For the Michigan women’s gymnastics team, the number 13
isn’t a curse. It’s a charm.

Mira Levitan
Senior Elise Ray won the all-around competition at the Big Ten Championships on Saturday to lead the Wolverines to their 13th team title. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily)

The Wolverines captured their 13th Big Ten title in 22 years
Saturday in Minneapolis, putting up a season-high score of 197.800.
It was Michigan coach Bev Plocki’s sixth straight and 11th
career Big Ten championship.

“We talked about how we needed to go in there and
concentrate on hitting 24 routines,” Plocki said. “It
wasn’t, ‘We’re going to try and beat Iowa,
we’re going to win the meet,’ but, ‘We are going
to try to hit 24 routines.’ ”

Plocki got what she asked for. Led by senior Elise Ray —
who finished first in the all-around and in three of the four
events — and supported by teammates in every position of the
lineup, Michigan put together a team effort that had been lacking
in previous meets earlier this month. The Wolverines set season or
career-high individual scores on every event.

“You don’t win meets because you have one or two
people that can score highly, you win meets because your lowest
counting score is a 9.850,” Plocki said. “You’re
not good because of your top three people, you’re good
because of the fourth, fifth and sixth scores.”

The Wolverines got just what they needed — a night when
everyone was completing successful routines, not just one or two
gymnasts. Freshman Carol McNamara’s season high 9.900 on
vault tied her with Ray for the best performance in that event, one
that Michigan has struggled on throughout the season. Sophomore
Becca Clauson and junior Lauren Mirkovich added season- and
career-high scores to the mix, driving the Wolverines’ vault
score to a season-high 49.275.

This trend continued as Michigan moved around the floor to each
event, setting a program record with a 49.625 score on the uneven
bars and tying the record for the floor exercise.

On uneven bars, freshman Lindsay Bruck and Mirkovich both set
season-best scores of 9.900. Ray shined in the event, one of her
strongest, earning her first 10.0 score of the season and the third
of her career.

“Elise usually hits her routines, but she really nailed
her routines at this meet,” Plocki said. “She brought
her performance to a new level. This is the kind of form I saw
Elise in her freshman year when she won the national all-around
title.”

Calli Ryals, who usually competes with Ray for all-around
honors, was restrained to just one event, the uneven bars, because
of nagging calf and heel injuries. But Ryals made the most of her
opportunity, earning a 9.950 in her best bars performance of the
season so far.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re competing in one
or two or three events, or nothing,” Plocki said. “You
have to put everything into your one event, and when you’re
done with your event you have to take the rest of what you have and
put that into supporting your teammates.”

Plocki said that the emotional support was there for Michigan
and was a major factor in the victory.

“That’s something else I think we did a good job of;
there was a lot of energy and a lot of emotion,” Plocki said.
“Even the kids that didn’t compete at all were
exhausted. That’s exactly the way it should be.”

Plocki hopes Michigan will replicate or better its Big Ten
performance when the Wolverines head to the NCAA regional
competition at State College on April 3.

“I look back at this Big Ten meet that we just had, and I
see that we hit every handstand on bars, we stuck every
dismount,” Plocki said. “We had a very limited number
of minor bobbles on balance beam. One event we would like to
improve on between now and next week is vault.”

But you won’t see the Wolverines back in the gym right
away. After their struggles over the past month, such a sweet
victory needs to be savored.

“Right now we want to take one more day to enjoy how good
this feels,” Plocki said.

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