Program's Second-Highest Score Lifts U-M to Wins over UCLA, Utah
Briley Casanova

March 7, 2014

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Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
U-M Team Standing: 1st Place of 3 Teams (197.850)
Records: U-M (14-2), Utah (9-3), UCLA (7-3)
Attendance: 3,014
Next U-M Event: Saturday, March 15 -- vs. Minnesota, Iowa, Penn State (Crisler Center), 1:30 p.m. [ TV: Big Ten Network ]

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The No. 7-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team roared to its second-highest score in program history (197.825) in a tri-meet win over No. 6 Utah (197.350) and No. 8 UCLA (197.475) on Senior Night on Friday (March 7) inside Crisler Center.

A pair of sophomores won event crowns on Friday: Austin Sheppard (Murphy, Texas/Plano East) on vault (9.975) and Briley Casanova (Dallas, Texas/Spring Creek Academy) on balance beam (9.950). Senior Joanna Sampson (Willow Grove, Pa../Upper Moreland) was second in the all-around (39.600).

The Wolverines got off to a great start on vault, scoring 49.475 as a squad, as all six gymnasts in the order scored at 9.825 or above. For the second week in a row, Sheppard came as close as you can get to a perfect 10, scoring 9.975 thanks to a stuck Yurchenko Full. Preceding her was Sampson, who performed the same vault, scoring 9.900 with huge distance off the table. Junior Sachi Sugiyama (Keller, Texas/Keller) and fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein (Butler, Pa./Knoch) each record 9.875s, as each gymnast nearly stuck their Yurchenko 1.5. The last counted score came from Reema Zakharia (Miami, Fla./Coral Gables Senior High) at 9.850 in the second spot.

The high-quality performances continued on uneven bars, as U-M scored 49.425 with four 9.875s and two 9.900s. Sugiyama got the rotation started with a beautiful routine that ended in the first 9.900. Freshman Nicole Artz (Holland, Mich./West Ottawa) and senior Shelby Gies (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central) followed with successive 9.875s. Sheppard shined in the fourth spot, sticking her double front dismount to score the second 9.900. Sampson and Beilstein closed the rotation with 9.875s. At the halfway point, all three teams were putting up big scores, but it was Michigan in front (98.900), ahead of both UCLA (98.675) and Utah (98.425).

Michigan encountered some adversity on balance beam after a fall in the first spot by Artz but rallied to hit its remaining five routines for a season-best 49.275. Freshman Talia Chiarelli (Boston, Mass./Lexington) got the team back on track in the second spot with an aggressive routine, scoring 9.875, while Gies followed her with a beautiful 9.925 routine. Zakharia had to do some improvising in the fourth spot, repeating her flight series and taking a step on the landing to score 9.650. But Sampson responded with a 9.875 in the fifth spot, before Casanova put an exclamation point on the rotation with a career-best 9.950. The standings were tight heading into the last rotation, but Michigan remained in first (148.175), followed by UCLA (148.150) and Utah (147.975).

But Michigan left no doubt who the winner on this night would be, scoring 49.650 on floor exercise to cap the meet, the highest score on that event in program history. Four gymnasts scored 9.925 or higher, including 9.950s from Beilstein, Artz and Sampson, and a 9.925 from Sugiyama in the lead-off spot, getting the rotation off on the right foot thanks to three hit tumbling passes. The fifth counted score was 9.875 from junior Brooke Parker (Lorton, Va./South County Secondary).

The home slate wraps up next Saturday (March 15), as Michigan hosts Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State in the Big Ten Quad. The meet will begin at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. The top two teams in the Quad will advance to the evening session for the Big Ten Championships, set to be held March 22 at Penn State. For tickets, call (866) 296-MTIX or go online at

Team StandingsVaultBarsBeamFloorTotal

Event Winners/U-M Finishers

Talia Chiarelli                 9.825
Reema Zakharia                  9.850
Sachi Sugiyama                  9.875
Natalie Beilstein               9.875
Joanna Sampson                  9.900
Austin Sheppard                 9.975 (1)
Uneven Bars
Sachi Sugiyama                  9.900 (t3)
Nicole Artz                     9.875
Shelby Gies                     9.875
Austin Sheppard                 9.900 (t3)
Joanna Sampson                  9.875
Natalie Beilstein               9.875
Balance Beam
Nicole Artz                     9.400
Talia Chiarelli                 9.875 (t5)
Shelby Gies                     9.925 (t2)
Reema Zakharia                  9.650
Joanna Sampson                  9.875 (t5)
Briley Casanova                 9.950 (1)
Floor Exercise
Sachi Sugiyama                  9.925 (t5)
Brooke Parker                   9.875
Natalie Beilstein               9.950 (t2)
Nicole Artz                     9.950 (t2)
Reema Zakharia                  9.850
Joanna Sampson                  9.950 (t2)
Joanna Sampson                 39.600 (2)

Contact: Brad Rudner (

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