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April 03, 2000 - Image 14

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-04-03

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68 - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - April 3, 2000

'M' fans rock Penn State

RIONA
ContInued from Page 1B
witha maize and blue paint brush.
The Wolverines' best showmn was
recorded on the uneven bars. The team
turned in its fourth-highest score of the
year on the apparatus, and Cain's winning
score of 9.95 set a season high Freshman
Tara Tagliarino's gracefully exec uted rou-
tine, which earned a 9.85, set off the large
Michigan fan contingent in the stands.
Throughout the meet, the Michigan
faithful made its presence known.
Encouraged by the gymnasts, the group
of parents and gymnastics groupies
exchanged the "Go Blue" cheer with the
team - the ubiquitous cow bell even
made an extended appearance before it
was quieted by meet officials because of
the distraction it presented. Jealous at
being upstaged on their own turf, Penn
State offered a counteroffensive chant of
"We r ... Penn State%" but similar to the
contest waged on the mats, Penn State
paled in comparison to Michigan.
The Wolverines' generous lead head-
ing into the final event proved to be cru-
cial. Michigan experienced uncharacter-
istic difficulties on the balance beam, as
the team's first fall in weeks was suffered
by Cain. Despite wins on the other three
apparatuses, the fault cost the Region V
Gymnast of the Year and current top-
ranked gymnast in the nation her second

'M[' women again provds
worthy of top ranking

consecutive regional all-around title.
But Michigan's Shannon MacKenzie
and Cami Singer did manage second and
third place on the beam, with a 9.9 and a
9.875, respectively, behind Florida's
Chrissy Van Fleet's winning 9.925. Van
Fleet took home the all-around champi-
onship with a score of 39.375.
The atypical difficulties that Michigan
experienced should be taken lightly,
according to the team.
"There wasn't a letdown" coming off
of the Big Ten Championships, Cain said.
"Big Ten's are a bigger meet to us than
regionals. There isn't really a whole lot
that comes out of regionals except for
moving on to nationals, and you only
have to break the top two to do that"
And the NCAA Championships are
the goal that Michigan has been focusing
on all year. After finishing as runner-up
last season, the Wolverines are as excited
to reach Boise as any tourists could be.
"I wanted the kids to treat it as any
other day, Plocki said. "But I also told
them that while people might tell you that
you're ranked, or you deserve this, you
don't deserve anything you don't earn.
They went out and earned it tonight."
"We didn't take anything for granted
today," co-captain Bridget Knaeble
added. "We fought our hardest, and had a
little bit of trouble, but pulled it out. A
week and a half until we leave for Boise,
and we're ready to go."

By Sarah Ensor
Daily Spoits Writer
STATE COLLEGE - Being the best
is an interesting phenomenon.
There is a definite mystique associated
with the top-ranked team in any sport -
an aura accompanied by the additional
pressure placed on and respect afforded
to all those involved.
This weekend, the No. 1 Michigan
women's gymnastics team proved that it
is indeed the best in the land, shouldering
the burden of the expectations that
accompaniied its ranking and earning the
respect of opponents and fans alike.
As the Wolverines rolled to victory in
the NCAAk Region V Championships,
they demoinstrated that their four-week-
long run at the top of the polls is unlike-
ly to end anytime soon.
Throughcut the meet, there was no
doubt as to who the champion was going
to be. The competition was for second
place, as none of the other squads even
dreamed of stopping the high-caliber
Michigan attack. There were essentially
six teams -ying for one spot in the
NCAA championships, as Michigan had
first locked up before the race began.
After the meet, Steve Shephard, coach
of runner-up Penn State, voiced his admi-
ration for the Michigan program.
Michigan coach "Bev Plocki3has done
a great job with the athletes that she has,"
Shephard said. "Michigan has done a
tremendous job in terms of consistency
and the quality of gymnastics that they're
doing. They're challenging the athletes
they recruit to do a high level of skill, and
refusing to water down the athletes they
recruit to get to a higher level"
In addition to the respect factor,
Michigan demonstrated a level of confi-
dence only possible for the best team in
the country. Thee Wolverines were self-

assured and poised, refusing to be rattled
by setbacks in their path.
After two Michigan gymnasts unchar-
acteristically fell off the balance beam, it
would have been easy for the tean,
grow nervous or shaky, second-guessing
its chance for success. But these
Wolverines have seen it all before - and
know that the caliber of Michigan gym-
nastics extends well beyond the confines
of one event in one meet.
"I'd say we're still exactly where We
want to be," Plocki said. "I don't think
that our falls from beam tonight are an
indication that we're going downhill.
We'll pick it up in the finals."
With their high level of competift
and the consistent success of their gym-
nasts, the Wolverines turn heads. While
Penn State was clearly the fan favorite in
State College, other squads' fans couldn't
help but sneak a glance at Michigan's
routines. This meet was their chance to
see the best in action and they seized the
opportunity. As each of the Wolverines'
four rotations came to a close, there was
a visible shift in the audience, as he
turned to watch the Region V Gyms
of the Year, Sarah Cain, perform.
As competition concluded, the entite
audience saw what most in attendance
had known all along - the Michigan
women's gymnastics team is the best in
the land.
The Wolverines command respect,
have attracted a loyal following, and,
most importantly, continue to excel. They
are proving to the rest of the country
what it means to be No. 1.
Perhaps it was Shephard who puo
the best, summing up not only his, bit
the entire audience's, sentiments towaYd
the Wolverines.
"My hat goes off to Michigan - their
coaching staff and their athletes'
Shenhard said. "We admire them.

Photo Courtesy of Cara Davis Herter/Daily Colegian
The Michigan women's gymnastics team celebrates its Region V championship. The
Wolverines swept past the competition and qualified for the NCAA Championships.
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