One beam. Six gymnasts. Three falls.
Few could balance on the beam in Saturday’s meet, but those who did made the difference.
Despite putting up its lowest score in any event of the season, the No. 6 Michigan women’s gymnastics team edged No. 14 Penn State, 195.275-195.100, in State College.
The slim margin of victory can be attributed to the team’s rocky beam performance, which counted half-point deductions for each fall.
But three impressive showings on beam gave Michigan just enough to offset the falls and defeat the Nittany Lions.
Junior Becky Bernard (9.850) and sophomores Sarah Curtis (9.825) and Jordan Sexton (9.800) earned the top scores in the event.
“It was just a couple of unlucky breaks,” senior Katie Lieberman said. “Everyone has been looking really good in practice and hitting their routines.”
Michigan coach Bev Plocki said Michigan was fortunate to pull out the win. Teams often aren’t able to suffer multiple falls and still win.
The fallen gymnasts shook off their mishaps and performed the rest of their routines perfectly, earning them high all-around scores – even with the fall deductions.
“Every quarter of a tenth (of a point) counts,” Plocki said. “The smallest little thing can make the difference between winning and losing.”
Like last weekend, Michigan’s weakest event was the beam and its best event was the uneven bars. Bernard led all scoring on bars with a 9.900, winning her eighth career individual bars title.
Solid performances on both vault and floor by Lieberman and freshman Kari Pierce helped build a lead going into the final event, beam.
Pierce again led off both events she competed in, continuing her consistency for the Wolverines. More confident after her Jan. 11 collegiate debut, Pierce achieved season highs in vault and floor exercise.
“We were obviously the better team,” said Pierce. “We outperformed them in three out of the four events.”
Lieberman said the meet was unusually long because it was broadcast by the Big Ten Network. The delays hurt the team’s focus going into the final event, she said.
The Big Ten Network, which hadn’t covered a gymnastics meet before, wanted to show each gymnast’s score after her routine. The scoring lag lengthened the meet by more than an hour.
“The meet was so slow,” said Plocki. “It just sucked the energy right out of competition.”
Although next weekend’s meet against Michigan State will be televised, gymnasts will alternate events and the cameras will return to the scores later.
The Wolverines will need to rebound from Saturday’s weak finish to put together a more polished meet next weekend as they take on Michigan State in Ann Arbor.
While the falls certainly raised eyebrows, the gymnasts are confident that this was a stumble that won’t become part of Michigan’s routine.
“Everyone looks great in practice,” said Lieberman. “It was just a couple early-in-the-season mistakes that are good to get out of the way.”
Penn State 195.100