Freshman duo impresses in college debut

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By Cindy Yu, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 12, 2014

Nicole Artz and Talia Chiarelli are the newest additions to the No. 7 Michigan women’s gymnastics team this season. Though they entered unproven and inexperienced, the duo proved that they belonged to start at the beginning of the season.

On Friday, the pair helped the Wolverines score a 196.525 team total to win the tri-meet at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa over Iowa State (194.600) and Illinois State (187.400).

Unfazed by the pressure of not only competing in their first collegiate meets, but also performing in the lead-off positions on beam and floor, the freshmen executed their routines like veterans.

In her debut, Artz matched senior Joanna Sampson with a 9.825 to place first on the balance beam. Chiarelli followed immediately with a 9.775 to tie senior Shelby Gies for second overall.

As a last-minute replacement, Chiarelli kicked off the floor rotation and scored a 9.850. With an upgraded tumbling pass she plans on implementing in the near future, her already impressive routine can only get better.

Artz nailed her 9.900 floor set, highlighted by a stuck double pike, to finish runner-up to Sampson, the reigning national champion, who scored a 9.925.

“They really showed me the kind of competitors they are,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “It gives me a lot of optimism for what they’re going to be able to show the rest of the season.”

Both freshmen earned impressive accolades in their club gymnastics careers prior to entering college. Artz won floor at the 2012 Junior Olympic National Championships in the Jr. D Division and traveled to Brazil as a member of the Region 5 All-Star Team. Chiarelli contributed to Canada’s silver medal at the Olympic Qualifier and was slated as one of 12 gymnasts to compete at the 2012 Canadian Olympic Trials prior to injury.

Because club gymnastics is much more individualized than college gymnastics, the two best friends impressed Plocki with their quick, smooth transition. Living across from one another in Alice Lloyd Residence Hall, the inseparable teammates have fun and motivate each other.

“(College gymnastics) really is indescribable,” Artz said. “You never really know what it’s like until you experience it.”

In addition to the added freshmen, the Wolverines return 10 and add Alabama transfer Brooke Parker.

On the uneven bars, fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein anchored with a 9.900 routine capped by a stuck full-twisting double layout dismount. Senior captain Shelby Gies finished a close second, scoring a 9.875 in the event.

While junior Annette Miele led off on bars with a 9.675 routine, Plocki opted out of using her on vault and beam to let her recover from back issues.

“Having the depth to be able to pull somebody else from the lineup and have them do such a great job is the beauty of this team,” Plocki said.

Michigan finished the meet on vault, where sophomore Austin Sheppard and Sampson nearly stuck Yurchenko fulls to go 1-2 with scores of 9.900 and 9.875, respectively.

Still early in the season and with room for improvement, the Wolverines are on track to their quest to return to the Super Six — the equivalent to the Final Four.