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March 25, 1999 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-25

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r IA - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 25, 1999
Best of the best compete in Iowa

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PICK 'EM!

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By Da Dingerson
Daily Sports Writer
This weekend, the Michigan men's gymnas-
tics team makes the trek to Iowa to compete for
the title of Big Ten champions. The meet will
take place tomorrow through Saturday in
Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Big Ten Championships could be the
most exciting meet of the
gymnastics season. The GYMNASTICS
honor of winning the Big
Ten title may not seem to Commentary
be the most prestigious ------------------__
award in the country, but this year it is.
Throughout the season , the Big Ten has dom-
inated the rankings as well as most of the invita-
tional meets. Currently, the Big Ten has seven
teams ranked in the nation's top 20.
,That might not sound particularly impressive,
cpnsidering that in men's basketball, seven Big
Ten teams graced the top 25 almost all year. But
as in other sports, Big "Ten" is somewhat of a
misnomer. Only seven Big Ten teams compete in
men's gymnastics.
In addition, the teams hold six of the top seven
spots in the rankings. Michigan leads the way,
having recently claimed the top ranking.
The meet should also be a good preview of
the NCAA East Regional. The top six teams in
the Big Ten will probably qualify for the region-
al.
The six Big Ten teams ranked in the top ten -
Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Illinois
and Michigan State - have all moved around
the rankings this year. Three have been ranked
No. 1.
Breaking down the rankings, the Big Ten
4ominates. In each event the Big Ten has at least
fivp teams ranked in the top ten. An athlete from
4 Big Ten school ranks either first or second in
every event individually.

"I think that any of the top four - Michigan,
Penn State, Ohio state and Iowa - pave a
chance to win Big Ten's and also a legimate
chance to win the national championship,'
Michigan coach Kunt Golder said.
With that in mind; let's take a look at the Big
Ten and assess each team's chance to win this
weekend.
No. 1 MICHIGAN: The Wolverines have had
their best performanc es of the season the past
two weekends. In both meets against Michigan
State they scored over 230, and finally recorded
a top score on the road. The scores are a direct
result of the team's growth throughout the year
and increased health in recent weeks. The added
diversity allows Golder to place his gymnasts in
their best events. Daniel Diaz-Luong leads the
all-around, currently rnnked fourth nationally.
Michigan is peaking right now. Look for them to
continue their streak, as their confidence and tal-
ent are at the highest level of the year. The
Wolverines will look to avenge earlier losses to
Ohio State and Iowa.
No. 2 PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions have
been one of the most connistent teams of the year
without being spectacular. They've been ranked
No. 1 for most of the season. The team is led by
Brandon Stefaniak, whose scores have been
consistently good - like his team's. Penn State
is a very good team, but h,.1s not showed the abil-
ity to score as high as son:me other teams.
No. 3 OHIO STATE: Thie Buckeyes were the
best team in the nation imt February. They beat
Michigan in Ann Arbor aind became the first
team to break 230 this season. Jamie Natalie is
the top-ranked all-around performer in the coun-
try right now. Ohio State has beaten Michigan
twice and may be offended at the Wolverines'
No. I ranking. The Buckeye s hate Michigan and
now have one more reason t o perform well.
No. 4 IowA: The Hawkeyes started the year

ranked No. 1 and won the season-opening
Windy City Invitational. Since then, the team
has been consistently good but has not scored
more than 230 this year. Competing at home will
help the team as it did earlier this year when the
Hawkeyes beat the Wolverines. Iowa has been a
great program in the past, but doesn't seem to be
performing as well as the Buckeyes or
Wolverines this year.
No.5 ILLINOIS: The Fighting Illini started the
year at their worst, and have been improving
since then. At an early season meet in Ann,
Arbor, five out of six competitors fall in one
event. The team finished second in the NCAA
last year and most of that team is still in place
including defending national all-around champi-
on Travis Romagnoli. Currently he is ranked
second in the all-around; his experience may
give him an advantage.
No.7 MICHIGAN STATE: Until recent weeks it
didn't seem as though the Spartans were in the
same class as the top five teams. In both meets
against Michigan, the Spartans topped 229 and
set their season-high both weeks. The team is
peaking right now, ranking first in the floor exer-
cise and in the top 10 in all six events. Michigan
State is the sleeper team that some schools won't
be ready for. Only Michigan has seen the
Spartans perform their best, and there is no rea-
son why they won't continue that trend this
weekend.
No. 17 MINNESOTA: Talk about March
Madness. If Minnesota won the Big Ten
Championships, it would be a bigger upset than
Florida A&M beating Duke in basketball.
Although the Golden Gophers are ranked, they
are in a different class than the other six Big Ten
teams, their average is more than ten points
behind Michigan. Minnesota will probably be
the only team from the Big Ten staying home for
regionals.

DANA IUNNANE/Daily
Josh Levin and the top-ranked Wolverines will compete to be the best of the best this
weekend in Iowa City at the Big Ten Championships.

i

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Postseason begins for
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LOUIS BROWN/Daily

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By Stephen A. Rom
Daily Sports Writer
It's a brand new season.
And with that knowledge, the
Michigan women's gymnastics team
will travel to Michigan State on
Saturday to compete in the Big Ten
Championships. This will be the first
of three post-season meets for the
Wolverines that could culminate in the
NCAA Championships in Salt Lake
City on April 22-24.
Winning the Big Ten Championship
this weekend would be a fitting end to
a season that saw the Wolverines go 4-
1 in conference meets and 13-4 over-
all. But the title is not imperative for
them to achieve their ultimate goal -
a national championship.
"We want to win the Big Ten
crown,' Michigan coach Bev Plocki
said. "But in all reality, it means noth-
ing to our potential success in the
NCAAs."
Plocki knows this quite well.
She has seen her team secure the
Big Ten crown in six of the last seven
years, but never once continue on to
win a national championship. The
closest the Wolverines ever came was
a second-place tie in 1995.
Nonetheless, this team is different
than in years past. It has a strong mix
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of both young and veteran gymnasts
that will bring experience and enthusi-
asm to the post-season.
But perhaps if there is something
the Wolverines should concern thenj
selves with, it would be to remain trtW
to what has earned them the succ
that they enjoy today. 9
"We're trying to focus on the fact
that just because we are going into the
'championship' part of the season, we
don't want to change what we have
been doing," Plocki said.
What the team has been doing is
putting up record numbers. In two of
the last three meets, the Wolverines
topped their season-high team score.
Two weeks ago against UCLA, they
brought home the sixth-highest tea
score in Michigan history. And inlI
weekend's season finale, the
Wolverines dismantled Michigan
State in the very same building that
they will be competing in on Saturday.
But, this trip to the Jenis p
Fieldhouse will prove a little more
challenging than the walk in the park
they had last week against the
Spartans. Yes, Michigan State will bq
there for another stroll, but so m*
five other Big Ten teams ranked in the
top-25, including three in the top 10. k
"This is going to be the toughest
conference meet since I have been at
Michigan," Plocki said.
One team that Plocki said she feels
will give the Wolverines the most
trouble is Penn State. The Nittany
Lions were ranked fifth at the end of
the regular season and have been a
constant thorn in Michigan's side,
After Penn State jumped ahead
Michigan in the national poll, thy
Wolverines were never able to surpass
the Lions again.
But regardless of the caliber of
competition, if Michigan can put
together a mistake free outing, that
will be enough to carry the team
wherever it wants to go.
"Concerning ourselves with the
things we can control is what w"
make this outcome a win,' Plo
said.

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