March 25, 2006
EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the first time since 1998, the Big Ten Conference crowned a new women's gymnastics champion. The Minnesota Golden Gophers snapped Michigan's seven-year title streak with a winning performance in the 2006 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships at Michigan State's Jenison Fieldhouse. Led by Gymnast of the Year Laura Johnson, the Gophers posted a team score of 195.150 to beat out the hosting Spartans' mark of 194.975. The Gophers, who have been the only group to defeat Michigan in the Big Ten Championships in the past 14 years, celebrated the fifth title in program history.
The battle between second and third was decided by the slimmest of margins with the Spartans edging last year's runner-up Penn State by 0.050. The Spartans compiled some of their best performances of the year to take second-place honors - marking Michigan State's best team finish since taking second in the 1996 edition of the championships. The Nittany Lions finished third with 194.925.
Despite closing out the event with one of its best floor exercise team scores of the season, defending champion Michigan could not make up for early falters on beam. The Wolverines finished in fourth place with 194.475. Ohio State finished fifth with a score of 193.525, narrowly edging Iowa's mark of 193.425. Illinois rounded out the team standings with a score of 192.500.
The individual competition on vault was the tightest race of the night. With the standard set at 9.800 for the title, five gymnasts tied for first place in the event. Michigan State's Chayla Hilly, Michigan's Carol McNamara and defending champion Katie Lieberman, Minnesota's Johnson and Penn State's Corissa Pirkl all vaulted their way to first place. That group was followed by an eight-way tie for sixth at the 9.775-mark.
Penn State's Katie Perrett claimed sole possession of the individual crown on the uneven parallel bars with a score of 9.900. Michigan's Lauren Mirkovich tied Pirkl for second with scores of 9.875. Cara Pomeroy of Illinois received a 9.850 mark for her routine, and Johnson earned fifth with a 9.825-performance.
Michigan's Lindsey Bruck claimed the top spot on the podium in balance beam with a 9.875 routine. Minnesota's Ashley Stanton was close behind her in second with a score of 9.850. Michigan State's Briana Dicus, Illinois' Pomeroy and Julie Crall tied for third place honors with marks of 9.825.
The Wolverines swept the top four slots in the floor exercise. McNamara reached the podium again with a dazzling 9.900 routine while Deily, Becca Clauson and Lieberman all scored 9.875 to match Hill in a four-way tie for second.
With the balance beam title already locked down, Bruck picked up all-around honors, as well, with a score of 39.275. She edged Johnson and Michigan State's Kristen Coleman, who both tallied 39.100, for the title after finishing in second last year. Penn State's Jennifer Orlando finished fourth (39.025) and Ohio State's Maalika Moore-Thomas took fifth (38.750).
The Big Ten announced the winners of three post season awards at the conclusion of the championships. With second-place all-around honors already in her bag, Johnson, a four-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Week selection this season, snagged the award for Gymnast of the Year. The 2005 Big Ten Freshman of the Year award went to Michigan's Tatijana Thuener-Rego Michigan. Penn State's Steve Shephard and Michigan State's Kathie Klages were honored by there peers as Co-Coaches of the Year.
The 2006 All-Big Ten first team features three-time All-Conference honorees Jenny Deiley of Michigan and Laura Johnson of Minnesota. Illinois' Cara Pomeroy, Michigan's Lindsey Bruck and Penn State's Lisa Clark and Meredith Hoover were also repeat first-team picks after earning a spot on last season's first team. Making their first team debuts were Michigan's Tatjana Thuener-Rego, Michigan State's Kristin Coleman, Ohio State's Maalika Moore-Thomas and Penn State's Jennifer Orlando.
Members of the All-Big Ten second team include Illinois' Julie Crall; Iowa's Liz Grajewski; Michigan's Becca Clauson, Nellie Kippley, Katie Lieberman, Carol McNamara and Lauren Mirkovich; Michigan State's Victoria Iakounina; Ohio State's Brittany Brown; and Penn State's Aslynn Satterfield.
The conference office also announced honorees from each team for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Honorees for women's gymnastics are Illinois' Melissa Singer, Iowa's Liz Grajewski, Michigan's Nellie Kippley, Michigan State's Sarah Alexander, Minnesota's Maria Opsahl, Ohio State's Emily Sineway and Penn State's Stephanie Sullivan. These seven student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the school year.