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April 12, 1999 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-12

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6B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - April 12, 1999

Cain returns home in glory

By Stephen A. Romo
Daily Sports Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. - There were
two standing ovations from the
crowd at the Bob Devaney Sports
Complex on Saturday night at the
NCAA !Women's Gymnastics
Regional Championships.
The first was when hometown
favorite Nebraska was introduced
before the meet and the second was
when Nebraska native and Michigan
junior Sarah Cain was announced as
the winner of the all-around compe-
tition after the meet.
This was admirable, considering
the fact that Cain just helped
Michigan best the crowd's beloved
Huskers to earn a first-class ticket to
Salt Lake City for the NCAA
Championships, April 22-24.
"They wanted everyone to do
well," Cain said of the Nebraska
fans' willingness to support her
cause.
Perhaps feeling Cain was being a
bit too humble, Michigan coach Bev
Plocki quickly added, "I thought
they were rooting for Sarah."
It is tempting to contemplate why
an arena full of diehard fans would

welcome back an athlete that bolted
from the nest, or the fields as it
were, to compete some 750 miles
away.
A better question would be, why
did Cain do it?
Perhaps she felt Michigan could
better complement her athletic
potential.
In either case, Cain's roots may
still be in Lincoln where she was
born, but her body and soul are in
Michigan.
And that translates to a whole lot
of W's for 'M.'
Making her return home to
Lincoln, not too far from where she
went to high school in Grand Island,
Cain gave Cornhuskers fans the
opportunity to see first hand exactly
what they heard about for years.
Sarah Cain is good. Real good.
"I'd be lying ifI said I wasn't dis-
appointed," Nebraska coach Dan
Kendig said. "Any time you let qual-
ity out of your backyard, it's tough."
But as much as Kendig, and
everyone else, wanted to see Sarah
succeed, they no doubt wanted
Nebraska to do better.
And the faithful Cornhuskers fans

did everything they could to mak
that happen.
Although they recognized Cain
with applause during the meet'
introductions, that was definitely
where the love ended. Once Cain
took to her first event, the balance
beam, it became apparent that it was
Nebraska that had the all crowd sup
port.
The fans routinely belted out lou
cheers that seemed reminiscent to
those frequently heard down th
road in Memorial Stadium during
football games.
Consequently, it should not com
as too much of a surprise that Cain
didn't have her greatest outing of the
season that night.
"We have to stick landings. And
some of us have to work on that a lit-
tle harder than others," Cain said
about her vault landing.
Despite her performance, Cain
managed to secure the title of all-
around champion with her score of
39.525 - the second highest all-
around score for a visiting competi-
tor ever to the University of
Nebraska.
Welcome home.

JEREMY MENIK/y Dil
Sarah Cain and Nikki Peters headed a Region iii championship performance for the
Michigan women's gymnastics team.
r-
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IM' triumphs in three-ring circus

By Stephen A. Rom
Daily Sports Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. - From the
opening bell of Saturday's NCAA
women's regional gymnastics cham-
pionships, No. 4 Michigan came out
fighting.
It was fighting GYMATICS
the memories of
past disappoint- Commentary
ments.--------
It was fighting the distractions of
the boisterous crown.
And it was fighting the pressure of
being the number one seed.
Just as with most prestigious
prizefights, there was a good amount
of royalty associated with the
evening.
Yes it was all champagne and
caviar at the Bob Devaney Sports
Complex for this year's NCAA
Region III Championships at the
University of Nebraska.
Every amenity from judges being
escorted to their respective tables to
a classy rendition of the national
anthem - as sung by Lincoln's ver-
sion of 'The Backstreet Boys,'
(known as 'The Dog Pound') - had
a sense of style in the air.
One might have easily mistaken
the festivities to be more consistent

with men's basketball's Final Four
rather than an NCAA midwestern
regional in women's gymnastics.
Led by an extremely enthusiastic
public address announcer, Ray
Huppert - whose voice raised about
two octaves everytime he said the
words "Nebraska," "Huskers" or
"Red" - the building proved intimi-
dating for any one who didn't have
an affiliation with Nebraska's flat-
lands.
Oh yeah, that would be "Red" as in
Lil' Red, the University's new mas-
cot. But don't worry, they're not
doing away with that cute little
farmer with the corn hanging out of
his overalls.
Between Lil' Red and the predom-
inantly pro-Nebraska crowd that
"ooohed" and "ahhhed" after every
Husker routine, it proved to be a dif-
ficult evening for Michigan.
Difficult but not insurmountable.
Indeed, whether it was merely a
sufficient amount of preparation or
just an innate ability to rise above
adversity, the Wolverines overcame
the distractions.
And in the process, they brought
home the highest team score ever by
a visiting school to Nebraska -
196.750.
Some teams were not as fortunate.
Take No. 25 Arizona for instance.
"It was hard to keep in the
groove," Arizona junior Heidi
Hornbeek said at the post-meet press
conference. "I'm a little bummed."
Some teams really didn't care.
Take No. 22 Oklahoma.
The Sooner coaches belted out
more encouragement than
Michigan's round of high fives.

From all the hollering it seemed as
though the gymnasts from Norman,
Okla. were going to pull off the upset
of the century.
Make no mistake about it.
Everyone knew that the two favorites
to win the regionals and advance to
the NCAA Championships in Salt
Lake City later this month were
Michigan and Nebraska. The only
question was which school would
make the trip west with the presti-
gious honor of being the Region III
champion?
When it finally came time for
Huppert to read the top two team
scores on the evening, it was inter-
esting to observe the difference in
facial reactions from the Nebraska
friends and family sitting in the
stands and the actual gymnasts them-
selves.
The athletes seemed to know what
was coming as they almost mouthed
the phrase, "and second place goes
to the University of Nebraska."
Their cheering section, on the
other hand, was not as insightful. The
smiles and jubilation they had been
so proudly displaying on their faces
throughout the meet, were shucked
faster than an ear of corn off a stalk.
That can be understood.
Normally, when fans of a program
go to cheer on their seventh-ranked
gymnastics team, they do not expect
to be disappointed. After all, if you
are ranked No. 7 that means you did
some pretty good things throughout
the regular season.
Likewise, one could probably say
that the No. 4 team in the country did
a few things better.
To the victors go the spoils.

e
n
s
y
a
e-
s
d
e
g
e
DANA UNNANE/p
Brad Kenna and the Michigan men
gymnastics team continued to soar(j
the national standings this weekend.
GYMNASTICS
Continued from Page 1B
F The Wolverines started strong, with
four gymnasts scoring between 9.6 and
9.65. The consistency led the team to a
38.475, good enough for second-p
after one rotation.;
On the pommel horse, Michigan had
one of its best event rotations of the ye
Four gymnasts scored more than 9.7, le4
treby freshman Scott Vetere who recorded
a 9.825. The team score of 39.025 w
the best score of any team on any eent
in the competition, and vaulted th
Wolverines into first place.
Michigan continued its success on the
still rings with solid performances froni
all six gymnasts. Big Ten still ri'
champion Kenny Keener led
Wolverines with a 9.8. Michigan
jumped to a huge lead because of th
bye system. The other top schools -
Penn State and Ohio State - ha
already sat out a rotation.
In the first three events, he
Wolverines showed amazing talent and
consistency; in fact, 16 of 18 routines
scored at least a 9.5. But it is almost
impossible for a team to continue
such amazing success throughout
entire meet.
"We had the meet of our lives during
the first three events' Golder said. Bt
"we faltered a little bit on vault and par-
allel bars."
The Wolverines struggled a bit o
parallel bars, due in part to the absence
of Daniel Diaz-Luong. The freshmnap
standout was left out of the evept
because of a slightly sore hamstring. e
team missed the performance of the
Ten vault champion and lost som
momentum.
"Rather than risking him here, *
thought that we could give up a half-
point and save him for nationals;' sai
assistant coach Mike Burns.
The parallel bars were also slightly
under par for Michigan. Justin Toman
still led the team with a score of 9.7, but
could not match his performance
Big Ten's when he won the title wt
9.9125. The team total of 38.175 was
good but not the team's best.
The final event for Michigan was the
high bar. The event has been the
Wolverines' weakest all year. But the
Wolverines turned around their sagging
emotions, and performed well enough t
match the school record in the event.s
"The guys had a player-only huddt
before we went on to high bar, and they
really got themselves ready to "
Golder said.
Diaz-Luong notched the highest score
of the meet with his 9.85 on that event
The event score was 38.525 to bring the
team total to 231.05. The score was the
the second highest of the year for the
Wolverines and one of only a few scores
from any team to break 231.

While Michigan was impressive,
Ohio State was having its own spectacu-
lar meet. After the Wolverines pos
their score, they had to watch as Oheo
State had one event left.
The Buckeyes entered the vault
knowing that they needed a 38.15 to tie
Michigan. Ohio State barely got it, scor-
ing a 38.2.
The final score left Michigan only .05:
behind the Buckeyes for the title of East;
Regional champion.
"We only wanted to finish in the top
three;" Golder said. "I would have pre-
ferred to win, but really we didn't 4'
that much."
The final order of finish left Penn
State as the third qualifier for NCAAs.
Illinois was boosted by the home crowd
to finish fourth. Iowa, which had fin-
ished second at Big Ten championships:
only managed fifth.
"Our goal wasn't to win this one, it's
to win the next one" Burns said. "Let
them (Ohio State) feel like they're the.
best team in the country for a week."'
11 1 ®U - U W..E

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