Kent St. punches first nationals ticket
Golden Flashes punch first ticket to nationals in school history
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- No. 9 Michigan overcame a fall in the very first routine of the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional Championships to stick 23 straight routines and cruise to a 197.075 total to win the regional title Saturday night at Crisler Arena. Earning the third-highest regional score in program history and the team's highest team score of the year, Michigan led from start to finish, winning three of four individual event titles and the all-around.
Regional underdog Kent State pulled off a historic upset, catching No. 4-ranked Stanford and outdueling No. 16 Ohio State and No. 23 Minnesota in the final rotation to finish second and punch its ticket to nationals. The Buckeyes took third, Stanford and Minnesota tied for fourth, and Iowa State took sixth. Michigan and Kent State automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships, held April 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Senior Kylee Botterman led an all-around effort, capturing the floor exercise title (9.925) and the all-around crown (39.500), giving her five regional titles in her career, including three straight floor titles and back-to-back honors in the all-around. Botterman was also honored as the NCAA Northeast Regional Gymnast of the Year following the meet, becoming just the fourth U-M gymnast to earn the honor in program history.
Fifth-year senior Jordan Sexton and senior Trish Wilson shared the uneven bars title with matching scores of 9.900, giving Sexton back-to-back regional titles on bars and continuing Wilson's comeback story in her final season of gymnastics following four ACL surgeries.
Freshman Joanna Sampson broke onto the regional scene with a vault title, scoring a season-best 9.900 -- Michigan's first vault crown at regionals since 2002.
Michigan opened the meet with a fall on beam but rather than crumble, the next five gymnasts stuck their routines to give the Wolverines a respectable 48.975 team score and a 0.025 lead through the first rotation. Botterman and sophomore Katie Zurales put exclamation points on the rotation with 9.850 and 9.875 scores, respectively, with Zurales finishing the night with runner-up honors on the event and tying a season best with her effort.
After sitting out a rotation, the Wolverines opened floor with a pair of 9.825s -- the third-highest scores of the night -- before Sexton broke things open with a 9.875, followed by back-to-back 9.900 scores from freshman Reema Zakharia and sophomore Natalie Beilstein. Capping the rotation was Botterman and her 9.925, posting the highest score of the night through three teams and staking Michigan to a 0.600 lead over second-place Stanford through two events.
Michigan moved directly to vault where the Wolverines rocked all six routines to score a 49.325 -- the fourth-best score of the year. Sampson nailed a 9.900 with the third routine and Beilstein and Botterman stuck matching 9.875s to give Michigan a near full-point lead over second-place Stanford and the rest of the field with one event remaining.
Michigan then attacked bars, scoring 49.350 -- just 0.025 points shy of the third-best regional score in program history. Sexton nailed a 9.900 routine to defend her regional crown on the event and sophomore Brittnee Martinez returned to full form after battling injuries all year, tying a career high with a 9.875 to tie for third on the event. Wilson's 9.900 helped her share the regional title with Sexton. Wilson, who is returning for one last season of gymnastics after six knee surgeries and four torn ACLs, has reached the podium in six of the last seven meets, taking two titles and finishing third at Big Tens on bars.
The Wolverines take a week off before traveling to Cleveland for the NCAA Championships. Michigan will learn its championships schedule on Monday.