The mood was light and happy as the Michigan women”s gymnastics team saluted five seniors in their last home meet. The relaxed setting paved the way for a win for No. 5 Michigan over No. 13 Denver and Washington on Saturday at Crisler Arena.
The Wolverines scored a 197.775, their second-best home score in school history. That mark was leagues ahead of the 194.300 and the 194.250 posted by Denver and Washington, respectively. The victory was apparent early in the meet, and it was clear the team just wanted to have fun.
“We were just trying to go out and enjoy it all,” senior Shannon MacKenzie said. “Especially the seniors. We were just trying to take it all in one last time.”
After honoring Amy Kuczera, Erin McWatt, MacKenzie, Melissa Peterson and Jodie Rosenberg before the meet, it was clear the emotions had trickled down to the rest of the team.
Sophomore Elise Ray delivered the most dominating performance of the day, winning the all-around with a 39.825 and tying the school record in the process. The mark included three 9.50s along with a 9.975 on the balance beam.
Ray found herself atop the first-place podium in every event except the floor exercise, in which Michigan sophomore Calli Ryals scored her third perfect 10 and sixth floor exercise title of the season. Junior co-captain Janessa Grieco earned second-place honors after recording a career best 9.975 in the event.
Even with the string of high scores on the floor from the team”s younger stars, the seniors still earned the warmest reception. MacKenzie was greeted with hugs and laughter after the beam specialist managed just a 9.1, and Rosenberg earned a standing ovation after posting a career high 9.9.
“That was probably the best routine I”ve seen (Jody) do,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “She deserved every bit of that 9.9.”
The highlight of the meet may have come after its conclusion. Kuczera was allowed to give a floor exhibition in spite of a herniated disc. While she completed the dance portions, Grieco, Ray, Rosenberg and Ryals each took one of her tumbling passes.
“Amy has a beautiful floor routine and we wanted to give her a chance to show it off,” MacKenzie said. “It was really emotional for all of us. I was getting teared up watching it because I know how hard she”s worked.”
The Wolverines ended up breaking the school record on the floor routine with a 49.625 en route to their impressive victory.
“Today was definitely a good ending to our home season,” Peterson said. “We have one more away meet, but we”ll put it together there and hit postseason.”
Peterson was Michigan”s only senior who was unable to compete on Saturday, much to the dismay of her teammates. She sustained an ankle injury in practice last week and was forced to watch her last home meet on crutches.
Michigan”s overall performance was a surprise to some. The team seemed very loose throughout the whole meet and was under no pressure to earn a high score at home.
“They compete at their best when they”re relaxed, and we need to be as relaxed on the road as we are at home,” Plocki said. “It”s easy for us at home, but we need to make it easy on the road.”