A remarkably different Michigan gymnastics team took to the beam in the third rotation Saturday. How else could you explain the Wolverines’ amazing turnaround?
Disaster was knocking on Michigan’s door. The Wolverines were coming off their worst uneven bar routine of the year, with four out of six gymnasts falling, leading to a dismal 47.350. A repeat of last week’s debacle at Michigan State, where Michigan scored a 47.850 on the bars and followed it up with three falls on the beam, didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. But the Wolverines had something they didn’t have last week – mental toughness.
“The sign of a true team is really when they can come back and put something behind them and go on,” senior captain Janessa Grieco said.
The young Michigan team, with the confidence of seasoned veterans, brushed off its falls on the bars and hit on its first five beam routines to post a season-high score. Then, the team nailed a season-high score on the floor to pull off the tri-meet victory over Kent State and West Virginia.
“We rebounded from a very bad event and came back and hit two season-high event totals,” Plocki said. “So there’s a lot to take out of this meet to be very excited about.”
It’s fair to say that every single gymnast on the roster made strides Saturday night, starting with junior Chelsea Kroll. She had perhaps the worst time of all of the gymnasts at Michigan State, falling twice on the bars and once on the beam.
Kroll fell on her bars routine again, and it looked like it might be a repeat. But she came back and nailed a career high on the beam, a remarkable turnaround, and followed it up with a strong floor routine.
“We were so excited for her,” junior Calli Ryals said. “She has been really struggling in practice with her injuries. For her to come out here just showed her mental strength and confidence.”
For Kroll, believing was the key.
“I was pretty confident about my beam routine,” Kroll said. “I knew I could do it.”
Grieco, as she often has done this year, led by example also, coming back strong after a fall on bars. She posted a 9.925 on both beam and floor, winning the beam title and a share of the floor title. Grieco listened to what the coaches had been preaching all week.
“I said to myself, ‘That event’s over, leave that behind, let’s start again,'” Grieco said.
Despite the team’s show of mental strength, Plocki and assistant coach Scott Sherman are still worried about the Wolverines’ struggles on the bars.
“It’s hard to say,” Plocki said. “Scott and I pull our hair out about that question.”
Depth may be part of the problem, since some gymnasts are competing out of position.
“Because of the injuries that we’ve had, it has affected our bar lineup more than any other event,” Plocki said.
But every team has injuries, and Michigan will need to fix its bar problems quickly. That being said, Michigan may be showing the first glimpses of championship character.
“Every meet is not going to be perfect, and if something like that happened at regionals or nationals, we’ve got to be able to put it behind us and keep on going,” Grieco said. “So I was really impressed.”
With half of the season left to go, the new Wolverines can be content in overcoming a large hurdle.
“That’s the one mental thing that we’ve been struggling with, and we proved ourselves today,” Ryals said.