From walk-on to starter, senior Jaclyn Kramer has become a fixture on the Michigan women’s gymnastics team since arriving on campus in the fall of 2006.

Performing well in the clutch is a valuable asset, yet those who do don’t always receive credit. Recognized or not, Kramer has been there when she was most needed in the last four years.

During a pregame salute to the team’s graduating class on Senior Night at Crisler Arena last Friday, Michigan coach Bev Plocki praised Kramer’s attitude and performance.

“We talk a lot about our depth and the importance of athletes who are ready to go into the lineup whenever called upon, sometimes at a moment’s notice,” Plocki said. “Jackie has played that role on many occasions.”

As Kramer stood in front of a record crowd before taking on No. 5 Georgia in her final home meet, her three coaches — the three people to whom she had to prove her worth — flanked her. She realized that her biggest critics had become her biggest fans.

Landing in A2

While considering college routes that had her going to Brown University and conference rival Penn State prior to her senior year of high school, Kramer admits that her visit to Ann Arbor is what clinched things.

“Michigan had really great academics and gymnastics, which was definitely what I was looking for,” Kramer said. “The campus was beautiful and all the girls on the team were just tremendous. I came here and loved it right away.”

As her freshman year got underway, the West Hills, N.Y. native jumped right into the rotation. Despite her walk-on status, Kramer began competing on the balance beam and the floor for the Wolverines, and started strong.

When the team faced off against even some of the best squads in the nation, the young athlete answered the call.

“It was a really exciting year because I didn’t really expect to compete, coming in as a walk-on,” Kramer said. “I just wanted to help out the team. So it was really cool to be able to contribute to the team in that way.”

In a late-season matchup against No. 16 Missouri, Kramer put together the meet of a lifetime. She set two career bests by winning her first collegiate event title with a 9.900 on the beam, followed by a 9.875 for her floor routine.

The night ended in a close loss, the outgoing senior is still nostalgic for the event.

“I remember that we already had a fall on the beam,” Kramer said. “I had to hit my beam routine in order to not count the fall, and I did. The feeling of nailing my routine and having my team’s back was amazing. I had never even gotten a 9.9 in high school, and it’s one of those things you see on TV and only dream of getting.”

For Kramer, dreams were becoming a reality. At this point, she had three years left and one goal remaining.

Fighting for Funds

Kramer was unable to find a spot in the lineup to perform during her sophomore campaign, but she remained undeterred in trying to earn a scholarship and remain on the squad.

After not competing during her second year, Kramer came back with a different mindset as a junior, and set to work, training with double the effort to find a way back into the rotation.

And at the beginning of the season, she found a starting job.

“In 2009, as a team we were decimated by injury,” Plocki said. “Jackie as a sophomore stepped into our lineup in as many as three events. She did a great job and the team did not skip a beat, qualifying all the way to the national championships.”

Within weeks, Kramer had accomplished her goal. Because of her success during her junior year, Jackie was offered a scholarship for the remaining two years of her career at Michigan.

Winding Down Right

For the senior, though gymnastics has taken up a major portion of her life, nothing has gotten in the way of her academic ventures.

Kramer will leave Michigan with hopes of attending law school in the fall en route to eventually becoming a lawyer.

“She has been accepted to several schools,” Plocki said, nudging Kramer who stood beside her. “But she is still awaiting her letter to Michigan before she makes any final decisions.”

But before she looks to her not-so-distant future, Kramer is focusing on the remainder of the season.

With less than two weeks left until the Big Ten Championships, Kramer expects to make a few improvements.

“My personal performance hasn’t been as good as it should be this year,” Kramer said. “I’m trying to work on that to finish up senior year really strong. As a team we’re doing very, very well, and we have a lot of potential … but there is definitely room for improvement.”

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