On a Saturday night that was meant to showcase some of Ann Arbor’s brightest young athletes, the Maize team trumped its Blue counterparts in a thrilling 6-5 finale at the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s annual intra-squad meet.
The competition pitted Maize – seniors Sarah Curtis, Kelsey Knutson and Jaclyn Kramer and freshman Natalie Beilstein – against Blue – seniors Maureen Moody and Jordan Sexton, junior Kylee Botterman, and freshman Brittnee Martinez.
The evening’s judges were WTKA radio personalities Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub, noted author and University professor, John Bacon, and former Wolverine running back Jamie Morris.
The match, held at Crisler Arena, came down to the final floor exercise between Botterman and Beilstein – a proven veteran against an incoming sensation.
After Beilstein finished her routine, Botterman took the microphone and pleaded with the judges.
“Professor Bacon, I’m just wondering if you’re up for any type of negotiations,” she said in playful banter with the judge, her American Culture professor. “How about if I do this floor routine up to your standards, I get an ‘A’ in your class?”
Her ensuing routine was as good as promised, but one unstable landing allowed Beilstein to swipe the final point and win the competition for the Maize team.
Michigan coach Bev Plocki and her gymnasts said they were content with the team’s performance as a whole.
“We know that our beam (routines) have been really, really good in practice, and (tonight) we had a few falls under pressure,” Plocki said. “But all the makings of a good team are here, and I think we had a lot of highlights tonight.”
Added Sexton, a senior captain: “We know that our routines are not up to national quality yet, but we want to get out there and we’re feeling confident. We just wanted to go and get those routines and keep on moving up the ladder and getting stronger and stronger, getting ready to start in January.”
No. 14 Michigan enters the season with five seniors and three freshmen, but the most impressive outings may have come from Beilstein and Martinez, two of the newest Wolverines.
“I was very impressed with (the freshmen) in their first ever collegiate-type situation,” Plocki said of the duo. “I thought they did very well.”
The Wolverines, who have won 15 of the last 17 Big Ten titles, begin their regular season in Ann Arbor against Iowa and Bowling Green on Jan. 9.
According to Plocki, who is in her 20th season of coaching at Michigan, the team’s aspirations remain the same..
“We have the same goals pretty much every year, and we never back down from those,” Plocki said. “Ultimately, we want to win a national championship, but first and foremost, we always focus on a Big Ten Championship.”