ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Fueled by its highest balance beam score in 17 meets, No. 5 Michigan pummeled rival Ohio State 197.325-195.200 in front of 2,764 fans in the team's home opener on Saturday.
Senior Joanna Sampson won the all-around for the third consecutive week -- also her seventh in a row in qualifying regular-season meets, dating back to last season -- while also taking first on floor exercise (9.950) and tying for first one uneven bars (9.875). Meanwhile, senior Reema Zakharia tied for first on balance beam (9.900), finishing second on floor exercise (9.925) and taking fourth on vault (9.850).
Though it was U-M's lowest-scoring event of the evening, balance beam was the highlight. After Artz kicked off the rotation with a 9.800 in her traditional leadoff spot, she was followed by another freshman -- Talia Chiarelli, who navigated her routine to score a 9.875, finished off by a beautiful double tuck dismount. Senior co-captains Shelby Gies and Zakharia were both up next, each scoring 9.900s. Zakharia, in particular, was jubilant about her performance, successfully hitting her front toss, back tuck connection after failing to stay on the beam during the same series last week at N.C. State. Joanna Sampson scored a 9.775, getting deducted for a balance check during her flight series in the fifth spot, giving Michigan a rotation score of 49.250. Coupled with a 48.775 floor exercise rotation for Ohio State, the Wolverines held a commanding lead heading into the final rotation.
Michigan added to its lead during the final rotation on floor exercise, as all five counted scores were at or above 9.850. Chiarelli began the rotation with a hit, scoring 9.800, followed by Sachi Sugiyama (9.875) and Natalie Beilstein (9.850). The last three gymnasts -- Nicole Artz, Zakharia and Sampson -- all had at least a 9.900. Sampson closed down the meet in traditional superb fashion, nailing all three of her tumbling passes. The Wolverines scored 49.500, a score they reached three times last season.
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Sooners were locked in.
It was the first road meet of the season against a No. 17 Arizona team that would challenge top-ranked Oklahoma throughout the night. In a situation that could have been fraught with nerves, the Sooners were focused, earning a 197.575-196.925 victory against a tough Arizona team that battled to the final routine.
Senior Taylor Spears led the way for OU, earning titles on bars (9.925) and beam (9.95) for the Sooners. Sophomore Keeley Kmieciak paced a strong outing on vault for Oklahoma, capturing the event title with a 9.925.
Equally stunning for the Sooners was freshman trio Chayse Capps, Kara Lovan and McKenzie Wofford. Each posted at least one career-high in their first road competition of the season, highlighting a group of newcomers who earned opportunities when OU opted to rest all-arounder Erica Brewer on vault, beam and floor.
No. 2 LSU vs. Auburn
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Trailing at the end of three rotations, LSU closed the meet with a strong 49.525 on floor to power past No. 14 Auburn 197.175-196.850 on Saturday afternoon in the Maravich Center.
In front of a raucous crowd of 4,048 inside the arena, LSU improved to 2-1 overall and 1-1 against Southeastern Conference competition with the fourth-consecutive 197-score at home dating back to last season.
Junior Rheagan Courville captured her third all-around title in as many meets this season with a season-high tying 39.600, including a fantastic 9.95 on floor to cement the Tigers’ victory.
Kaleigh Dickson broke her career high on floor with a 9.90 in the leadoff spot, and she shattered her career high in the all-around with a 39.425.
No. 4 Utah vs. No. 8 UCLA
SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah shot out to a huge lead behind season-high efforts on vault and bars and cruised to a 197.125-195.875 win against No. 8 UCLA. The nearly one-and-a-half point cushion built on vault and bars helped the crowd of 14,483 breathe a little easier when the Utes stumbled on the balance beam.
After counting a fall on the beam for the second week in a row, Utah (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) bounced back on floor to score a 49.425 and earn the 999th victory in Utah gymnastics history. Greg Marsden, in his 39th year on the staff, has coached all of those victories and has the opportunity to become the first 1,000-win coach in the sport next Saturday at Arizona State.
"It's a milestone for the program," Marsden said. "The nice thing for me is that I've been here the entire time and it says a lot about the quality of the athletes we've had here and also our great coaching staffs over the years. I have been fortunate that Utah has provided me with the wherewithal to recruit great athletes and coaches."
Certainly one of those great athletes is junior Georgia Dabritz, who stood out in a star-studded field by winning all three events she performed. Dabritz set or tied career highs on vault and floor by scoring a 9.975 on both, and won bars with a 9.95.
Dabritz, a first-team All-America all-arounder last year -- placing seventh at the NCAA Championships -- has not yet broken into the all-around lineup this season.