Last Friday, the balance beam was the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s nemesis, causing the Wolverines to drop their first meet of this season against Nebraska.
Monday night, in a tri-meet against Eastern Michigan and Maryland, the beam became the team’s best friend.
No. 3 Michigan (3-1 Big Ten, 7-1 overall) set a season high at the meet, easily beating the Eagles and Terrapins, 197.425-195.875 and 197.425-194.075, respectively.
“What we did after the loss to Nebraska was just sort of try to make sure that our athletes knew that we had not lost any confidence in them,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “Just tried to make sure that they understood that we believe in them completely and totally and we need them to believe in each other completely and totally. Just go out and be aggressive and confident and they were able to do that tonight.”
Junior Nicole Artz, who has been named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week twice this season, won the all-around title with a score of 39.550. Sophomore Brianna Brown, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year a season ago, finished second in the all-around with a 39.300.
The night’s dominant tone started off early when freshman Emma McLean stuck her landing on the first vault of the night, receiving a score of 9.850 and loud cheers from the crowd.
The rest of the Michigan gymnasts had great rotation throughout their vaults, capped by freshman Olivia Karas getting judge-pleasing height and almost sticking her landing, helping Michigan to a meet-high 49.300.
The Wolverines followed up their success on the vault with an even better uneven bars, an event in which Michigan is ranked sixth nationally. The Wolverines consistently had good extension and stayed straight when perpendicular to the floor, leading to a 449.350 on the day.
Most surprising, though, was Karas’s fall off the bars when she jumped from the higher bar to the lower bar. Karas, who was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week last week, had usually been sure-handed on the bars. She did recover from the fall, though, and managed to salvage a 9.150.
“I really like that as a freshman, she showed a lot of maturity to be able to snap back from a mistake and do great on beam and floor,” Plocki said. “I’m really proud that she came back and did a great job on the next two events.”
After the uneven bars, the Wolverines had to go on the daunting balance beam. This time, though, the team had no issues, performing the best on the beam of any event on the beam. The team began with Karas, who quickly recovered from her fall on the bars to score a 9.875 — the fourth best score on the day in the event.
Artz and junior Talia Chiarelli capped off the beam by both sticking their dismounts, helping Michigan to conquer the previously-disastrous beam with a meet high 49.450.
“Beam is the event where if there are nerves, you tend to see them all,” Plocki said. “I thought that they competed relaxed and confidently and it showed.”
With one event remaining, the Wolverines were all but assured of winning the meet. Michigan had just the floor event — an event in which it is ranked first in the nation. With great height and powerful rotation on their jumps, as well as multiple stuck landings, the Wolverines were able to best both teams by a half point on the floor with a 49.325.
“This group of athletes loves to perform,” Plocki said. “We work a lot on that aspect of it. We really try to make sure they are having fun, and when they are having fun, they make it look easy and the crowd gets into it.”