From the moment Nicole Artz began her floor routine in Michigan’s home gymnastic’s opener last Sunday, it felt like something big was going to happen.
Her teammates began dancing on the side of the mat to Artz’s music mixed by her boyfriend, Zachary Cook, and Artz looked completely relaxed.
At the conclusion of her routine, Artz was surrounded and congratulated by her teammates.
She scored a perfect 10.0, the 19th among eight gymnasts in the 41-year history of the Michigan gymnastics program and first since Joanna Sampson scored a 10 on floor at the Big Ten championships in 2014. Artz, a senior and six-time All-American is second in the nation in floor with an average 9.942. Michigan went on to win the meet against Illinois.
“The first thing I thought was, there’s nothing else I could have done,” Artz said this week. “When I finished the routine, I looked at a judge and I thought, ‘Please, please give me the 10.’ To be swarmed by my teammates was awesome.
“It’s pretty cool to be part of something so special.”
Her entire family was in from Wisconsin — she went to high school at West Ottawa in Holland, Mich. She won the floor and the all-around in the Illinois meet.
Artz was raised in Wisconsin and grew up a big fan of the Badgers. But they don’t have a women’s gymnastics program.
“I was never a Michigan fan growing up. I didn’t want to go to Michigan all my life,” said Artz, an Academic All-American, as well. “But I came to campus here and fell In love with it. The biggest thing that attracted me was the balance between academics and athletics and team culture. And I love the Big Ten.”
Tenth-ranked Michigan women’s gymnastics will host the fourth Autism Awareness Meet on Saturday against Nebraska. Its purpose is to raise awareness within the community about Autism Spectrum Disorders.
“It’s really important,” Artz said. “It’s important to our team. It’s a cause we enjoy raising awareness about and something we care about. We enjoy interacting with the kids.”
Her competitive gymnastics career will end when she graduates from Michigan with degrees in elementary education and language arts. She may stay involved in coaching, but her body has endured the toll of gymnastics.
Artz, who visits kids at Mott Children’s Hospital each week, is in a student-teaching program through Michigan and twice a week in a classroom teaching kids. She’d like to become a kindergarten teacher.
“I’ve got a plan and that’s what I’d love it to be,” she said. “I want to work with the youngest kids as possible. You can play with them but still teach them.”
But until then, Artz has set a high bar that she would like to equal again.
“Every single routine you want to get a 10,” she said. “I do set expectations pretty high for myself. I won’t be disappointed with a 9.95. I will be disappointed with anything that’s less.”