To end a season in which the Michigan women’s gymnastics team hoped to contend for the national title, just three members of the team traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, for the NCAA Championships this weekend. But out of those three, two returned to Ann Arbor with second-team All-American honors.
Junior Nicole Artz and sophomore Brianna Brown both advanced to the NCAA Championships for the all-around, while junior Talia Chiarelli qualified for the meet on floor. With the tournament broken up into two sessions — one in the afternoon and one in the evening — the team was split as both Chiarelli and Artz were placed in the afternoon session and Brown was placed in the evening. Since the entire Michigan team didn’t make the championships, all three Wolverines were separated to compete as individuals among other teams.
Artz kicked off the tournament for the Wolverines with a rotation on the uneven bars. Surrounded by an unfamiliar team at a high-stakes competition, she was in an uncomfortable situation — until she looked to the uneven bars.
At a different event, Chiarelli left her makeshift team for its first rotation to cheer on Artz. Just like at Crisler, she was able to help prep her teammate for the event. And while the whole team wasn’t there, Chiarelli’s presence was enough to keep Artz calm for the event. Artz received a 9.8125 to start the day.
However, it was Artz’s floor routine that secured her All-America honors for the third straight season. She scored a 9.875 for the event, tying for sixth, which earned her a second team All-American honor. She now has a total of six All-American honors.
Despite Artz’s awards and performances, that wasn’t the highlight of her time in Fort Worth.
“Honestly, I was most excited about Talia’s floor routine,” Artz said. “She decided to add a full-in, and it was just really cool for her to go out there and nail something that big.”
Chiarelli, who qualified to perform her floor routine at the championships, capitalized on the fact that her routine wouldn’t affect a team score. Double Arabians and full-ins are both E-level passes, and only one is needed to fulfill the difficulty for collegiate gymnastics.
With no team stakes on the line, Chiarelli decided to perform both.
“We had toyed around with both of the passes and laughed about it at the beginning of the season,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “If she were competing in the Olympics and wanted to challenge Simone Biles or something, then she would do it. With these stakes, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I give her a lot of credit for doing it.”
Chiarelli under-rotated her full-in and took a step forward on the landing. She ended her season on floor with a 9.7125, an appropriate score for the difficulty of her routine.
Brown, who competed in the evening session, also claimed All-American honors despite lacking any presence from her teammates. Artz and Chiarelli — who had already finished competing — had to watch from the stands.
Despite competing alone, Brown still managed to hit all four routines. After securing a 9.800 on bars, she had a solid routine on beam that resulted in 9.850, her best score of the night.
“Before my beam routine, I was feeling pretty nervous because beam is the place where I always get ahead of myself,” Brown said. “I looked to the stands, saw my beam coach and she told me I had it, and I just knew I could do it. I probably did one of the best beam routines I’ve done all year.”
With Chiarelli’s impressive performance on floor, and Brown and Artz walking away with additional All-American honors, they’re optimistic for the 2016-17 season. They also have high hopes that next time, they’ll be competing as a team rather than as individuals.