How does a Michigan gymnast learn to concentrate on the four routines she has ahead of her, standing in the tunnel in Crisler Arena, waiting to hear her name called over the loudspeaker as smoke billows into her face?
She competes in the Maize and Blue intrasquad meet.
The Michigan women’s gymnastics team held the intrasquad meet yesterday to showcase its new talent and give its four freshmen an opportunity to experience competing in the high-spirited home meet environment of Crisler Arena.
“The intrasquad is so important for the freshmen,” coach Beverly Plocki said. “They need to get it. They’ve been practicing, but, until they get into the arena and have the smoke and the lights and the crowd, they don’t get it.”
One of the new faces on the team is freshman Katie Lieberman from Lake Forest, Ill. As an elite-level gymnast, she has the potential to add a lot to the Michigan team on and off the apparatus.
“She has a positive attitude every day,” sophomore Lindsey Bruck said. “And she’s fun to be around. She makes us laugh everyday with some freshman thing she does.”
Plocki took the opportunity yesterday to see how Lieberman would perform under pressure. She found her answer in how well Lieberman approached her weakest event, the balance beam.
“I think I was most impressed with her in that she went out there and made her beam routine (scoring a 9.575) because she’s the most nervous on it,” Plocki said. “I was really proud of her that she went out there and showed a lot of confidence and hit the beam routine.”
Though Lieberman will primarily contribute to the team on vault and floor, her beam routine gave her a mental lift.
“It was a good confidence booster,” Lieberman said. “I was definitely a little nervous when I got up there — a little shaky — but I think as the season progresses I’ll get more confident.”
Lieberman was crowned vault champion at the U.S. Classics in Rochester, N.Y. earlier this year. She has the ability to make a huge impact on the team’s vault performance, but, if she can stay confident, Lieberman can also contribute on both bars and floor.
“She’s been working really hard in the gym,” Bruck said. “She’s an excellent teammate, so she’s a good addition to the team. She can definitely help us out in vault, which we’ve been lacking in the past couple years.”
Yesterday, Lieberman tied Bruck for fourth place with a 9.775 on vault and, even with a fall on bars, placed fifth in the all-around with 37.850 points — .625 points behind the all-around leader, senior Elise Ray.
Lieberman hopes that, as the season progresses, she can keep improving, especially as she adjusts to college-level gymnastics.
“We didn’t have too many meets in the elite level, and so this will be a challenge, competing every weekend,” Lieberman said. “And we don’t practice as many hours, so I think there’s more pressure. But I think it’s more fun. Overall, I feel confident about the season, and I hope to improve as the season progresses.”
Plocki knew coming in that Lieberman was a skilled gymnast, and Lieberman proved yesterday that she could be a valuable asset to the Michigan team.
“I think Katie is an extremely powerful and dynamic athlete,” Plocki said. “And if we can get her adjusted to competing in front of big crowds, she’s going to make a great contribution and have a great impact.”