Sophomore Kelsey Knutson leapt onto the balance beam Saturday night with the memory of last weekend’s fall fresh in her mind.
But after calmly sticking her landing, Knutson flashed a smile and ran into the open arms of Michigan coach Bev Plocki. When the judges displayed the event-high score of 9.925, the Crisler Arena crowd exploded in cheers.
The No. 6 Michigan women’s gymnastics team bounced back from last week’s beam difficulties, sparking a victory over rival No. 24 Michigan State, 196.750 to 194.550. Last weekend, the Wolverines fell three times on beam, including Knutson’s on her dismount.
The Spartans haven’t beaten the Wolverines in a dual meet in 17 years.
Culminating in its best team score in almost two years, Michigan dominated the meet from start to finish.
“We want to try to hit all the routines – go 24-for-24,” said fifth-year senior captain Lindsey Bruck, who also fell from the beam last week.
Bars have been the Wolverines’ strongest event this season but Saturday’s meet showcased the team’s depth on other events.
Michigan posted season-high scores on both beam and vault. Knutson’s beam title was the first individual event win of her career.
After each routine, hundreds of fans waved the meet program, which featured the three Wolverine freshmen.
And the trio didn’t disappoint.
Kylee Botterman earned the top vault individual score, making her the second freshman this season to win an event – after Trish Wilson took the bars title in her first collegiate meet on Jan. 11.
Leading off two events, freshman Kari Pearce earned career-high scores on vault and floor, while Wilson put up a solid 9.825 on bars, her only scored event of the night. As she recovers from a bout of mononucleosis, Plocki plans to add her to more event lineups.
Michigan dominated Michigan State from the first event.
“We try to start off strong and just keep it going,” Bruck said. “We know if we have high energy, we can last to the last event.”
Wolverines stood atop the podium for each event, and Bruck captured her eighth career all-around title with a score of 39.325.
The Big Ten Network televised the meet, just like last weekend’s. But this time, the meet flowed quickly and the Wolverines were able to maintain momentum without scoring delays.
The crowd of more than a thousand, including many University of Michigan Dance Marathon members and local Girl Scout troops, was especially enthusiastic. The student section was large and made its presence felt when it started cheers and waves in between routines.
“When the crowd is into it, we get more involved and more excited,” Bruck said. “Our energy just bumps up another level.”
The Wolverines will travel to Ypsilanti Feb. 2 to compete in the State of Michigan Classic, where they will face four other Michigan universities.
That’s a lot of competition.
But for Michigan, the goal is the same: 24-for-24.