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September 06, 1979 - Image 74

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-06

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Gymnasts combine varied talent
with top-drawing opposition

By LEEKATTERMAN
Wherever and whenever he can,
Newt Loken will always find
something that attracts people to his
Michigan gymnasts.
But in this, his 33rd year of
coaching the Wolverines, Loken has
unveiled the ultimate promotion -
the Korean National team will in-
vade Crisler Arena for an exhibition
meet October 28.
ALTHOUGH the Korean program
is fairly new, Loken points out that
in some events, they are "a match
for the Japanese (long recognized as
the world's best gymnasts)." In
fact, they outpointed the Japanese
on floor exercises in the recently
held Asiatic Games, and came
within .25 of them on the vault.
Loken's entrepreneurial efforts
will mean more than just one inter-
nationally flavored meet, however.
The veteran mentor has also
scheduled home meets with Big Ten
champion Minnesota, and
nationally-regarded Indiana State,
world champion Kurt Thomas' alma
mater.
Through these and other meets,
Loken wants to showcase his team's
gradual improvement over the past
year. The Wolverines peaked near
the end of last season, finishing third
in the Big Ten championships at
Crisler Arena in March.
IN THAT MEET, the Blue tum-
blers notched a total of twelve

medals. Conference titles were
awarded to graduated co-captain
Bob Creek on high bar, senior Jim
Varilek on floor exercises, and
junior Darrell Yee on rings.
And while the team season con-
cluded with a fifth-place showing at
the NCAA Midwest regional meet,
departed all-arounder Nigel Roth-
well joined Creek and Varilek in
Baton Rouge for the national finals.
Each had qualified for the meet by
placing in the top six in their event at
regionals.
Creek and Rothwell finished their
collegiate careers by finishing third
and 17th in their respective events.

More important to Loken was 15th-
place Varilek's finish. Varilek has
been elected captain of this year's
squad.,
TO BE CERTAIN, the Battle
Creek native will have plenty of ex-
perienced performers backing him
up. Bruce Schuchard, Al Berger,
Chris Van Mierlo, and Marshall
Garfield can perform all-around,
and will be counted on to score con-
sistently during the long campaign.
The all-arounders will have some
added pressure on them'this year. A
change in meet scoring means three
of the four individual scores will
usually count toward the team total.
Under previous rules, six gym-
nasts (two specialists and four all-
arounders) competed in each event,
with the top four scores counting
toward the team mark. Beginning
this season, five of the six scores
compiling that total. And since the
specialists' marks are usually
among the top four, the fifth score
will probably come from an all-
arounder.
Yet the specialists remain an in-
tegral part of the squad. Fortunately
for Loken, only high bar expert
Creek was lost to graduation.
"I HOPE that (Mike) Pfrender
and (Doug) Zahour will cover
Creek's absence," said Loken,
"although we'll always miss Bob."
Gordon Higman will work two
events, the parallel bars, a recent

weak spot, and rings. Yee, last
year's Big Ten rings champ, will
solidify the Wolverines' strength in
that event, and Loken should receive
more help from freshman Rick
Kaufman of Hinsdale, Ill.
F Pommel horse, considered by
many experts the toughest gym-
nastic event, gave Michigan some
problems last season. But with John
Rieckoff and Dorian Deaver having
logged another year of experience,
Loken hopes they will earn con-
sistent 9.0-plus marks. Another first-
year man, Nevin Hedlund of Oak
Park, Ill., carries a sixth-place
Illinois state meet finish into his
collegiate career.
A SET OF twins from Toledo will
no doubt bolster the Wolverines'
traditional strength in vaulting and
floor exercises. Kevin and Mike
McKee will join Varilek, Zahour,
rapidly-improving Ron Tickman,
making that event a solid one. Depth
and experience don't always yield a
championship, however. Minnesota
and Ohio State, 1-2 finishers in the
conference meet, once again return
with talent-laden squads. And Loken
admits they're the teams to beat.
But the Wolverine mentor, never
one to shelter love for his gymnasts
or the sport itself, will surely give
his loyal followers something to
cheer about. Even if it's just an
exhibition with some guys from the
other side of the world.

Doily Photo
Then and now
For Nigel Rothwell (insert), four successful years of Michigan gymnastics
have come to a close. The Windsor, Ontario native finished his collegiate
career with a second-place all-around finish at the Big Ten championships.
Junior Darrell Yee (above), however, has plenty to look forward to. Yee
is the current conference champ on the still rings.

L oken

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New coach Steffen rebuilding

Women in transition:

after soap opera-like

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1313 So. University

By ALAN FANGER
There is a piece of common folklore
espoused by ardent followers of
collegiate women's gymnastics, and it
goes like this: Only freshmen and
sophomore gymnasts can perform at
competitive levels-junior and senior
women become either overweight or
too apathetic to continue pursuing
the sport.
Most of Michigan's women gymnasts
never make it past their second or third
season, but they usually leave for a dif-
ferent reason. Either their present,
coach displeases them, or their com-
petitive spirit disintegrates without
their former mentor in the gym.
In 1977-78, the "present coach" syn-'
drome victim was Anne Cornell. She
was eventually given the boot.
AND RIGHT now, the squad is sad-
dled with the "former coach" blues.
Last year, Scott Ponto guided the
Wolverines to the best season in their
five-year history._,,The young team
placed third in the Big Ten, second in
the state meet, and sixth in the AIAW

Midwest Regional. Those high finishes
were the epilogue to a regular season in
which they rolled up a 22-3 meet record.
Fate struck hard, however, when
Ponto and assistant coach Ginger
Robey resigned in April following a
contract dispute with the Athletic
Department. And it was nearly two
months before the Blue tumblers found
out who their next coach would be.
FOR TWO highly-regarded gym-
nasts, two months was too long to play
the waiting game. Colleen Forrestel,
the state's best vaulter, and consistent
all-arounder Mia Axon announced they
would not compete for Michigan this
winter: Both tumblers had shown sub-
stantial improvement under Ponto's
tutelage..
In early June, Shari Steffen, a former
coach at Illinois State, was named to
succeed Ponto. Steffen immediately
tried to play "catch up" in the race for
recruits, but it was too late.
Of the three prep prospects who
signed with Michigan, only Angela
Deaver of nearby Pioneer High School is
considered a "blue chipper."
"We're not going to be very deep this
year," admitted Steffen. "We fell
behind in recruiting - they (recruits)

could sign letters of intent March 1st,
and most of the good kids signed
early."
TIED DOWN by that recruiting han-
dicap, Steffen will be counting on her
remaining veterans to compensate for
the thinness in personnel. But the five
returning Wolverines carry a meager
seven years of competitive experience
in with them.
Senior Sara Flom is the only member
of the group to have attained consisten-
cy in her routines. Flom has a state all-
around title and regional floor exercise
crown to her credit. Yet she remains
uncertain about competing this year.
A trio of sophomores, Cindy Shearon,
Teresa Bertoncin, and Laurie Miesel
improved rapidly during later meets.
Sheafon was particularly impressive
on the vault, advancing to the regional
individual finals in that event.
SOPHOMORE Lisa Uttal, also from
Pioneer, was hobbled by injuries all of
last year. She is expected to improve
rapidly. Uttal, freshman Diane Mc-
Clain of Farmington Hills and transfer
Dana Kempthorn from Clarion St.
(Pa.), will no doubt log plenty of com-
petitive time during the season.
But that experience will come at

season
some. expense for the Wolverines. Flomr
and Bertoncin are the team's. only'
veteran all-arounders. Since a team
must enter at least four performers per -
meet in all-around competition, Steffen
will have to quickly fill the personne.
gap left open by the departures of Axon
and Forrestel.
And the new mentor knows that won't
be an easy task.
"We're in a tough region, no doubt-
about that. But you always want to in

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Flom
prove. I think we can improve on sixth
place (in the regional)," Steffen said.,
At least the gymnasts can have somi
fun in the process. They open the season
by hosting the Korean National Team
October 28 at Crisler Arena.

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