Call them the walking wounded. Call them the second coming of the cardiac kids. Heck, you could even call them what they really are: Undefeated.
On Friday the No. 7 Michigan women’s gymnastics team continued its dominance in the Big Ten with a win over No. 12 Minnesota, outscoring the Gophers 194.7-191.85. The win extended the Wolverines record-setting Big Ten winning streak to an incredible 40 straight meets.
It marks the second straight win for the Wolverines, who continue to leave other Big Ten teams in their dust.
But as impressive as the streak may be, it is even more mind-boggling if you consider that Michigan battled Minnesota without five of its 12 scholarship athletes, something that the team has had to do all season. Sophomore Lauren Mirkovich, who last year participated in one meet before tearing her ACL, captured her first individual title by winning the uneven bars with a score of 9.850. In addition, sophomore Kallie Steffes, who had been out because of shoulder surgery since the beginning of the season, scored a 9.7 on vault in her first event this season.
“I’m so excited that they’re back,” senior captain Janessa Grieco said. “I’ve watched them struggle. Lauren, she had a rough freshman year, so it was absolutely wonderful to see her do great on bars.”
“It felt very good,” Mirkovich said. “It was very exciting. It’s definitely a confidence booster for me to come out and hit my routines.”
Mirkovich also added that she was just happy to be able to compete at all, noting that, “It was really tough to sit and watch on the sidelines (last year).”
Grieco did not do too shabby herself, capturing the all-around title with a personal-best score of 39.275 and also winning the beam with a score of 9.825.
“It was very exciting, you know, being my senior year it meant a lot, especially in front of a home crowd,” Grieco said. “But more importantly than an all-around victory was our team doing great again. We’ve got very limited numbers right now, so I’m really proud of everyone on this team.”
Said Michigan coach Bev Plocki: “I would expect (junior) Calli Ryals and Janessa (Grieco) to be our leaders out there, and then have Jenny (Deiley) jump (in) every now and again when she has a great meet and be in that pack of three. Calli and Janessa are our veteran performers, and I expect them to be up their every time.”
Despite Grieco’s event-winning score of 9.825 on beam, the Wolverines struggled a bit on beam overall, having to count a fall in the overall score.
“Beam is one of those events where it’s always a make or break event,” Grieco said. “It’s not always going to go perfect. I think that it’s good we get our jitters out at the beginning of the year as opposed to the end of the year.”
“I told the kids afterwards I’m not that disappointed because this is about realistically where I thought that we’d be with the lineups that we’re fielding right now,” Plocki said. “We showed some places of improvement, some different individuals who had places of improvement tonight over last week.”
The Wolverines hit the road this week to face No. 2 Georgia in a dual meet on Friday.
“We’re at the point now where we’ve accomplished most of the major things,” Plocki said. “We have to go into Georgia with confidence that we can be a great team and not go in feeling like we’re licking our wounds, and maybe we’ll be good and maybe we won’t be.”