Despite switching up the lineups to allow some gymnasts to rest and others to gain experience, the No. 3 Michigan women’s gymnastics team scored an away season best en route to defeating No. 20 Ohio State, 196.925-196.25, on Friday on the road at St. John Arena.
Senior Brittnee Martinez and junior Reema Zakharia, both suffering from leg pains, took the night off to heal and prevent injuries from developing.
“It’s nice to have 14 people on the team and to have enough depth to be able to do that,” said senior captain Katie Zurales.
The Wolverines (4-1 Big Ten, 8-1 overall) posted a 49.375 on the uneven bars to top their season high. Senior Natalie Beilstein, who replaced Martinez, was featured in the lineup for the first time this season in the anchor position and scored a career-best 9.900. Junior captain Joanna Sampson matched Beilstein to tie for first on the event.
“I’ve been working really hard on my handstands and form on bars, and it was nice to go out there and compete,” Beilstein said. “I’m glad my hard work paid off.”
At the halfway point in the meet, Michigan led the Buckeyes 98.625-98.100. Zurales scored a 9.925 to match her career high and perform the best vault of the night — her full-twisting Yurchenko was stuck cold. Freshman Austin Sheppard followed in second with a career-best 9.875.
“We’ve been doing really good vaults,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “We just continue to have trouble sticking our landings.”
The Wolverines moved to the floor exercise in the third rotation. Junior Shelby Gies, who replaced Zakharia, performed for the second time this season on the floor. Sampson impressed the judges with her massive tumbling, featuring her upgraded double-layout opening pass, to repeat last weekend’s performance of a 9.925 for the win. Beilstein finished third with a 9.875 for her stylish routine.
“Natalie’s a competitor,” Plocki said. “She loves to compete. I don’t think we’re even thinking about the fact that she was injured. She’s healthy, she’s good to go (and) she’s doing a great job.”
Michigan finished on beam with a rough rotation but still managed to perform well enough to score a 49.050.
“This is our first time this season we’ve had to end the meet on balance beam,” Plocki said. “There were a couple of wobbles here and there but we did a good job.”
Freshman Briley Casanova competed on balance beam for the first time this season. She performed exceptionally well, scoring a 9.875 to place first. Sampson, last week’s Big Ten Gymnast of the Week, proved that she was still human with an uncharacteristic fall in the fifth spot. The pressure fell on Zurales to save the Wolverines from having to count a fall, and she didn’t disappoint. Her beam performance totaled her all-around score, and her 39.375 was the top score of the night.
“Right now, we’re just trying to stay consistent and focused, fine-tuning,” Zurales said. “As Bev likes to say, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s – meaning working on stuck landings, handstands, and getting rid of some wobbles on beam. We’re going to keep rotating people in and out to give some more people some rest.
“It’ll keep us fresh for the end of the season.”