When freshman Shelby Gies fell off the beam in the first rotation, Crisler Arena fell silent.
The fall put tremendous pressure on the Michigan women’s gymnastics team. But despite the rocky start, No. 9 Michigan upset No. 4 Stanford with a near perfect meet to take the NCAA Regional Championship title — an amazing feat considering how the Wolverines almost lost it all in the first five minutes of competition.
“Beam is one of the hardest first rotations to perform,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “You come into the meet with so much adrenaline and excitement. With beam, you really have to be calm and collected. (After Gies fell) I preached to my team constantly that no one else’s performance has anything to do with your routine. They knew what they had to do, and they did what they’ve been doing all week in practice.”
The Wolverines took the lead in the first rotation and refused to give it up for the rest of the competition, posting a new season-high score of 197.025.
Their best event came on floor in the second rotation.
Sophomore Natalie Beilstein and freshman Reema Zakharia each scored a 9.9 while senior captain Kylee Botterman took the top score of the meet with a 9.925 — just shy of her 9.95 performance at Big Tens.
Botterman later went on to be named the top All-Around gymnast of the competition as well as the Northeast Regional Gymnast of the Year.
For senior captains Botterman and Jordan Sexton, competing at home for their last Regionals was a rewarding experience.
“It’s always easier not having to travel on the road,” Botterman said. “That was definitely an advantage for us, but everyone does it. It’s something you have to get used to and know how to adapt to when competing at championships like this.”
Added Sexton: “It was a great experience being back at home. Senior night wasn’t quite the end of it. We just wanted to come back for our fans and have a great showing, and that’s exactly what we were able to do tonight.”
Aside from Michigan’s peak performance, the real shocker of the meet was that No. 1 seed Stanford not only lost its spot at Nationals, but it tied for fourth with No. 5 seed Minnesota.
Instead, No. 24 Kent State — the underdog of the competition — narrowly beat out Ohio State to advance to Nationals for the first time in its team’s history. Ironically, Kent State is co-hosting the NCAA Championships with the city of Cleveland.
Like they always do, the Wolverines are setting their sights high for their next round, hoping to take some of this momentum with them to Nationals in two weeks.
“I don’t just want to place at the Super Six” Plocki said. “I want to be on that podium. There are a lot of good teams. We’ve competed against every single one of those teams who are going to be there … Right now, we’re peaking at the right time, and if we can go out and compete like we did tonight we can come out on top just as easily as anyone else.”