By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 14, 2010
It has been three years since Natalie Beilstein attended her first summer gymnastics camp in Ann Arbor, but little has changed since then. She turned the heads of the women's gymnastics team coaches then and she continues to do so as a freshman on the team.
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Beilstein, a Butler, Pa. native, was awarded the inaugural Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Freshman of the Week honors after winning both of her title events in Michigan's dual-meet victory over Iowa and Bowling Green last Saturday.
“I really didn't expect to get (the award), and I certainly wasn't expecting to go out and win two events my very first time out there," Beilstein said.
Coach Bev Plocki was elated when she heard about the announcement from the Big Ten, noting that it was justly earned.
“Natalie was definitely very deserving," she said. "I don't think there are a lot of freshmen who would come out in their very first competition and do what she did amongst some very good competition."
With her scores — 9.875 on the vault and 9.850 on her floor routine — Beilstein made herself nationally relevant, while helping her team to a season-opening 2-0 record. Her vault score was ranked second in the conference, while the floor total puts her at sixth in the Big Ten.
Plocki was thrilled with the young gymnast's individual performance, and said that after recruiting Beilstein for several years, her performance on Saturday showed exactly why Michigan had pursued her.
“She was on our radar for a long time,” Plocki said. “We certainly knew what her potential was in gymnastics and we were excited about the opportunity to get her in here. We really thought she was a diamond in the rough.”
Coming off of the mat after her floor exercise, Beilstein was beset with high-fives from teammates, then she found Plocki and the two embraced — celebrating a job well done.
The entire gymnastics team opened the season strong on Saturday, and they will be looking for Beilstein to remain a big contributor in their upcoming meet against Michigan State next Wednesday, as well as the rest of the 2010 season.
From the coach's perspective, the future looks bright for this talented young star.
“My expectations are just that she continues to grow and mature as a competitive athlete in our program,” Plocki said. “I know it is her goal, as it is ours, that she will be competing in the all-around potentially even by the end of the season.”
For Beilstein, her aspirations came with a laugh and six words: “I want to be the best.”
And with her strong start and her admirable work ethic, she is well on her way.