Site: State College, Pa. (Rec Hall)
Event: Big Ten Championships
Result: 1st Place of 8 Teams (197.550)
Next U-M Event: Saturday, April 5 -- at NCAA Regionals (Location TBD), Time TBA
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team won its 21st conference title (20 meet, one regular season) on Saturday (March 22), posting a team score of 197.550 during the first session of the Big Ten Championships inside Rec Hall. It is the program's first win at the conference championships since 2011, and the squad is the first team to win Big Tens when competing in the afternoon session after U-M's score held up to best runner-up Nebraska's 196.950 from Saturday evening.
Senior Joanna Sampson (Willow Grove, Pa./Upper Moreland) won a pair of conference titles, winning uneven bars outright (9.925) and sharing floor exercise with Nebraska's Emily Wong, as both gymnasts recorded perfect 10.0s. Freshman Nicole Artz (Holland, Mich./West Ottawa) was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
It is the highest postseason score in 10 years and is the fourth-highest postseason score in program history. The Wolverines capped their performances in the afternoon with a program-best score of 49.700 on floor exercise, a new program record. Sampson is the first U-M gymnast in program history to earn a 10.0 on floor exercise in any postseason competition, the first U-M gymnast since Kylee Botterman to post a 10.0 on any event (2011 - vault) and the first gymnast in Big Ten Championships history to record a 10.0 on floor exercise. All five counted scores went at 9.900 or higher: 9.900 from junior Sachi Sugiyama (Keller, Texas/Keller), 9.925s from Artz and senior Reema Zakharia (Miami, Fla./Coral Gables Senior High), 9.950 from fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein (Butler, Pa./Knoch) and the perfect 10.0 from Sampson.
The Wolverines got the benefit of rotating in Olympic order and started strong, scoring 49.350 on vault. Sheppard, the team's anchor all season, electrified the crowd with a powerful Yurchenko Full to receive a 9.950 from the four-judge panel. Two former Big Ten vault champions were also in the lineup, as Beilsteinstuck her Yurchenko 1.5 to score 9.925, while Sugiyama nearly stuck her own, receiving a 9.875. Sampson went fifth in the order, scoring 9.850, while the last score came from Artz, who, despite being a late add to the lineup, scored 9.750 in only her third vault of the season.
The momentum carried over to uneven bars, as U-M scored 49.400 as a team, led by a trio of gymnasts with scores of 9.900 or better. Sampson received a score of 9.925 with a steady routine, capped with big height on the double layout dismount. Sugiyama led off the rotation with a beautiful routine and stuck landing to score 9.900, while Beilstein scored the same in the anchor spot thanks to a big double twisting dismount. The other three gymnasts in the rotation -- senior Shelby Gies (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central), Sheppard and Artz -- each scored above 9.825. Sheppard, in particular, had some great handstands, with only a step forward on her double front dismount preventing her from reaching the 9.900 plateau. After two rotations, U-M was cruising with a score of 98.750.
Michigan went to balance beam in the third rotation looking for redemption following last week's performance on the same event and hit six-for-six in its routines. Artz started off the rotation scoring 9.875, punctuated with a stuck landing. Her classmate, Talia Chiarelli (Boston, Mass./Lexington) showcased an aggressive flight series and another stuck landing, scoring 9.825. Gies was up third and redeemed herself after last week's falls, scoring 9.800. Some of the loudest cheers of the day came for Lindsay Williams (Northville, Mich./Northville), as the sophomore hit a routine in the fourth spot to also score 9.800. Sampson scored 9.775 in the fifth spot to guarantee a hit rotation, while Zakharia hit the front toss-back tuck combo and stuck her landing, also receiving a score of 9.800.
The Wolverines will make their 23rd consecutive appearance at NCAA Regionals in two weeks (Saturday, April 5). The NCAA Selection Show will take place on Monday (March 24) at 3 p.m. and can be seen live on NCAA.com. Michigan will be a No. 2 seed at one of six sites -- LSU, Georgia, Minnesota, Arkansas, Penn State or Washington.
Event Winners/U-M Finishers
Vault Talia Chiarelli 9.700 Nicole Artz 9.750 Sachi Sugiyama 9.875 Natalie Beilstein 9.925 (t3) Joanna Sampson 9.850 Austin Sheppard 9.950 (2) Uneven Bars Sachi Sugiyama 9.900 (t2) Nicole Artz 9.825 Shelby Gies 9.850 Austin Sheppard 9.825 Joanna Sampson 9.925 (1) Natalie Beilstein 9.900 (t2) Balance Beam Nicole Artz 9.875 (t4) Talia Chiarelli 9.825 Shelby Gies 9.800 Lindsay Williams 9.800 Joanna Sampson 9.775 Reema Zakharia 9.800 Floor Exercise Sachi Sugiyama 9.900 Brooke Parker 9.675 Natalie Beilstein 9.950 (t3) Nicole Artz 9.925 (t5) Reema Zakharia 9.925 (t5) Joanna Sampson 10.000 (t1) All-Around Nicole Artz 39.375 Joanna Sampson 39.550 (3)
BIG TEN AWARD WINNERS
Gymnast of the Year: Emily Wong, Nebraska
Freshman of the Year: NICOLE ARTZ, MICHIGAN
Coach of the Year: Meg Stephenson, Minnesota
BIG TEN ALL-CHAMPIONSHIPS TEAM
NICOLE ARTZ, MICHIGAN
NATALIE BEILSTEIN, MICHIGAN
JOANNA SAMPSON, MICHIGAN
AUSTIN SHEPPARD, MICHIGAN
SACHI SUGIYAMA, MICHIGAN
Bailie Holst, Minnesota
Lindsay Mable, Minnesota
Hollie Blanske, Nebraska
Jessie DeZiel, Nebraska
Emily Wong, Nebraska
Kassidy Stauder, Penn State
Melanie Shaffer, Ohio State
Contact: Brad Rudner (firstname.lastname@example.org)