Iowa City, Iowa-- The No. 7 Michigan Wolverines' seventh consecutive Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championship will be one that they will never forget. The school's 13th title in 14 years was won by the smallest margin in championship history. The Wolverines held off an impressive run by No. 11 Penn State, highlighted by an incredible meet-ending beam performance, to win the conference crown with a score of 196.250. The Nittany Lions finished with 196.125. In third place, the Minnesota Golden Gophers finished with 195.375.
The top three teams split the individual titles, with Michigan winning four events, Penn State three, and Minnesota taking home two individual trophies.
The vault saw three gymnasts tie for the top mark. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year Katie Lieberman finished tied for first with a score of 9.900. She was matched by Michigan teammate Jenny Deiley and Minnesota's Ashley Mutchler. The victories by Lieberman and Deiley marked the first Michigan win in the event since 2000 and Mutchler's vault made her the first Gopher to win the event since 1989. Like at the top, a Wolverine and Gopher tied for fourth. Elise Ray of Michigan and Carolyn Yernberg of Minnesota finished just off the pace with a 9.875. Ray and Yernberg also shared the 2005 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Award.
Penn State's Kristal Uzelac had a fantastic individual evening. Her score of 9.925 on the uneven parallel bars earned her the event's title. Uzelac's win was the first fever or a Nittany Lion on the bars. A pair of Wolverines tied for second. Seniors Ray and Lauren Mirkovich both ended the event with a score of 9.900. Ray was the 2004 Big Ten champion in the event. Michigan sophomore Lindsey Bruck and junior Deiley, Minnesota junior Laura Johnson, Penn State junior Michelle Ilg, and Illinois sophomore Cara Pomeroy finished tied for fourth at 9.850.
The balance beam marked Uzelac's second Big Ten title of the night, with a winning score of 9.950. Uzelac's victory on the beam was Penn State's first win in the event since 2000. Again a duo of Wolverines tied for the second position. Bruck and Ray each finished with scores of 9.900 on the beam. Ray won the event at last year's Big Ten Championship. Ohio State senior Elizabeth Meaney came in fourth with a score of 9.875. The Penn State team finished the night on the beam, closing the gap on Michigan. Their team performance of 49.175 was the highest of the night, and included incredible performances by all six Lion athletes.
The Michigan squad pulled the victory out in dramatic fashion on the floor. Ray's meet-ending 9.825-performance capped the night for the Wolverines. Ray's teammate Becca Clauson tied with Yernberg and Penn State's Kate Stopper for the top spot in the event with a total of 9.850. Ray finished tied for fourth with teammates Bruck and Nellie Kippley, and Nittany Lion Lisa Clark. Ray was last year's co-champion on the floor. Yernberg's floor victory was the first for the Gophers since 1996 and Stopper was the first Lion to top the event in Big Ten Championship history.
As she did in 2004, Michigan senior Elise Ray won the 2005 Big Ten Women's All-Around Championship. Her score of 39.500 was just enough to edge out teammate Lindsey Bruck and Penn State's Kristal Uzelac who both ended the meet with a total of 39.425. Ray is the fourth gymnast to win back-to-back all-around titles, and the second Wolverine to accomplish the feat.
The Big Ten also announced the winners of five post season awards. The members of the Second Team All-Big Ten are Kara Kapernekas, Illinois; Lauren Newcomb, Illinois;
Liz Grajewski, Iowa; Becca Clauson, Michigan; Shanna Duggan, Michigan; Katie Lieberman, Michigan; Sarah Alexander, Michigan State; Chayla Hill, Michigan State;
Karley Walek, Ohio State; and Kristal Uzelac , Penn State. The First Team All-Big Ten selections are Cara Pomeroy, Illinois; Lindsey Bruck, Michigan; Jenny Deiley, Michigan; Elise Ray, Michigan; Laura Johnson, Minnesota; Carolyn Yernberg. Minnesota; Elizabeth Meaney, Ohio State; Lisa Clark, Penn State; Meredith Hoover, Penn State;
and Kate Stopper, Penn State.
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. These 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. Margaret Dann, Illinois; Allyson Zipse, Iowa; Chelsea Kroll, Michigan; Anna Hunsinger, Michigan State; Maria Opsahl, Minnesota; Brittany Livingston, Ohio State; and Cecile Allen, Penn State.
Also announced was the 2005 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Michigan's Katie Lieberman. Michigan's Elise Ray and Minnesota's Carolyn Yernberg were named Big Ten Co-Gymnasts of the Year and Bob Starkell of Illinois was selected by his peers as this year's Coach of the Year.