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April 07, 1997 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-04-07

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46 - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - April 7, 1997

'M' hits peak despite
ailing Peters' absence

0

The Michigan women's gymnastics team was thoroughly excited after placing first in Saturday's Central Regional, but the
women rebuked University President Lee Bollinger's attempt to steal a bouquet of flowers after the meet. The Wolverines next
compete at the NCAA championships in Gainesville, Fla., in two weeks.

By Nita Srivastava
Daily Sports Writer
Rising to the occasion has been the underlying
motif that the Michigan women's gymnastics team
has established throughout its season. The
Wolverines peaked their performances in the
NCAA Central Regional championship this week-
end.
The Wolverines suffered a great loss in the com-
petition with sophomore Nikki Peters out of the
running in the floor exercise and the vault. She
sprained both of her ankles last Wednesday in prac-
tice when she was working on her vaults.
"We did not make a big deal of it before the
championship because we did not want any excus-
es if we did not win," Michigan coach Bev Plocki
said.
Peters spent the few days before the regionals
undergoing hundreds of treatments a day so that she
could perform her nationally ranked No. I uneven
bars routine for Michigan in Saturday's competition.
"The dismount that Nikki stuck (in the
Regionals) is the first dismount that she has landed
since Wednesday, so we are really proud of her"
Plocki said.
With Peters not competing in two events, the
Wolverines had to rely on their other teammates to
perform well in her position. Freshman Sarah-
Elizabeth Langford filled in for Peters on vault and
finished with a 9.775.
Senior Andrea McDonald replaced Peters in the
floor exercise, finishing with a 9.875, a score com-
parable with Peters' usual marks.
"It is important to be ready if the task is up and
you need to step in," McDonald said.
"Andrea just really came together" Peters said.
"That's what we have to do, that's what a team is.
When somebody goes down, the team is right there.'
McDonald not only performed well on the floor
exercise but also set season highs for herself in the
vault and the balance beam with scores of 9.875 in
both apparatuses.
"I had everybody telling me how good I was
going to do," McDonald said. "I felt very confident,
because I had been training pretty hard for this type
of situation."
"We're so proud of Andrea for jumping into the

lineup and coming up with the scores that she did,"
Plocki said. "I was really glad that she had the
chance to get in there and perform the way she d
in her last debut on the Michigan campus."
This season, junior Heather Kabnick competed in
the all-around only once. Saturday, she stepped up
her performance to end with a second-place finish
behind Alabama's Meredith Willard by only .05
points.
"This is my best meet of the year" Kabnick said.
"It's like they say, whoever wants it the most will get
it."
As a whole, the Wolverines rose to the occasion
of the regionals, scoring a 197.7, the highest scor
in Michigan history.
"Our team has been right on the edge all season
long, right on the fringe of being able to do this,"
Plocki said. "We've had meets scoring 196.5 and
197.3, but in every one ofThose meets, we had to
count at least one fall. We knew that when we put it
together, we had the potential to be a 198 team. We
finally did it (Saturday) where we didn't have to
count a fall and hopefully we're peaking at the right
time."
The Wolverines definitely exhibited their abili
to rise to the occasion in virtually every aspect
the regional competition, but the glory cannot only
be attributed to the competitors. Plocki played a
strong role in the success of the team. Saturday, she
was awarded regional coach of the year.
She set the standard of rising up and performing,
and she taught it to her gymnasts. She raised the
level of difficulty for her gymnasts by using more
challenging routines in competition. In her eight
seasons as coach for the Wolverines, she has-led the
team in six place-finishes in the Central Regionals.
"I think that she has done a great job of bringi
this program to a national level," Alabama coac
Sarah Patterson said.
The Wolverines look to continue their "rise to the
top" performance when they compete in the NCAA
national championship later this'month.
"We've come a long way since the first meet"
said McDonald. "We made a commitment to each
other and to what we want to do. That's the sole rea-
son we're ranked No.1 in the region right now. I'm
excited and I think we're ready."

REGIONALS
Continued from Page 1B
Louisiana State's Stephanie Hyett
for the vault title.
But Michigan also received a cou-
ple of last-second, dark-horse per-
formances. When sophomore Nikki
Peters, an integral part of the
Wolverines, went down with two
sprained ankles last week, a gaping
hole was left. Called on to plug up
that hole were freshman Sarah-
Elizabeth Langford, senior Andrea
McDonald and sophomores Kristin
Duff and Kathy Burke. Each
responded well to Michigan's dis-
tress call. Langford and McDonald
recorded vault scores of 9.775 and
9.875, respectively.
On the uneven bars, the story was
similar and the smiles were the
same. Filling in for Peters, Duff
pulled through with a solid 9.875 on
the bars, allowing the regulars to
work their wonders.
Cain proved once again why she
was voted Big Ten gymnast of the
year two weeks ago, bouncing back
to capture the bars title with a 9.975.
Meanwhile, Alabama was digging
itself a hole. Competing next on the
balance beam, the Tide recorded a
less-than-superb 49.025, despite
senior Meredith Willard's title-win-
ning beam score of 9.925.
Halfway through Saturday's com-
petition, the Wolverines found them-
selves sitting pretty, with a large 1.1-
point lead over LSU and a surprising
1.45-margin ahead of Alabama.
"I thought that was about the way
things might end up," Alabama
coach Sarah Patterson said. "The
underlying story for us in this meet
was that we started on the two pres-
sure events, bars and beam. We were
a little tentative and had a few prob-
lems."
Despite Michigan's big lead, the
biggest test was yet to come. The
Wolverines had to sit through a bye
round before opening their third set
on the balance beam, which has
often been Michigan's toughest
event this season.
"All we talked about was relaxing
and doing what we do every day,"
Plocki said. "It's great to have a bye
before the beam because vault and
bars are events that you get really
pumped up for and sometimes
you're adrenaline level can be too
high going into the beam. So it's
good to have a bye to take a step
back and bring it down a little bit so
that you can re-focus on the balance
beam."
The Wolverines were relaxed on
the beam, picking up right where
they left off before the bathroom
break. Michigan received its sixth
solid bench performance of the
evening, with a 9.8 from Burke.
"It's a key position to be the lead-
off person on balance beam," Plocki
said. "And Kathy does that so well
because she can just go up there and
be rock-solid."
Michigan's ride through the beam
wasn't exactly smooth, but it was
adequate enough to sustain the lead.
Cain proved she was human, record-
ing two breaks on her beam routine,
eventually tallying an 8.85.
"I was disappointed because I
fell," Cain said. "But the five people
before me hit and had solid scores.
So overall the team did well."
Michigan still led LSU and
Alabama by 1.025 and 1.125,
respectively, heading into the
evening's final apparatus. With a
full-one point lead, the only thing
left to be determined was the all-

around title.
Alabama's Willard led Michigan's

Olympic atopeei
golden for Michigan
Wolverines vault into NCAA championships with
support from energized Crisler Arena crowd

By Nita Srivastava
Daily Sports Writer
It almost felt like someone was going to
come out with the Olympic torch at Crisler
Arena Saturday night for the women's gymnas-
tics NCAA Central Regional competition.
You could feel the intensity of the crowd as
the gymnasts marched through the tunnel into
the arena wearing their school
colors and waving proudly to
their respective fans.
First was the music - that
Olympianesque, inspirational
tune that always comes on IG44
when the athletes are intro-
duced to the crowd.
The arena was dark, with the
colored spotlights circling -
around the crowd of 4,072. And a cloud of
smoke made the tunnel barely visible from the
stands.
The teams were introduced in alphabetical
order by the overly dramatic voice of the
announcer as the gymnasts were led into the
arena by men in tuxedos. These men carried a
sign with the school's name on it, just as the
athletes do in the Olympics with their country's
flag.
The fans from every school were screaming
cheers for their school. You heard the Michigan
fans yelling "Go Blue!" and the Alabama fans
hollering "Roll Tide, Roll!"
The Wolverines even got to perform their
apparatuses in Olympic order: vault, uneven
bars, balance beam and then floor exercise.
"Vault is a great event for us," Michigan
senior Andrea McDonald said. "To start off
with a big event can set the tone for the meet
and get some momentum going, so that we can
be really good."
The order of apparatuses seemed to help
Michigan in their level of confidence and the
Wolverines were able to pull their perfor-
mances together and beat Alabama, the defend-
ing regional champions for 10 consecutive
years.
LIMP, TIDE, LIMP: After Alabama's meet
March 8, the team sustained injuries to senior
Kim Bonaventura, freshman Heidi Harriman

and junior Shay Murphy. All-American Murphy
tore her anterior cruciate ligament 16 weeks
ago during preseason practice and was sup-
posed to be out for the remainder of the season.
Murphy had other ideas, as she ended up
competing in the floor exercise and the balance
beam scoring a 9.9 and 9.725, respectively.
"It's unprecedented for a gymnast to come
back (from that type of injury)," Alabama
coach Sarah Patterson said. "Once she had done
her floor routine, there was not a dry eye on our
sidelines. It was such an inspiration to every
one of us."
SOLID ON THE BAR: Even with sophomore
Nikki Peters out on two sprained ankles, the
Wolverines got incredible performances from
freshman Sarah Cain, sophomore Kristin Duff
and junior Heather Kabnick.
Cain recorded a career high of 9.975, which
was also the second highest score in Michigan
history in the regional for this event.
"It feels good," Cain said, "but the team win-
ning feels a lot better."
Duff tied her career high from the Magical
Classic versus Utah State with a 9.875 on the
uneven bars.
Kabnick exceeded her 9.8 score that she
recorded in the meet against Minnesota earlier
in the season and posted a season's best of
9.85.
"I felt I had a good performance," Kabnick
said, "but I can definitely improve and pull
things together. Hopefully that will show in
nationals."
TIGERS BALANCE THE BEAM: Louisiana State
recorded its season high of 49.225 on the bal-
ance beam as they captured first place on the
apparatus in the regionals. Stephanie Hyett and
Amy McClosky tied with 9.875 to help out
their team,
THE TIDE ROLLS IN A CHAMPION: Alabama's
senior Meredith Willard was the all-around
winner with a score of 39.625.
She came in first in the balance beam with a
9.925, but did not fare such high scores in the
other events.
Last season she was tied with her teammate,
senior Stephanie Woods, for top honors on the
uneven bars and balance beam.

JOHN KRAFT/Daily
Michigan's Andrea McDonald's vaulting efforts landed her a 9.875 from the judges. As a team, the
Wolverines placed first on the vault.

CAIN
Continued from Page 11B
Amelkovich said. "I don't know why.
She just loves it."
The kid in her loves candy, but
unlike a little tyke, Cain is not self-
ish with the treat.
"She brings them to practice and
shares them with all of us," team-
mate Lauren LaBranche said.
Along with eating candy, Cain
practices for nearly three hours each
day, which has helped her accom-
plish all that she has.
The awards she won at the Big Ten
championships came as a shock to
Cain.
"I was so surprised when I found
out I won," Cain said. "I didn't even
know that freshmen could win both
awards."
Although she was a shoo-in for the
freshman of the year award, the gym-
nast of the year award came as more
of a surprise.
"It was really neat," Cain said. "It
could have gone any way because the
scores were so close."
But Cain's scores weren't anything
close to her fellow freshmen com-
petitors.
"Statistically she was a landslide

that's neat."
Cain has scored a perfect 10 in
three events this year: the vault, the
balance beam and the floor exercise
- her favorite.
"I like the floor because you get a
variety," Cain said. "The floor shows
more of your personality."
Along with the creativity that the
floor contains, it also has been the
place of some of Cain's highest
scores this year.
With more difficult routines being
added, and her competition increas-
ingly more fierce, Cain does not-
have any trouble keeping up with the
pressure.
And like her stellar performances
at meets, Sarah is a superb student as
well.
Although undecided in her major,
Cain takes some of the University's
most difficult classes, like chem-
istry.
Balancing academics and a- strong
athletic performance is not easy.
"I go to practice for three or four
hours, and then after that I have to
get my work done," Cain said.
"There isn't much time for free
time."
In fact, Cain came to Michigan
because she felt it has a great bal-

said. "It's not a step down from what
I was doing, but there is less pres-
sure."
Before coming to Michigan, Ca
was competing with Olympic hop .
fuls, although she grimaces at the
mention of the word.
"I was used to elite level gymnas-
tics, but I never wanted to go to the
Olympics," Cain said.
Right now, the level to which Cain
wants to ascend is that of qualifying
for the national meet.
But nationals aside, Cain already
has quite a season under her belt,
especially with the accomplishmO
of winning the two awards.
On Cain, Plocki is undoubtedly
impressed with what this freshman
has brought to the team.
"She really turned out to be a plea-
sure to have on the team as well as a
phenomenal competitor," Coach
Plocki said.
"She is conscientious, hardwork-
ing, and has a commitment to train-
ing and the team."
Now that the regional meet is over,
Cain has her eyes set on the biggest
treat of the season, the NCAA cham-
pionships.
"For the national meet we are
going to do the same thing as we did

.

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