2007 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships Preview

March 28, 2007

The 2007 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships features seven Big Ten teams, including four of which are ranked in the top 20 nationally this season.  Eleventh-ranked Michigan leads the conference heading into the championship and searching for its 14th Big Ten title. The Wolverines had a seven-year title streak snapped last year when the Minnesota Golden 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.

This year's competition looks to be just as neck and neck with five teams entering the weekend with a team score average less than a point shy of each other. The 12th-ranked Nittany Lions hold the top spot atop the conference standings followed by the 13th-ranked Michigan Wolverines and the 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans who are looking for their first conference team crown. The 2007 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships will be hosted by the Penn State University. Team and all-around competition gets underway Saturday, March 31 at 6 p.m. at Rec Hall.

Michigan State's Rochelle Robinson holds the top spot among conference competitors in the vault with a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 9.905, a mark that also puts her at No. 8 in the nation. A two-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Week, Robinson hit a perfect 10.0 at the Fox Run Invitational, hosted by The University of New Hampshire on Feb 10. The season-high score is the first perfect 10.0 in Spartan history on the vault, propelling MSU to a team score of 194.000 and a first-place finish. Robinson figures to be a podium contender after a consistent freshman season in which she has claimed five vault titles.

Robinson will face tough competition in two-time co-defending champion Katie Lieberman and her Michigan teammates who lead the conference as a team in vault, averaging 49.036 in the event. The Wolverine junior enters the event with a RQS of 9.880. Last year's second team All-Big Ten selection, Lieberman has posted a high mark of 9.900 this season. She will be pushed by teammate and No. 36 Tatjana Thuener-Rego. The 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Thuener-Rego ranks tied for third in the conference with a RQS of 9.865. Her best mark of the year is the conference's second-best 9.925. Four teams feature two vaulters who rank among the conference's top 10, including Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan.

Iowa's Katie Turcotte and Illinois' Nicole Cowart, ranked third and seventh in the conference respectively, should make a push for the title as well. Turcotte holds a season-high score of 9.900 while Cowart holds a slightly better 9.796 average than the Hawkeye on the season. 

Uneven Bars
For the third straight year the Wolverines head into the weekend with the top spot in the uneven bars both as a team and individually. Michigan's Becky Bernard leads the conference, boasting a RQS of 9.905 that ranks sixth in the country. In her first collegiate all-around competition on March 16, the sophomore put up the second highest bars score of her collegiate career (9.925) against No. 18 Missouri. Bernard owns four bars titles in 10 meets this season, posting an average score of 9.827. Joining Bernard is teammate is Thuener-Rego who is ranked 22nd in the nation and fourth in the conference with a RQS of 9.880. Michigan State's Kristen Coleman and Illinois' Cara Pomeroy will also be in the mix for title honors. Both athletes posted the second-best RQS of 9.885 while also matching Bernard's top score of the season.

Pomeroy finished fourth while Coleman finished in a two-way tie for eighth in the 2006 competition, and will face some familiar competition in Penn State teammates Katie Perrett, Corissa Pirkl and Alexandra Brockway who  are also in the conference's top 10. While Michigan may have had a slight lead over PSU going into the championships, the Nittany Lions have been able to place two individuals on the top of the podium the past two years including defending champion Perrett. The sophomore returns to the championships ranked fifth while teammate and co-runner up Pirkl sits sixth in the conference standings. Brockway rounds out the Nittany Lions in eighth with a season-high score of 9.900.

Balance Beam
After being shut out of the top eight spots in the event last year, the hosting Penn State have improved considerably with a RQS of 48.995 and four Nittany Lions within the conference's top 10. Senior Stephanie Sullivan anchors a solid crew this season averaging 9.831 in the event to place her second in the conference (11th nationally) behind Michigan State's Coleman. Freshmen Brandi Personett (No. 4T) and Casey Rohrbaugh (No. 9) and sophomore Perret (No. 4T) join Sullivan in hopes of landing a title. With a RQS of 9.885, Coleman commands the Big Ten lead. A two-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Week, Coleman is eighth in the nation on beam and averages a 9.784 on the event. Her season best is 9.950. She is joined by teammate Nicole Curler who stands in fourth in the Big Ten standings.

Illinois' Julie Crall is back after capturing third place a year ago with a RQS of 9.845 and enough for third in conference. Always a threat will be Michigan's Bernard and Thuener-Rego, who rank seventh and eighth in the conference, respectfully.

Floor Exercise
While leading conference teams on the balance beam, Penn State also runs the field in the floor exercise with an RQS of 49.140. Personett is ranked 12th nationally, averaging a floor routine of 9.819. Two Spartans Curler (No. 2) and Coleman (No. 3) follow closely, matching Personett's high score of 9.950 on the season.

Iowa's Jennifer Simbhudas leads the way for the Hawkeyes in the event with a RQS of 9.865. Ranked fourth in the conference, Simbhudas shares a RQS with Minnesota's fifth ranked Carmelina Carabajal. Joining Personett in the top 10 is teammate Aslynn Satterfield. Satterfield placed in a four way tie for second last year and despite sitting seventh in the conference this year, the Nittany Lion has the best average floor routine of anyone with 9.829. The podium-tested Wolverines placed five gymnast last year and will look for recently crowned Athlete of the Week Bernard (No. 6) and teammate Lieberman (No. 9) to decorate the standings in Maize and Blue.

All Around
Michigan State's Coleman returns to improve on her second place finish a year ago to lead the conference with a RQS of 39.420 and season average score of 39.223. Threatening is in-state rival Thuener-Rego, whose RQS is second in the conference and just .054 off Coleman's mark. Huneth Lor, who ranks sixth (39.060) will also give the Wolverines a boost.

Ohio State's all-around duo of Moore-Thomas and Kaylan Clevinger put the Buckeyes in the hunt with sturdy third and fifth place rankings in the conference. Moore-Thomas' season high score of 39.400 tops her third place finish in last year's championships. Illinois has its own tandem in Cowart (No. 4) and Marijka Botterman (No. 10) while Iowa's Katie Burke (No. 7) and Kara Pinjuv (No. 9) round out the top gymnasts in this year's all-around.