It was a moment of triumph amid heartbreak.

Brianna Brown was up on the uneven bars. It was the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s last routine of the night — and of its season. But for the senior, it wasn’t over yet.

Her lines were crisp and clean, her releases high, her handstands straight. And she stuck her double layout dismount with precision. She scored a 9.95, enough to put her on the podium as the uneven bars champion. But for the rest of the team, it was too little, too late.

Entering Saturday’s NCAA Regional, the seventh-ranked Wolverines were heavily favored to earn one of the two available NCAA Championships berths. But heavily favored doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t capitalize, and uncharacteristic errors from Michigan left it with a score of 196.350 to finish in fourth — behind No. 6 Alabama, No. 18 Georgia and No. 23 Illinois.

“It’s extremely upsetting,” Brown said. “ … We wanted nothing more than to be out there with our team in prelims and Super Six. It’s not something you really expect to happen.”

Right off the bat, there were signs of trouble. On the balance beam — generally the Wolverines’ strongest event — all six gymnasts hit their routines. But there was a bobble on a flight series here and a messy dismount there. It would become a theme.

On the floor exercise, senior Lauren Marinez over-rotated her double pike and sat it down. It wasn’t a fatal mistake in isolation — teams, after all, can drop one score. But it eliminated Michigan’s margin for error. A short landing here and a stumble back there, and the Wolverines found themselves counting a 9.625. Even junior Emma McLean — the team’s most dynamic floor worker — didn’t have her best routine, garnering a 9.85.

By the time the vault rolled around, it was clear that Michigan would need to put up big scores on its final two events to pull off a top-two finish. But the Wolverines’ lineup was depleted by the absence of junior Olivia Karas due to a torn Achilles, and a bruised heel forced McLean to water down her difficulty. When freshman Syd Townsend — the only remaining gymnast to vault a difficult Yurchenko 1.5 — couldn’t hold onto her landing, it was clear that it wasn’t Michigan’s night. Bent legs here and a piked-down landing there, and all of a sudden, the Wolverines needed to average a 9.9 — an almost impossible proposition — to even finish in second.

Before the uneven bars, Michigan had a bye. It was a chance for the Wolverines to clear their heads. They had to perform knowing their chances of making the NCAA Championships were all but over.

“We basically just said, ‘We know what we have to do,’” Brown said. “‘We just have to go out there and do what we practiced. And if we do that, we’ll be fine.’”

Before going up, Brown cleared her head. She thought about her weekend plans. She thought about her sister’s volleyball tournament. She thought about everything but her bar routine, and she went out there and hit. It was one high note in a meet full of sour ones.

Brown’s performance was enough for a third-place finish in the all-around in addition to the bars title. That placement qualified her for NCAA Championships as an individual. But without the rest of her team, the victory felt hollow.

“We came in here thinking we were the team to beat, and yes, we probably were the team to beat,” Brown said. “But that’s just not how it worked out.”

It wasn’t a dramatic collapse. Rather, it was a bobble here and a misstep there. It was little things that added up to become big things. It was a bad night at the worst possible time.

“I’m incredibly heartbroken for these young women,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki in a statement. “… They deserved more and we didn’t get it done today. It hurts, but I am very proud of these women for all they have accomplished.”

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