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Michigan Athletics | April 11, 2014

Michigan on top after NCAA qualifier, looks to defend title Friday

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan (30-0) compiled a team score of 444.100 in Session 2 of the NCAA championships qualifier on Thursday en route to earning the top overall team spot in qualification inside Crisler Center. U-M now advances to Friday night's team and all-around finals.

Michigan posted the highest team scores on parallel bars (75.500), high bars (72.350), pommel horse (73.400) and vault (75.100). U-M earned the highest individual marks in as many events -- senior Sam Mikulak with a 15.650 on parallel bars and 15.500 on pommel horse; Stacey Ervin with a 15.600 on the floor; and graduate-student Syque Caesar with a 15.600 on high bar.

Michigan quickly took the lead after the first rotation with its second-best team vault score of the season (75.100). Junior Paul Rizkalla Jr. led the Wolverines with a 15.200 as he hit his Kasamatsu 3/2, while Mikulak and sophomore Konner Ackerman both posted 15.050.

U-M added to its lead thanks to a 15.650 from Mikulak on parallel bars in the second rotation -- the Big Ten gymnast of the year had a nearly flawless set highlighted by a huge giant suarez right into a front 1 1/4 to long hang. Caesar and junior Nick Hunter each garnered a 15.200 to give Michigan another second-highest score of the season in as many events with a 75.500 on the apparatus.

A stuck double layout 1/1 dismount by Caesar on high bar was rewarded with a 15.600 and helped Michigan hold on to its three-point lead against rival Ohio State after the third rotation. Mikulak earned U-M's second-best score on high bar with a 14.400 and added to the team's total of 222.950 halfway through the meet.

U-M finished the fourth rotation with a total score of 297.200 and a five-point lead against the Buckeyes. Although the Maize and Blue posted one of its lower team scores of the year on the floor, Ervin led the squad with 15.600 by sticking his Arabian double tuck dismount. His mark was the highest score on the apparatus in both of the day's sessions.

A strong lineup on the pommel horse (73.400) maintained Michigan's five-point lead as it headed into the final rotation. The team was paced by Mikulak, who tallied a day-best 15.500 on the event, while sophomore Nolan Novak boasted a career-high 15.050 by nailing his triple Russian dismount.

The Wolverines concluded the evening on the rings where they solidified the highest total score of the day with a 444.100. Senior Jordan Gaarenstroom received the team's highest mark with a 14.950. His strong maltese positions gave U-M a solid advantage heading into the team finals on Friday.

U-M now turns its attention to the 2014 team and all-around finals, where the Wolverines look to defend their 2013 NCAA team championship, and Mikulak looks to defend his 2013 NCAA all-around championship Friday. U-M is looking to become the first back-to-back NCAA champions for any U-M sport since trampoline accomplished the feat in 1959-60, while Mikulak is looking for his third NCAA all-around title, as he has won titles in 2011 and '13.

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