Dec. 15, 2010
PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Michigan has been selected by the Big Ten women's gymnastics coaches as the top conference team heading into the 2011 season, the conference office announced on Wednesday. Joining the defending Big Ten Champion Wolverines in the top three are Illinois and Penn State, with Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State and Ohio State rounding out the poll. The coaches also selected two gymnasts from their respective teams to a Gymnasts to Watch list.
Michigan enters the 2011 season ranked ninth in the country after earning its fourth consecutive and 18th overall Big Ten title in 2010, closing the season with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The Wolverines return eight letterwinners and five All-Americans from last year's squad, including Gymnasts to Watch Natalie Beilstein and Kylee Botterman. Beilstein took home her first All-America honor on the floor exercise, while Botterman earned All-America status for the fifth time, earning first-team accolades on vault.
Illinois checks in at No. 2 in the preseason poll after taking sixth at the 2010 Big Ten Championships and third in NCAA Regionals. All-America honorees and Gymnasts to Watch Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez lead a corps of nine returning letterwinners for the Illini, who enter the season ranked 17th in the country.
After closing out last season with a second-place performance at the conference championships and a third-place finish at NCAA Regionals, Penn State enters 2011 slated in third in the Big Ten preseason poll. Reigning conference Freshman of the Year Sharaya Musser joins classmate Madison Merriam as the 14th-ranked Nittany Lions' Gymnasts to Watch.
Led by Big Ten balance beam champion Houry Gebeshian and All-American Rebecca Simbhudas, Iowa took third at last season's conference championships and fifth at NCAA Regionals. The Hawkeyes return 12 letterwinners and are receiving votes in the preseason GymInfo poll.
Minnesota tied for fourth at the 2010 Big Ten Championships, ending the season with a fourth-place showing at NCAA Regionals. Led by seniors Kendra Elm and Kristin Furukawa, the Golden Gophers return nine letterwinners from last season's roster and enter 2011 ranked 23rd nationally.
Michigan State returns 10 gymnasts from its 2010 squad which tied for fourth at the Big Ten Championships and finished sixth at NCAA Regionals. The Spartans, led by Gymnasts to Watch Kathryn Mahoney and Shanthi Teike, enter the season receiving votes in GymInfo's national poll.
Ohio State, led by senior and All-Big Ten honoree Rebecca Best, looks to improve upon its seventh-place finish at the 2010 Big Ten Championships. Freshman Gymnast to Watch Sarah Miller leads a corps of 10 Buckeye newcomers. Ohio State enters 2011 receiving votes in the national poll.
2011 BIG TEN WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS PRESEASON POLL
3. Penn State
T6. Michigan State
T6. Ohio State
2011 BIG TEN GYMNASTS TO WATCH
Allison Buckley, Sr., Illinois
Melissa Fernandez, Sr., Illinois
Houry Gebeshian, Sr., Iowa
Rebecca Simbhudas, Sr., Iowa
Natalie Beilstein, So., Michigan
Kylee Botterman, Sr., Michigan
Kathryn Mahoney, Sr., Michigan State
Shanthi Teike, So., Michigan State
Kendra Elm, Sr., Minnesota
Kristin Furukawa, Sr., Minnesota
Rebecca Best, Sr., Ohio State
Sarah Miller, Fr., Ohio State
Madison Merriam, So., Penn State
Sharaya Musser, So., Penn State