All across Crisler Center, eyes were glued to the scoreboard, waiting in anticipation.
The No. 7 Michigan women’s gymnastics team had been behind since the first rotation, and it needed an almost-perfect score during its last rotation on bars to tie as NCAA Ann Arbor Regional Champions, which would allow the Wolverines to continue on to the Super Six Tournament. With three scores of 9.950 before her, junior Nicole Artz was left to shoulder the pressure. If she could secure a perfect score on bars, Michigan would tie for first.
And while Artz and the rest of the Wolverines gave one of their best performances on bars of the season, the scoreboard read 9.950, still an almost-perfect routine.
Almost, but not enough. The team fell short by half of a tenth, scoring a 196.475 and keeping the Wolverines out of the Super Six.
Michigan’s loss started on the beam. As the first event of the day and the rotation where the Wolverines consistently struggle most, it proved to be a problem again.
Freshman Olivia Karas was the leadoff and had a fall in the first routine of the day. She ended with a score of 9.125. Since one score per rotation can be dropped, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Artz almost redeemed the team on beam, scoring a 9.900 and tying for first.
But Karas’ fall wasn’t the only one.
After a solid routine by sophomore Brianna Brown that resulted in a 9.850, sophomore Lauren Marinez was next up. And like Karas, she suffered a fall on beam, ending with a 9.150.
“I still thought we were in a really good place,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “Even though we had counted a fall, it wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t like all was lost. However, instead of going out there and competing to win, I felt like they were a little bit tentative and were trying to compete without making mistakes.”
This showed in Michigan’s floor rotation, which followed a bye rotation. Michigan has consistently dominated on the floor, previously ranked No. 2 in the nation in the event. But the majority of the Wolverines’ floor scores didn’t back up that high ranking.
Senior Lindsay Williams struggled with a few of her landings, losing her footing after a tumbling pass and almost stepping out of bounds. She ended with a 9.450. Karas had this same problem, bringing in a 9.850.
The only Michigan gymnast to hit a 9.900 was junior Talia Chiarelli. With that score, she tied for first and advanced to nationals in the event.
The Wolverines rallied in the last two events, starting with vault. Four gymnasts from Michigan tied for second with a 9.850, including Chiarelli, Karas, senior Austin Sheppard and freshman Emma McLean.
However, Michigan redeemed itself on bars. With sophomore Nichelle Christopherson as the leadoff, she scored a 9.875, which Sheppard mimicked right after. Williams, Karas, Brown and Artz each managed to score a 9.950 for the last four routines of the night — but it still wasn’t enough.
By .050 of a point Michigan lost its chance to advance to nationals, where it would have tied with No. 6 Auburn and No. 18 Stanford for first with a score of 196.525.
“We hit routines, but we gave up a tenth here and a tenth there,” Plocki said. “Even had we counted the (other) fall on beam, there were 10 other places I could have found that extra half a tenth.”
Despite the team’s season being over, three individual gymnasts will be advancing to nationals.
Artz, who tied for second on the bars and first on the beam, received a second-place finish and final all-around score of 39.450. She will advance to nationals in the all-around.
“I don’t think any differently when I get to an event,” Artz said. “No matter what people have or haven’t done in front of me, I just go up there and do what I am capable of doing. I just focus on myself.”
Sophomore Brianna Brown will also be advancing to nationals for the all-around, taking third with a final score of 39.375. She also tied for second on the uneven bars.
With her first-place finish on floor, Chiarelli will advance in the single event.
But while these three athletes will continue their season individually, the team’s end result was tough for Plocki.
“My heart breaks for this team,” Plocki said. “I think they just wanted it so badly that they tried too hard. But we win together and we lose together.”