Amy Farnum, NCAA.com
The casual gymnastics fan probably didn’t understand why the University of Michigan team exploded into applause and cheers for their senior captain Trish Wilson after a routine in which she fell during last weekend’s competition at New Hampshire.
The score – a 9.375 – didn’t matter. The fact Wilson got back up on the bars after slipping and falling while trying overshoot to a handstand, and finished the routine by sticking her dismount was what counted.
“When someone falls during a routine, you’re not usually jumping up and down, excited about it,” said head coach Bev Plocki. “When she finished that routine I think our team was as excited for her to be through that first routine, and show she could do it, than any of the other routines we hit and scored well on. I know when she comes back out this weekend she’ll be hitting her routines from here on out and scoring well.”
Wilson’s bar routine against UNH marked the first time she had competed since the 2009 NCAA Regionals after missing all of last year with a knee injury – the fourth of her gymnastics career. The decision to return and compete again took a lot of soul-searching for Wilson, who did not begin fall training with the Wolverines until a month after it started.
“I definitely had to weigh some of the risks and benefits of coming back, and ultimately I knew if I could rehab and get over my fears and hesitation and stay mentally strong, it would be a tough road, but it was definitely possible,” Wilson said.
Mainly, the team-oriented Wilson wanted another shot at being a part of her much-loved squad.
“We have a team of extraordinary coaches and girls and trainers, and it was hard to stay away from that,” Wilson said. “Being able to come back and compete for them one more time was what really drew me back to the sport.”
Plocki commends Wilson’s ability to have supported and encouraged her teammates throughout the years despite her personal battles with injury.
“That’s an extremely difficult thing to do when you want to be out there so badly yourself and can’t be, and you’re watching all your friends go out there and do it,” Plocki said. “For her to have maintained the positive energy that she has kept and held on to throughout all of this has been incredible.”
Wilson’s determination has been an inspiration for the Wolverines, and they are hoping the excitement they had after her first routine last week continues throughout the rest of the season.
“They genuinely care about each other,” Plocki said. “They know how badly she wants to do this and have seen everything that she’s been through. Her team would be ecstatic for her if she is able to finish the season on the uneven bars. I think it would be uplifting for all of us.”
Wilson, who won the 2009 Big Ten title on the bars, is not the only gymnast returning to the Wolverines’ lineup in midseason. Michigan should also get a boost from All-America sophomore Brittnee Martinez in the bars lineup when it hosts Nebraska and Stanford on Feb. 13. For the No. 8 Wolverines, the two gymnasts are a welcome addition as they look toward competing in the postseason.
“Having Trish and Brittnee back in the lineup on bars will help us easily boost our team total by a couple of tenths on that event,” Plocki said. “In our sport, to be able to raise your team score by two-tenths a lot of times makes a difference between winning and losing a competition. We’re not really sure with Brittnee’s ankle what else she’ll be able to come back on, but right now we’re just hoping for a bar dismount. If she is able to get back into some other lineups, that would help us significantly as well.”
Need to Know
• Arkansas defeated Georgia for the first time in the Razorbacks’ nine-year program history with a 195-776-195.40 victory last weekend. The Gym Dogs were the lone Southeastern Conference team that Arkansas had not beaten. The win also gave the Razorbacks three consecutive SEC victories for the first time in history. Junior Jamie Pisani won her fourth consecutive all-around title, posting season-highs on the uneven bars (9.85) and beam (9.825). Pisani, who notched Arkansas’ top score or tied for the team-high on all four events, was named SEC Gymnast of the Week for her stellar performance in the history-making win.
• Stanford junior Nichole Pechanec’s signature move on the uneven bars made its collegiate debut in the Cardinal’s win against San Jose State on Feb. 5, earning her the event title and Pac-10 Conference Special Performance-of-the-Week honors. Anchoring the bars rotation, Pechanec performed a twisting release move off the high bar that she invented, and scored a career-high 9.925 to win the event. The move was dubbed the “Pechancova” for the surname she used at the World Championships while competing for the Czech Republic. Pechanec was born to Czech parents, and her mother Yvette competed on the Czech National Team.
• Florida freshman Mackenzie Caquatto registered the highest score ever by a Gator in her all-around debut, posting a 39.575 to win the event as she helped the top-ranked Gators defeat then-No. 6 Alabama on Feb. 4. The native of Naperville, Ill., also won the uneven bars (9.90) and balance beam (9.925) in the meet, while totaling the nation’s second-highest all-around score of the season. Caquatto, who joined the team for the spring semester after competing for the U.S. team at the 2010 World Gymnastics Championship in October, earned SEC Freshman Gymnast of the Week honors for her performance.
• Michigan senior Kylee Botterman continued to dominate in the all-around, winning her fifth title in five meets this season in the Wolverines’ victory at New Hampshire on Feb. 5. Botterman, who ranks third in the nation with a 39.480 all-around average, claimed her fourth Big Ten Gymnast of the Week award for her performance.
• Nebraska senior Erin Davis picked up her third consecutive Big 12 Event Specialist-of-the-Week honor after winning the vault in two meets against Missouri and Oklahoma. She ranks second in the nation on the vault with a 9.925 average.
• No. 5 Oklahoma heads into a dual meet at No. 25 Iowa State with the nation’s longest regular-season winning streak at 22. The Sooners are 8-0 on the season after turning back Nebraska last weekend.
• Western Michigan sophomore Caitlin Sullivan earned first place in five of six events as she sparked her team to wins against Eastern Michigan and Michigan State last weekend. It was the first time in nine tries that WMU upended EMU, and only the second time in school history the Broncos beat the Spartans. A native of Elkhart, Ind., Sullivan was named Mid-American Conference Gymnast of the Week for her contributions.