As the Michigan women’s gymnastics team rotated from the balance beam to the floor for its final event Friday night, senior Tatjana Thuener-Rego stayed behind.

Anna Bakeman/Daily
Tatjana Thuener-Rego of the University of Michigan women’s gymnastics team competes on the uneven bars against North Carolina State and Kent State University on Friday, January 16, 2009.

She shook her shoulders, did a quick two-step and flashed a smile to the crowd. Then she jogged with an unmistakable swagger to catch up with her teammates.

“You gotta play around and have fun,” Thuener-Rego said. “That’s how you keep everyone’s spirits up and the energy up. You just dance.”

After an injury-ridden junior year, Thuener-Rego has become Michigan’s most consistent gymnast through three meets. She collected three event titles and the all-around crown as the Wolverines romped to a win in their home debut. Michigan posted a score of 194.325 to beat No. 25 NC State’s 191.15 and Kent State’s 193.525.

The Wolverines (2-0 Big Ten, 6-2 overall) built a sizable lead after the second event, as four of Michigan’s gymnasts earned scores of 9.8 or higher on the uneven bars. Junior Kelsey Knutson’s graceful performance on the balance beam earned a title and Thuener-Rego ended the meet with a nearly flawless floor routine (9.825).

“Tachi has really stepped up as a senior and she’s had a great attitude this year,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “I think it’s great to see a senior still improving, still adding in difficulty. We’ve just gotta keep her body healthy to keep her in the lineup.”

Injuries have haunted Michigan throughout the season, and the team’s future success may rely upon the development of its reserves. Junior Jaclyn Kramer has competed in vault, beam and floor all year in place of injured sophomores Trish Wilson and Kari Pearce. After junior Sarah Curtis fell twice on the beam, Kramer maintained Michigan’s lead with a season-high score of 9.7.

“I just felt a little bit more confident going in, especially with the pressure, trying to pick up a fall,” Kramer said.

Added Plocki: “Beam is one of those events that is most affected by competition pressure. We try to simulate pressure situations in the gym, but there’s nothing you can really do that simulates 2,000 people sitting there watching you and judges.”

With exuberant smiles and loose body language, Kramer and her teammates exuded confidence under pressure.

“We want to be loose. We’ve got to go out there and perform and have fun,” Plocki said. “This is our party.”

And despite the injuries, the Wolverines plan to keep dancing.

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