Take a good long look because you won’t be seeing these for a while.
Unfortunately for Michigan, when discussing their 2012 season, we’re talking more about what they’ve lost instead of what they have. Most importantly, they’ve lost Kylee Botterman. The team will miss her, and we as fans will miss her. Though I will not miss the way the Michigan PA announcer said her name. That will haunt my nightmares.
Trying to replace the national AA champion would be difficult enough, but the team has also lost Jordan Sexton, Sarah Curtis, and Trish Wilson, making a repeat of their 2011 Super Six performance seem like a near impossibility. What’s more, now that former signee Morgan Steigerwalt has . . . had a change of plans and is now at Arizona State, the team is fielding only 11 gymnasts this season, with only 2 new freshmen trying to replace the 4 contributing graduates.
Freshman Sachi Sugiyama performs an excellent Yurchenko 1.5 that should help boost the vault lineup. She fully rotates the vault with confident landing, and the increased difficulty over the more common full should help elevate the score. On floor, while she doesn’t have tremendous difficulty, she performs cleanly and can also contribute. I’m not sold on her bars capabilities. She has too many leg separations and missed handstands to be relied upon to score well. This could be a problem for Michigan, as she is stronger on events where they already have at least a little more depth with gymnasts like Natalie Beilstein, Katie Zurales, and Reema Zakharia. Where are the bar workers?
The other incoming freshman, Annette Miele, competed elite for Parkettes in 2009 and 2010, which has given her the basic skill level and difficulty to be a necessary all-arounder for this team in 2012. She doesn’t have a standout event, but her abilities on bars will be required to fill those holes in the lineups. She also competes a solid enough Yurchenko 1.5 on vault to be usable.
In all, the Wolverines have lost 13 routines from last year’s Super Six lineups, so even if these freshman were both to compete the all-around, the team would still have to rely on returning gymnasts to compete events where they did not make the lineups last year — a dangerous proposition especially if in involves letting Natalie Beilstein even look at the beam. They will get Brittnee Martinez back on all events after competing only bars in 2011, so that will help beef up these lineups in some areas. Even so, there are many questions on this team, especially on bars where Martinez and Shelby Gies are the only returners and on beam where losing Botterman’s consistency means that other performers will have to step up in ways they have not yet shown.
There are no seniors on the team this year, so this group will have two years to find a way to win. It may just be that this is a building year until they can fill out the team next year and become more competitive and experienced. As it stands, they will be relying on scoring leadership from juniors Beilstein, Martinez, and Zurales.
Beilstein can certainly put up 9.900s on her two events, but does struggle some with consistency on floor. Zurales also brings in good enough numbers on two events (vault and beam in her case), but once again does not compete bars. Martinez can go in the all-around, and while she will anchor the team on bars, she proved during her freshman year that she is usually a contributor in the 9.8 range rather than the 9.9 range on the other events. They will need (very possible) improvements from her to be more of a scoring leader as a junior.
Still, the team is not completely lost. With this group, they should be able to muster the gymnasts to go 9.875+ in the 5th and 6th slots for most meets. The biggest challenge likely will be finding gymnasts who can go in those 3rd and 4th positions and not be satisfied with 9.775s. This team would probably be competitive enough in a 4 up, 3 count format, but their downfall will come from needing six strong routines on every event. We haven’t yet seen where those will come from.