On Thursday morning, Abby Heiskell announced via Instagram that she will use her final year of eligibility and return to the Michigan women’s gymnastics team for the 2023 season.
Heiskell’s announcement is welcome news for a Michigan team that will now lose only one of the members of its senior class — Abby Brenner, who will compete for Utah next season — as it looks to replicate the National Championship season of 2021.
Heiskell was a crucial member of the Big Ten Championship-winning team, as she shared co-MVP honors with fellow returning senior Natalie Wojcik and rising senior Sierra Brooks.
Throughout the start of her career, Heiskell was an underrated member of the team, and her hard work and dedication often went unnoticed. Her hard work earned her the Wolverines’ Most Improved Award her sophomore year and the nickname of the team’s “secret weapon” that Michigan coach Bev Plocki knew would come in clutch down the road.
In her junior year, she hit seven times as many 9.900-plus scores as her freshman and sophomore years combined, rightfully earning the honor of Michigan Female Breakthrough Athlete of the Year and again winning the Most Improved Award.
At a 2021 NCAA Regional, she made her collegiate debut in the all-around and had a postseason performance to remember. Earning her first floor exercise title her first time competing in the event, Heiskell helped Michigan advance to the Regional Final. There, she built upon her success, and a career-best 9.950 on the uneven bars boosted the Wolverines to the National Semifinal meet in Fort Worth, Texas. Then, once they made the National Final, she hit the final routine on the balance beam to help the Wolverines win their first National Championship.
Heiskell’s clutch performance to secure the title will likely go down as one of the greatest moments in Michigan women’s gymnastics history, but she is so much more than that moment.
Heiskell is a five-time WCGA All-American and a three-time WCGA regular season All-American across all events except the balance beam. She has scored a 9.900 or better on 54 events throughout her career across all four events, earning 14 event and all-around titles.
She had her best season yet in 2022, as she posted 29 9.900-plus scores across all four events and won eight event titles. Three of those titles were at the Big Ten Championship, where Heiskell took home the uneven bars, floor exercise and individual all-around championship to bring the Wolverines redemption for losing the 2021 title.
“Abby Heiskell is phenomenal,” Brooks said after the 2022 Big Ten Championship. “I always tell her whenever we’re at practice, I just love watching her go. I get so excited, (because) her form is amazing and she’s extremely consistent.”
But Heiskell’s return is meaningful beyond her scores in meets. Her leadership and work ethic earned her the role of co-captain her senior year, and her energy, spirit and drive are respected by all who follow the team.
“She has the respect of her team, is very inclusive and is a great leader,” Plocki said on May 4. “She holds the team accountable, but at the same time keeps pulling people together and keeps everybody moving in a common direction.”
With Heiskell’s return, Michigan retains nearly all of its core performers from the National Championship team, along with two Big Ten individual all-around champions — Wojcik shared the title with fellow Wolverine Olivia Karas and Minnesota’s Lexi Ramler in 2019.
Throughout her career, Heiskell has been part of teams that have done what no other Michigan women’s gymnastics teams have accomplished. Her perfect 10 at the Rutgers tri-meet helped Michigan to its best overall and vault scores, and she contributed to unprecedented success at meets throughout the season.
In 2021, Heiskell helped Michigan win its first National Championship. With her return, she could help the Wolverines earn their second.