Emma McLean Helps Michigan Clinch Big Ten Championship

Emma McLean Helps Michigan Clinch Big Ten Championship
Photo: Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports
Emma McLean stood at the edge of the vault runaway as the final gymnast in Michigan's vault lineup on Saturday at the Big Ten Championships. The Wolverines were aiming to clinch their fourth consecutive conference title, and the sophomore delivered with a soaring Yurchenko 1 1/2 that she stuck cold at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Her teammates immediately began chanting for a 10--and they got it, at least from two judges. McLean clinched the meet for the Wolverines with a 9.975, which also matched her career high and secured the first Big Ten vault title for a UM gymnast since 2013.

"I knew it was good, but I don't think about sticking it," McLean said after the meet. "So when I land and I stick it, it's amazing. It's a surprise for me. It's really exciting and awesome."

The near-perfect vault also earned McLean some individual accolades--a place on the Big Ten All-Championships team and the individual vault title.

It marked the fourth straight conference crown for Michigan. The Wolverines' team total--a 197.300--also boosted the squad's regional qualifying score heading into NCAA regionals on April 1. They take back-to-back away scores and plenty of momentum into the remainder of the postseason.

"This is awesome. We've had two good away scores in a row and it just keeps building," UM senior Nicole Artz said. "I'm really excited to see what else we're capable of."

Artz won the Big Ten all-around title for the second time in her four-year career with a 39.500. She was also named the conference's Gymnast of the Year, which marked the 11th time that a Michigan gymnast has won the award.

The Wolverines have hit their stride, and it's coming at just the right time.

"It's great. I'm really happy for this group of young ladies," Michigan head coach Bev Plocki said. "The season started out a little bit slow for us this year, and I feel like we're picking it up and competing like we need to be at this time of the season so I couldn't be happier. I'm thrilled for the seniors having won four in a row. [It's] a nice little boost for us going into regionals."

Between McLean's huge vault and Artz's post-meet honors, it was a stellar day for the Wolverines.

"It was fantastic. There couldn't have been a better closure to the meet," Plocki said. "For Nicole to win Gymnast of the Year was also a great way to close things off."

One week after finishing as the runner-up to Nebraska at the Big Five Meet, Illinois finished second with a 196.875. The Fighting Illini secured a second-place finish on their final routine of the day from sophomore Lizzy Leduc.

Head coach Kim Landrus was pleased with her squad's performance.

"To be runner-up to Michigan, it feels wonderful," she said. "We do a word a week and this week's word was purpose. I just think the girls came in here, they stuck to what they knew and they didn't change anything so the momentum just got going from the very beginning to the very end."

Ending on balance beam could be daunting for any team but not for Illinois. The Fighting Illini are ranked ninth in the country on beam, and it proved to be a comfortable rotation for Landrus' team on Saturday.

"We love it. We love it. This is our rotation," she said. "We were extremely excited when we got this rotation."

The Fighting Illini were led by Leduc's 9.925 on beam, which earned the sophomore a share of the Big Ten balance beam title.

Iowa rounded out the podium closely behind in third place with a 196.725. The Hawkeyes had a standout meet on balance beam, where they scored a meet-high 49.400. Molly Drenth led the way with a 9.925 to tie for the Big Ten title on balance beam. Angel Metcalf and Clair Kaji tied for fourth with a 9.900.

In the early session, Michigan State put together its best away meet of the season and finished in a tie for sixth with a 195.200. The highlight of the day for the Spartans came on floor exercise, where they posted a meet-high 49.475 total. Nicola Deans, Kira Frederick, and Elena Lagoski tied for the Big Ten floor title with 9.925s during the early session.

Lagoski's sky-high double Arabian opened her routine with a bang.

Deans anchored the rotation and started off with an impressive double layout.

FULL RESULTS from the 2017 Big Ten Championships
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