freshmen on the team, the enthusiasm of a home crowd proved invaluable. Michigan hasn’t lost at home since 1993.
“In gymnastics, there’s never too much cheering and clapping,” Plocki said. “The athletes thrive off of it.”
If the entire team stays healthy, this could be the deepest squad in recent years. Plocki said she expects many changes in the lineup throughout the season.
The team goal of reaching the Super Six at Nationals is within reach for this group. With Curtis and Bruck leading the scoring, the Wolverines hope to advance farther than last season’s injury-plagued finish.
“This year, we’re all healthy and motivated,” Curtis said. “We feel like we have something we can accomplish so we work a lot harder together to get to that goal.”