Beneath the streamers and covered in hugs, Lindsey Bruck stood in the middle of her teammates, clutching the Big Ten championship trophy in her arms with a huge smile on her face.
For the fifth-year senior, this year’s Big Ten Championship was something special.
Bruck wasn’t able to participate in the conference championship last year after suffering a season-ending injury at the start of the season.
But this season, Bruck has been key to Michigan’s success, contributing more than just solid scores in Saturday’s 196.750-point performance.
“She has a lot of experience and valuable information to give to people,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “Because they respect her, they want to listen to her information and they believe in her. If Lindsey believes we can do this, we really can do this.”
Bruck is not just a cheerleader. She was named the Big Ten Gymnast of the Year in the awards ceremony after the competition Saturday.
Bruck finished third in the all-around competition with a score of 39.325 and claimed runner-up honors on the balance beam. While her personal scores contributed to the team’s success, Bruck was complemented by stellar performances from teammates.
Five gymnasts stuck landings on bars – perfect dismounts were contagious. The team’s bars score of 49.425 was its second-highest of the season.
Sophomore all-arounder Sarah Curtis had a near-flawless routine on bars for a career-high 9.950 score. She took the bars title and finished second in the all-around.
While Michigan had flashy scores on bars, the balance beam proved key to its victory. For the first time this year, the Wolverines were forced to start their rotation cycle on the beam, a challenging event to begin with.
“You come out and you have all your adrenaline built up,” said Plocki, who was named co-Big Ten Coach of the Year after the meet. “Beam is the event you have to not have so much adrenaline. I think that will give us confidence if somewhere later in the season we draw this rotation again. We know how to handle it.”
Michigan put up a 49.050 score on beam, an especially strong showing after a two-fall performance on the apparatus last weekend against Utah.
And the Wolverines got better and better with each event.
“It was difficult at first just because the first event was beam, already a nerve-wracking event for us,” Curtis said. “After we hit beam, we just kind of cruised through the rest of the events, which was really nice.”
Even with three bye rotations that disrupted Michigan’s momentum, the team was able to energize itself for each event. During breaks, Plocki said “the girls go in the locker room, turn on their music, and dance and be silly.”
The fourth-ranked Wolverines were favored coming into the competition, and they met expectations. The competition wasn’t close, with runner-up Illinois finishing a full point behind. Saturday’s win gave Michigan its 16th Big Ten championship in program history. For the Wolverines, this was just another checkpoint en route to the NCAAs next month.
And with Bruck’s leadership and the impressive performances on all four events, Michigan is on the right track to win the school’s first national title.