Chalk up the second-place finish to “West Coast” scoring.
Or the 2,300 miles traveled, with a four-hour layover in Seattle.
Or the three-hour time difference.
But even with all those obstacles, the Michigan women’s gymnastics team scored high enough at the West Regional in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday to earn an invitation to the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., on April 24.
Michigan finished second in the six-team regional with a score of 196.375, placing behind host No. 8 Oregon State. The top two teams from each regional automatically advance to Nationals.
While Michigan coach Bev Plocki was quick to point out the importance of earning the bid by finishing in the top two, she said it was difficult for her team to get energized for a meet sandwiched between the Big Ten Championships and the NCAAs.
“Nationals is Nationals and all that, but regionals is just the rite of passage to get to Nationals,” Plocki said.
The fifth-ranked Wolverines were led by fifth-year senior Lindsey Bruck and sophomore Sarah Curtis. The duo finished second and third, respectively, in the all-around competition.
Michigan began the competition on bars with a team score of 49.050, which tied the team’s season low. Even though junior Tatjana Thuener-Rego fell off the high bar, the remaining five routines were solid, and the team felt its scores should have been higher throughout the meet.
“I think the judging is definitely different out west,” Bruck said. “I don’t think we were getting scores that we deserve. We tried not to let that bother us.”
Michigan scored at or above 9.900 just once, with Bruck’s 9.900 on beam. The Wolverines had five scores at that level in their last competition, the Big Ten Championships.
The host Beavers earned six scores above 9.900, including two near-flawless 9.950 scores. Oregon State won all four event titles, marking the first time in 12 years Michigan didn’t have any regional event champions.
“Was it frustrating to have the scores be low and not necessarily comparable? Yeah,” Curtis said. “But we still qualified for Nationals, so it’s a good day.”
The highlight for the Wolverines was their floor exercise routines, as they danced their way to a 49.300-point team performance. But even with that solid score, first place was nearly out of reach by the last rotation, vault. Oregon State had the meet in hand with a dominating 197.100 finish.
Coming in second to the Beavers isn’t too shabby. Oregon State, like Michigan, is in the nation’s top 10 in every event.
In two weeks, Michigan might have to face the nation’s best with a slightly different roster. Sophomore Kelsey Knutson injured her knee during Saturday’s warmups. Knutson has played a crucial role on the beam squad, winning three event titles this season.
“If Kelsey’s hurt, everybody else has to step it up,” Curtis said. “We have each other’s backs. If she can’t do it, someone certainly can step in and take that role for her.”
Sophomore Jordan Sexton replaced Knutson in the third spot on the beam lineup Saturday and turned in a smooth routine for a 9.775 score. Flexibility and a deep roster have been a strength for the Wolverines, who have had to adjust to season-ending and minor injuries this year.
All season, Michigan’s goal has been to make it to Nationals and perform well. Now, that’s the only step left for the Wolverines.
And even with available excuses for not finishing first, like inconsistent scoring, jet lag and shaky travel arrangements, Michigan wouldn’t use them to explain its performance. The Wolverines were content to leave with a bid to Nationals in hand.
“We had landings we could have fixed here and there,” Curtis said. “But we did come out of it doing what we wanted to, which was to qualify for Nationals.”