It was a big week for the Michigan women’s gymnastics team. Not only did five gymnasts make the All-Big Ten first team but it also clinched its fourth Big Ten Championship in a row.
Honorees for first team included seniors Nicole Artz and Talia Chiarelli, junior Paige Zaziski and sophomores Olivia Karas and Emma McLean. Junior Lauren Marinez was honored on the second team.
The Wolverines traveled to Piscataway to compete against five other teams at the Rutgers Athletic Center and they dominated the meet, winning four individual events.
Artz won the all-around, McLean won vault, Chiarelli won balance beam and Karas won the floor exercise.
“I thought we did really well on beam, and that just opened it up for us to have fun and be aggressive and just really enjoy floor and vault,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “Emma was just the exclamation point at the end of a great meet.”
McLean finished off the meet with a beautifully executed vault and stuck the landing, earning a score of 9.975 to tie her career high and secure the individual title.
“I knew I was going to be the last competitor from Michigan pretty much and everyone else had hit their vaults. So I just did what I do and it worked out,” McLean said.
As the season winds down, the Wolverines are starting to compete in more meets with multiple opponents, which is different from their regular-season dual meets .
And with the extra competition, the gymnasts attribute their success to the energy created in the arena which gave them the extra edge they need to compete.
“The energy in the arena is outrageous,” Artz said. “There’s nothing you can compare to that and then to have the opportunity to compete on podium makes it even that much more fun. “
McLean agrees with her teammate, noting that she hopes the atmosphere will carry through in upcoming meets.
“We build off the energy the entire meet, and we kept it going the entire time and it was amazing,” McLean said. “Hopefully moving forward, we can keep that energy as well.”
The two leaders on the team are the two seniors Artz and Chiarelli. They have dedicated four years to the team and have four Big Ten Championship rings to show for it.
The two captains have also collected a plethora of individual accolades over the years. This season they both won individual titles at the Big Ten Championships and Atrz was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Year.
Both Artz and Plocki have described the season ending as bittersweet, saying they are looking forward to the future but will miss the team a lot.
“These two seniors have been so incredibly strong and consistent all four years, and it’s bittersweet because you look to see where they are now and what they’re going to be going off to do,” Plocki said. “It’s really going to be sad to lose them at the end of the year.”