April 15, 2014
Fri-Sun., April 18-20 -- at 2014 NCAA Championships (Birmingham, Ala.), 1 p.m./6 p.m./2 p.m. CDT
For the 20th time in the last 22 years, the No. 7-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (27-4) will close its season at the NCAA Championships, which begin Friday (April 18) at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala. The Wolverines will compete in the first semifinal session (1 p.m. CDT) alongside Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Stanford and Illinois, while Florida, Alabama, Utah, UCLA, Nebraska and Penn State will perform in the evening session (7 p.m.). The top three teams from each semifinal will advance to the Super Six on Saturday (April 19) for a shot at the national championship.
The top four finishers in each event at each session (including ties) will earn NCAA All-America first team honors and advance to the individual event finals on Sunday (2 p.m.), while the fifth through eighth finishers will earn NCAA All-America second team honors. For all-around awards, the scores from both sessions are combined with the highest score earning the individual national title, the top four picking up NCAA All-America first team honors and the fifth through eighth finishers earning NCAA All-America second team accolades.
The Super Six and Individual Event Finals (Sunday) will be streamed online at ESPN3.com. The finals will be shown on tape delay on ESPNU on Wednesday, April 30, at 8 p.m. EDT.
All-session and single session tickets can be purchased online through Ticketmaster. All-session prices are $50 (lower bowl) and $35 (upper bowl). [ Tickets ]
Michigan will be in the first semifinals session at the NCAA Championships, beginning at 1 p.m. The Wolverines have the same rotation order (below) and the same individual all-around qualifier (Oregon State's Chelsea Tang) as last year.
Here is the rotation order for both semifinal sessions at the NCAA Championships on Friday. The top three teams in each semifinal will advance to the Super Six, beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
|FIRST SEMIFINAL (1 P.M.)|
NOTE: Michigan will be in the first practice session on Thursday (April 17) alongside Georgia, Oklahoma and Stanford at 11:15 a.m. The practice sessions are open to the public.
|SECOND SEMIFINAL (7 P.M.)|
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS HISTORY
Michigan has qualified for the NCAA Championships for the 21st time in program history and for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons (not in 2009 or 2012). The Wolverines have reached the Super Six on 10 occasions (1994-97, 1999-01, 2003, 2005, 2011), finishing as high as second (1995, 1999). Only five teams in NCAA history have ever won the national championship -- Alabama, UCLA, Georgia, Utah and Florida (defending champion).
The Wolverines finished seventh at the 2013 NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, Calif., missing out on the Super Six by less than four tenths-of-a-point (196.850). Joanna Sampson and Katie Zurales (2010-13) both earned multiple NCAA All-America honors and tied for third in the all-around. In the individual event finals, Sampson won the national title on floor exercise, while Zurales was national runner-up on balance beam. [ Recaps: Semifinals | Individual Event Finals ]
This is the first time the NCAA Championships will be held in Birmingham. U-M has advanced to the Super Six in two of the last three times the championships were held in the state of Alabama: 1996 in Tuscaloosa (sixth) and 2005 in Auburn (fifth). The other time was 2002 in Tuscalossa (seventh).
Four gymnasts have won individual national champions: Beth Wymer (1993-95: uneven bars), Elise Ray (2001: all-around; 2002: balance beam; 2004: uneven bars), Kylee Botterman (2011: all-around) and Joanna Sampson (2013: floor exercise).
Forty U-M gymnasts have combined to receive 166 NCAA All-America honors in the history of the program. There are two former NCAA All-Americans on the roster: Joanna Sampson in 2013 (first team: vault, floor exercise, all-around) and Natalie Beilstein in 2010 (first team: floor exercise) and 2011 (second team: floor exercise). U-M has had at least one gymnast receive NCAA All-America honors (first or second team) in 22 consecutive NCAA Championships.
PREVIEWING SEMIFINAL I
The Wolverines have faced three of the teams in their semifinal session already this season. They defeated Illinois twice (Feb. 7, March 22) and Georgia (April 5) while losing to Oklahoma (Feb. 22). Michigan has not gone head to head with LSU since Jan. 2, 2009 (L, 194.900-192.700) and has not faced the Tigers in the postseason since the semifinals of the 2007 NCAA Championships (L, 196.275-195.100). U-M also has not seen Stanford in a meet since the 2011 NCAA Regionals in Ann Arbor (W, 197.075-195.225).
Here are the regional qualifying scores (RQS) for the six teams in the first semifinal. The RQS is determined by taking each team's top six scores, three of which must be in road meets. The high score is dropped and the remaining five are averaged:
NCAA REGIONAL CHAMPIONS!
The Wolverines bested the six-team field at the NCAA Athens Regional on April 5, scoring 196.750 to win and punch a ticket to the NCAA Championships. It was the team's second consecutive NCAA Regional crown. Freshman Nicole Artz won the all-around (39.325) and tied for first on balance beam (9.850), while Joanna Sampson won floor exercise (9.950). [ Recap | Notes | Quotes | Photo Gallery ]
BIG TEN CHAMPIONS!
Michigan captured its 20th Big Ten championship on March 22, scoring 197.550 from the first session to win the title at Penn State. Factoring in U-M's share of the 2013 Big Ten regular-season title, U-M has won a total of 21 total conference championships. [ Recap | Notes | Quotes | Photo Gallery | Highlights | Sampson's 10.0 (YouTube) ]
For the second consecutive year, Joanna Sampson was named NCAA Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year. She is also one of the six finalists for the 2014 AAI Award, given annually to the nation's top senior women's gymnast. The award will be presented at the NCAA Championships Banquet on Wednesday.
Senior Joanna Sampson has scored 39.000 or higher in 30 career meets, tied for eighth on the school's all-time list with Calli Ryals (2001-04). For her career, Sampson has won or tied for 18 all-around titles and 52 individual event titles (including championships). Nearly half of her routines this year (22 of 47) have been scored at 9.900 or higher.
Nearly half of Michigan's routines this year -- 132 of 288 (46 percent) -- have come from its senior class (Joanna Sampson, Natalie Beilstein, Shelby Gies, Reema Zakharia). Together, this senior class has won two Big Ten championships and one Big Ten regular-season championship and qualified for three NCAA Championships (2011, 2013, 2014).
The Wolverines' best event this season has been floor exercise, averaging 49.368 over 12 meets, which would be a school record if the season ended today. The current school record is 49.350, set in 2013. U-M has eclipsed 49.550 in four of the last five meets (averaging 49.555 over that stretch), including the top two highest scores in program history: 49.700 at the Big Ten Championships (March 22) and 49.650 against UCLA/Utah (March 7).
Freshman Nicole Artz became the first U-M freshman to win multiple titles at her first NCAA Regional Championship since Sarah Cain in 1997 (uneven bars, floor exercise). Artz, the 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, won the all-around and tied for first on balance beam at the NCAA Athens Regional on April 5. The last U-M gymnast to win two NCAA Regional titles in the same meet was Kylee Botterman in 2011 (all-around, floor exercise).
Fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein has scored 9.900 or better in all six of her routines across the Big Ten Championships (9.925 on VT, 9.900 on UB, 9.950 on FX) and at NCAA Regionals (9.900 on VT, UB and FX). She has also recorded top-five finishes on all three events in three consecutive weeks.
U-M will compete at the NCAA Championships without sophomore Austin Sheppard, who suffered a broken ankle in practice nearly three weeks ago. Sheppard was tied for second in the nation on vault (9.945 RQS) at the time of her injury. She is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of the 2015 season. She will have two years of eligibility left.
Two gymnasts who stepped up at the NCAA Regional Championships on April 5 were sophomore Lindsay Williams and freshman Talia Chiarelli. Williams entered the uneven bars lineup in place of Austin Sheppard and needed to hit a routine following a fall earlier in the rotation. She scored 9.850, a new career high by half-a-tenth while also hitting her balance beam routine (9.750). Chiarelli tied her career highs on both vault and floor exercise, scoring 9.850s on each event. Prior to that, she had not been in the floor exercise lineup since Feb. 21.
Through 12 competitions, U-M has averaged 196.787, which currently stands as the second-highest team average in program history. The program record for highest scoring average in a single season is 196.998, set last season. This year, Michigan is averaging 49.368 on floor exercise (would be highest in program history if the season ended today), 49.297 on vault (second-highest), 49.243 on uneven bars (third-highest) and 48.877 on balance beam (eighth-highest).
Through 12 meets, Michigan has scored more than 49.000 in 39 of 48 rotations, while U-M gymnasts have won 35 of 48 individual event titles (including championships).
Q: First off, talk briefly about our counterparts on the men's gymnastics team winning another national championship. Obviously our two teams are so close to one another in how we support each other all season. While it was awesome to see them win, it also had to be pretty motivating heading into your own national championship meet this week
A: Even though we train separately and are two different sports, there's a lot of friendship there. I know a bunch of our kids helped out at the championship. We were following and cheering the whole way. It's very exciting. Back in 1999, they won the national title and we finished second. How awesome would it be to have both the men's and women's gymnastics programs here win? That would be something.
Q: We've talked about this senior class all season long. It's almost ironic looking at their freshman years and senior years and how similar they are. Now they enter the final week of gymnastics possibly in their lives. Talk about the range of emotions that they'll experience over these next few days.
A: It is very bittersweet. Gymnastics has been a huge part of their lives and who they are as people. It's occupied many hours of every day since they were very little. On one hand, their bodies are sore so they're probably looking forward to having a little bit of a break, but on the other hand, this has been something that has been a major part of their lives. They'll miss it. I want them to cherish every minute of these last practices. I get goosebumps just thinking about it and I go through this every year. I want them to cherish every minute of what's going to happen because these are memories that they'll have for the rest of their lives.
Q: You mentioned two weeks ago how everything you do during the season is preparation for this week. In looking at some of the elements -- specifically the rotation order (starting on uneven bars, same as last year at NCAAs) and the fact that it's on podium -- can be advantages for this team.
A: Unfortunately, the other teams that will be there have all done the same thing. I don't know that we have a leg up over them, but it's part of our preparation. I've said it a thousand times. When we walk in there, there's not going to be anyone that's intimidating to us. We'll feel like we absolutely deserve to be there and absolutely deserve to be in that Super Six. It's part of the whole confidence thing. Years ago, Lloyd Carr came by to talk to the team and mentioned something that has stuck with me ever since: "The definition of confidence is knowing the outcome before you begin." That's the winning, confident attitude you need to have at a meet like this. Let's just go out there and enjoy it.
Q: One thing that this team has shown time and time again this year is its ability to bounce back in the face of adversity. There was the disappointment at the Big Ten Quad only to come back the next week and win the Big Ten title. Then you lose Austin and win Regionals. You want them to compete with a chip on their shoulder. Is that toughness and resiliency one of this team's biggest qualities?
A: I think you have to have that internal fight. What is it that's going to make you take that deep breath and find that extra burst of energy you need to finish a routine? Make no mistake -- this meet will be a battle. The teams that were here are all very good with tons of high-level gymnastics. There are teams that, quite frankly, have an advantage over us in terms of reputation. Everybody always wants to talk about the teams that have won, almost as if those are the only ones who can win. We need to go in there with that chip on our shoulder once again and prove everyone wrong just like we did at the Big Ten Championships. Nobody thought we could win out of the afternoon, but we did. We went in there with a chance to make a statement and we'll have to do that again on Friday. People across the country paid attention when we won out of the afternoon. We went to NCAA Regionals and wanted to make the statement that we were the best team there, not the second-best team. People paid attention when we came out of that Regional as champions. We don't want people to be shocked or surprised at how Michigan is when we're there.
Q: This team has met nearly every goal it has set, yet there's still one to be had and that's the Super Six. What is it going to take to be on the floor on Saturday?
A: We can't put the cart before the horse. We can't go in there focusing on making the Super Six. That's an outcome. What we have to do is focus on our individual performance and one event as a time as a team. If we can do that, the outcome will take care of itself. Focusing on the outcome creates distractions for what we have to do in front of us. Is that in the back of our minds? Absolutely. There's no way around it. We're thinking about it, but what we need to do is focus on our performance, on being mentally prepared and being in the right place psychologically for the event we're on at that time. When we go to beam, we need to bring the energy down and have a calm approach. On floor, we need to ramp it up and come out of the gates with a lot of fire. Let's just do what we've trained for all year and let the outcome take care of itself.
OTHER RELATED LINKS
The All-Around (Tuesday)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423