Sports desk: 647-3336
.. a-i i u '.. a # # 3
OWA CITY - High expectations.
Here's the Michigan men's gymnastics
team, which won its first national
championship in 29 years last season, stun-
ning the nation, and making a large crack
in the Michigan sports world.
A team that went 0-
16 just a few years
prior earned the title
f the best team in the
So at the beginning
of this season, when
the Wolverines car-I
ried their Nike bags MARK
into Cliff Keen Arena, FRANCESCUfT
even more talented
than before, with Ed eCuttng
en and several
pstart freshmen, the conclusion of the
year seemed to already have been written.
From the beginning, another NCAA
championship was the only talk surround-
ing this program. Fans talked about it.
Coach Kurt Golder talked about it. The
gymnasts talked about.
When the Wolverines entered this week-
end's NCAAs, they were the squad to beat.
lThe Wolverines notched first place in
team preliminaries. And despite the target
on Michigan's head, everything looked in
place for another celebration.
It was the Wolverines' championship to
And unfortunately, they did just that.
Usually a competent squad, fall after fall
on the horizontal bar made Michigan look
The Wolverines' score was a poor
37.325 - but by some chance, they were
only down a little more than a point to
hometown Iowa. It was third down and
long, but it was still possible to move down
Michigan rebounded on the next event,
and entered the pommel horse within bet-
ter reach of the Hawkeyes. But the Wolver-
ines faltered again. After two straight
giveaways the championship trophy started
A successful rings routine, one of
Michigan's best events, gave it one final
With one event remaining, four teams
By Rohit Bhave
Daily Sports Writer
IOWA CITY - It was supposed to be No.1 Michigan's
coronation as repeat national champions.
Instead Penn State shocked the gymnastics world, nudg-
ing the Wolverines by the painfully close margin of
231.975-231.85 to win the 2000 NCAA men's gymnastics
"I'm still in a state of shock right now," Penn State coach
Randy Jepson said. "We did not let up on one routine until
the night was over, including the last one. Fortunately it was
enough for us to get by with a win"
For a team that finished second-to-last at the Big Ten
championships, Penn State's turn-
around at NCAAs was remark- NCAA
able. The fifth-ranked Nittany
Lions barely squeaked into the Championships
final six-team field, but when it
counted the most the Lions delivered, scoring 1.475 above
their season high - an astounding 6.125 points higher than
their performance at Big Tens.
Entering the final rotation at the championships, Michi-
gan, California and Penn State all stood within .2 points of
leading Iowa. As the defending national champion Wolver-
ines gnashed their teeth in anticipation of a final rally on
the vault, the Lions lurked behind patiently, preparing
themselves to compete on their best event, the pommel
While the 2,024 vocal spectators in attendance watched
the apparent showdown between Michigan (on the vault)
and Iowa (on the parallel bars) unfold, the Lions wrestled
away the national championship with their best pommel
horse performance of the year, recording a 39.075 on the
Michigan captain Justin Toman expresses his team's emotions after failing to defend the national title. The Wolverines took second place to
Penn State by .125 points.
were knotted within a tenth of a point -
one of the closest NCAA meets in history.
One tenth of a point -just how small is
Well, six events, six gymnasts - equals
36 scores. If just one of those 36 scores
tally a 9.7 instead of a 9.6, it would make
But what was Michigan's last event?
One of their suspects - the vault.
The vaulting "horse," about four feet
high, is like a steel table with a thin leather.
covering. It looks cold. It looks uninviting.
It looks like the event not to be on when
your team needs a high score.
Four teams, and Michigan was stuck on
possibly the worst apparatus.
But despite their faults from earlier in
the evening, Michigan turned on it's cham-
pion engine. One by one, the Wolverines
flew high, and landed softly to their best
performance of the season.
And then the worst part came - the
See, Michigan knew it's score, but what
about the other three teams? Judges hud-
died, fans flustered in their seats, competi-
tors stood with wide-eyed anxiety.
The ESPN guys called it a Michigan
Michigan faithful whispered "we won,
we got it."
But instead, the season ended with the
Penn State squad erupting into cheer. By
0.125 points, the Nittany Lions edged the
It's often easier to lose when you're out-
performed, but when you give away a
championship, it hurts even more.
"These guys are not going to be able to
sleep at all tonight," junior Brian Pascoe
said. "They're going to be saying a lot of
'what if's,' for awhile."
What if the men hadn't won last year?
What if Michigan could sneak up on teams
this season? The Wolverines held the No. 1
ranking from start to end, they finished 16-
2 and won the Big Ten Championship with
See FRANCESCUTTI, Page 3B
1. Penn State
6. Ohio State
Floor exercise champion
Jtmie Natalie Ohio State
Pommel horse champions
B. Stefaniak Penn State
Don Johnson .'Iowa
C. BramuelL. Brigham Young
Guard Young Brigham Young
Parallel bars champion
Kris Zimmerman Michigan
Justin Toman Michigan
Horizontal bar champion;
Michael Ashe California
All-around champion ,
Jamie Natalie Ohio State -
Brandon Stefaniak's heroic 9.95 on Penn State's final
routine of the night destroyed Michigan's back-to-back
Michigan was clearly not at its best Friday night - in
their most important meet of the year, the Wolverines
missed 10 of 36 routines. To compound matters, the sixth-
ranked Hawkeyes held a commanding lead for four rota-
Michigan not only had to fight its own mistakes, it had to
deal with a red-hot contender. Somehow, the Wolverines
mounted a valiant run. Though it lacked in perfection and
sharpness, Michigan nearly won the meet purely on com-
petitive desire and grit.
"We opened the door twice - on high bar and then on
pommel horse," Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. "Prior to
the meet, we thought (one bad event) was enough (to lose
the championship). Yet, we had our opportunity."
Opening the meet with a strong 39.275 performance on the
parallel bars, Michigan appeared to be on its way to repeating
as champion. However, the Wolverines dug themselves a hole
with their subsequent high bar performance of 37.325.
As host Iowa opened the meet on fire, it appeared Michi-
gan would need a flawless finish to win.
While the Wolverines responded on the floor exercise
with a 38.975, Iowa continued to set a blistering scor-
ing pace with near-perfect routines. Needing a strong
See NCAA, Page 3B
on 16-game roll
By Sam Duwe
Daily Sports Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE - The Purdue fans were angry.
Blaming the umpire, they yelled and booed every time a
strike blew by an unsuspecting Boilermaker. Purdue Pete
*ook his head in shame.
But Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said it was the pitch-
ing, not the officiating, that beat Purdue yesterday, 2-0, and
led the Wolverines (4-0 Big Ten, 22-6 overall) to a 4-0 week-
end in the state of Indiana.
"I felt really good when I was out there," starting pitcher
Marie Barda said. "I thought I was throwing pretty accurate
and hitting my spots. Everything was working."
Barda, who has a 0.25 ERA, pitched yesterday's game in
its entirety. The junior, who is now 9-3 for the season, had a
Sccessful weekend, pitching two complete games including
one-hitter on Friday and a save on Saturday. She didn't give
up a single run the whole weekend.
But in a sport where pitching is everything, Hutchins was
slightly critical of Barda's performance.
"I didn't think she was at her best, but she got in a couple
jams and got behind on some hitters and came back,"
Hutchins sid "She had nitehed the day hefore and I think
No.. 1 women's gymnastics
dominates NCAA Regionals
By Richard Haddad
Daily Sports Writer
NCAA nationals set
Regional competitions across the nation this past
weekend set the 12-team field for the NCAA
Championships, tobe held April 13-15 in Boise:
Michigan tops the list of survivors:,
STATE COLLEGE - The technicalities have been
taken care of After an entire season spent aiming at
the NCAA Championships, the Michigan women's
gymnastics team is finally headed there.
As expected, No. 1 Michigank won the Region V
NCAA Championship at Penn State with ease on Sat-
urday. The Wolverines recorded a 196.550 to finish
ahead of the host Nittany Lions and Florida, who
scored 195.925 and 195.875, respectively.
The top two placers at regionals qualify for the
NCAA Championships, which will take place in
Boise on Apr. 13-15. Penn State earned the right to
join Michigan among the field of 12 teams invited to
Idaho by a mere half of a tenth of a point. In a sport
decided by judges, the Nittany Lions' and Gators'
final rotations were as suspenseful as a gymnastics
meet can get.
But the Wolverines still brought home the trophy.
Coming off of a record-setting Big Ten Championship
performance, Michigan's scores were lower than they
have been as of late, but those scores should not be
the postseason, and that's the way it should be."
On this occasion, the Wolverines were comfortably
enough ahead that they didn't need to worry about
eighths of tenths.
Michigan opened up the competition by taking the
top two places on the floor exercise. Senior captain
Sarah Cain claimed her usual first place with a 9.900,
and freshman Janessa Grieco directly followed with a
momimom' -, m jo ~lW -I _ fl 1