In between a Christmas break filled with luaus, snorkeling and surfing lessons, the Michigan women”s gymnastics team stumbled to a third place-finish out of four teams at the Maui Invitational on Jan. 4.

Paul Wong
The gymnastics team earned extra days in Hawaii for its outstanding grades, but earned low marks in competition. <br><br>TOM FELDKAMP/Daily

The third-ranked Wolverines” overall score of 193.625 was over a full point behind the meet”s winner, No. 17 Arizona, which scored 194.650. No. 13 Oklahoma finished second with 194.425.

“We have a lot to learn from this,” said junior co-captain Janessa Grieco. “The meet didn”t go as expected, but it”s behind us now.”

After a slow start on the vault (in which Michigan could muster just a 48.325) the Wolverines (1-2) posted their best rotation score (49.275) on the uneven bars thanks to a first-place showing by sophomore Elise Ray (9.975) and a score of 9.875 by fellow sophomore Amy Kuczera. Senior Shannon MacKenzie and freshman Kallie Steffes each recorded a 9.8.

But the balance beam was once again Michigan”s Achilles heel as five members took falls on the event and Grieco”s 9.750 was the best of all Wolverines. Michigan received a score of just 47.050.

“This trip showed that we need a little more balance beam practice,” Grieco said. “Nerves were a factor too, but it”s all stuff that we can improve on with practice when we get home.”

In it”s final event, Michigan posted a solid 48.975 on the floor, but it still wasn”t enough to overcome Arizona and Oklahoma, which posted scores of 49.025 and 49.000, respectively.

Ray”s all-around score of 38.600 tied her for fourth with fellow Wolverines Steffes and Calli Ryals. It was the first time in the last 11 meets that Ray has not scored over a 39.000 in the all-around competition.

Arizona”s Randi Liljenquist won the meet with a 39.425, three-hundreths of a point better than Oklahoma”s Mariana Gocalves.

While the third-place showing was unexpected, it may prove to be good motivation for the Wolverines as they head into their next meet at home against Northern Illinois on Sunday.

“Sometimes you need things like this to open up your eyes so you can see just how much you want it and what you need to do to get there,” Greico said.

Although the tournament results didn”t go as well as Michigan expected, none of the gymnasts complained about their Christmas break in Maui. The Wolverines were able to spend nine days on the island thanks to winning the Leaders and Best Award, which was given to the team with the highest grade point average. After practice every day the team was able to receive surfing lessons, go snorkeling and participate in luaus.

“I didn”t see it,” Greico said, “but I heard Calli Ryals and Cammie Singer were the best surfers of the bunch.”

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