Standing at the end of the runway, junior Jenny Deiley puts her head down and sprints toward the vault. Hurdling into a roundoff, she explodes onto the horse pushes off with her hands and does a layout with a full twist, keeping her body as straight as possible. She spots the mat, lands and her Yurchenko layout full is all over in a matter of seconds.
Deiley is just one of Michigan’s six top vaulters in a weekly lineup that includes freshman Katie Lieberman, sophomores Lindsey Bruck and Carol McNamara and seniors Shanna Duggan and Elise Ray. The Wolverines have been steady on vault this season because these six gymnasts have been in the pretty consistently. But Michigan might struggle if it experiences a few injuries to its vaulting lineup.
“Several of them are competing what we call a Yurchenko layout full,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “But really, what we’re looking for is any vault that is at a 10.0 start value. Now we have just six athletes who are capable of performing a vault that has a 10.0 start value. We do have a few others who are training, who, hopefully, will come around and add a little bit of depth in that event.”
A 10.0 starting value is just the first step to a high scoring vault. A gymnast must show correct technique during the vault, power for big height off the horse and to stick the landing.
“To be good on vault you have to be a very powerful gymnast and have real explosive back muscle,” Plocki said.
Michigan’s top six vaulters seem to fit that description as the stalwart of a lineup that has posted a combined score of 49.000 or higher six out of seven times this season.
“We all pretty much have 10.0 starts, and we’re just kind of like rockin’ it,” Lieberman said. “It’s just a lot of fun, sticking our landings and stuff. Especially the meet against UCLA — we stuck a lot of our landings.”
Michigan started its competition against UCLA two weeks ago on vault, and five out of six Wolverines stuck their landings, combining for a score of 49.425, with three competitors scoring a 9.900 or better.
“(Vault) definitely got us started off on a good foot for the UCLA meet,” Plocki said. “But we can’t hang our hat on that because most meets we will not get to start on vault. We have to compete all four events. It really shouldn’t matter what order they’re in.”
Lieberman — who has mostly competed as a vault specialist this season — hopes part of her contribution to the team will be starting meets out with a high score when the Wolverines are competing at home.
“It’s a little bit pressuring because it’s the first event and you want to start off the meet really well,” Lieberman said. “But it also pumps us up for the rest of the meet when we have good vault scores.”
Even if it’s not the first event for the Wolverines, it is still important as a strong rotation for Michigan.
“I think vault’s a more relaxing event because it’s very short, it’s quick and it’s more of you just run down there and do the same thing every time,” Deiley said. “Whereas, beam and everything is more nerve racking.”