On the night when a win could have meant the most, the Michigan women’s gymnastics team dropped the ball — or rather, they dropped off the beam.
With the meet being Senior Night and the last regular-season home meet, success could have meant a lot more than just another win to an already impressive 9-3 record. The championship season is approaching quickly, so a win for the fifth-ranked Wolverines against No. 6 Utah would have been the positive reinforcement they needed before the big tournaments, especially after last week’s loss to No. 1 Oklahoma. Instead, multiple falls on beam spoiled Michigan’s hopes, 197.525-197.050.
The first fall came from sophomore Lauren Marinez mid-routine, and it followed her for the rest of the event. The remainder of her routine saw a slew of bobbles, and she ended with a score of 8.900. It was a sharp contrast from her performance last week against the Sooners, where she posted a career-high 9.925.
Marinez sat in the middle of the lineup for beam, so there were high hopes that the rest of the team could repair the damage done to the team score. Senior Lindsay Williams posted a 9.875 immediately therafter, and junior Nicole Artz followed with a 9.925. Junior Talia Chiarelli served as anchor for the beam as one of Michigan’s most prominent athletes for the event. She had already secured first place on the vault with a 9.900.
Chiarelli, who was voted Big Ten event specialist of the week for the beam earlier in the season, took the second fall for the Wolverines. Near the end of her routine, she rushed an acrobatic sequence which ended in a full fall off of the beam. She finished with a final score of 9.325.
“I’m still in shock that the two athletes that had a fall on beam have been two of my top consistent beam performers all season,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “I don’t really know if it was just a fluky thing or the pressure. In another event, you can have a tiny stumble and cover it up and move on, but if you have the slightest bobble on beam, it’s only four inches wide — it doesn’t take much to be on the floor.”
While the beam was definitively the downfall for Michigan, the Wolverines managed to come back from their major deductions for a final score of 197.050, which is surprisingly close to what Michigan scores on average without falls on beam. Despite the loss, multiple Wolverines were able to contribute immensely to Michigan’s final-score comeback, including Williams, Artz, senior Austin Sheppard and freshman Olivia Karas.
It’s no surprise the seniors were on top of their game during Senior Night. Williams and Sheppard both had phenomenal performances on the uneven bars, where Williams tied for fourth with a 9.900 alongside Karas. Sheppard came in at sixth with a 9.875. Williams went on for fifth on the beam with another 9.875, and seventh on the floor, tying her career-best of 9.850. While Williams was making a splash on floor and beam, Sheppard was dominating on the vault, taking third with a 9.875.
Despite the strong presence offered by the seniors, it was Artz who stole the show with four first-place scores. After a rough couple of weeks on the bars, where she was injured multiple times, Artz was able to come back and take first with a career-high 9.975. She followed with a solid beam routine, earning first place with a 9.925. In the final rotation for Michigan, Artz tied her career-best on the floor with a 9.975, to earn an overall score of 39.725, enough to take first in the all-around as well.
Karas followed closely behind, taking third in the all-around with a 39.500. She had a driven floor routine, where she stuck landings on all of her tumbling passes, including an impressive double Arabian. She finalized a floor score of 9.925, taking second to Artz. In addition to tying Williams for fourth on the uneven bars, she also tied Artz for fifth on the vault.
“Overall, I thought it was a great meet against a great team, and you can’t make mistakes against a great team and come out victorious. We knew that coming in,” Plocki said. “This is exactly what we need, though. This is why I like going against the best teams in the country, because we need to be put in these situations.
“We need to understand that if we had made one more beam routine, we would have won the meet and walked away with the highest score of the season, and those are two really important things. Sometimes you learn that lesson the hard way, but sometimes learning it the hard way is what motivates you to go back into the gym and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
With Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships around the corner, the Wolverines don’t have much time to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Michigan will have to work hard to repair its confidence, especially on the beam, after such a close loss to Utah.