Michigan gymnastics has proved once again this season that they should not be underestimated. Coming into the NCAA Semifinals earlier today, Florida was seeded number one in the country, but Michigan showed that they are in full contention for the National Champion title tomorrow by beating out Florida and placing first in the competition. The Wolverines not only won the meet, but won it by almost 0.500 points, a considerable margin for a competition against the best team in the country.
Michigan started the competition strong on beam, showing no signs of nerves or doubts. The Wolverines had trouble the last time they began a competition on beam, where all the competing athletes had wobbles at Regionals. Sophomore Sierra Brooks highlighted the rotation with a career-high 9.9500, also the highest beam score of the early session. Junior Abby Heiskell also capped off the rotation with a 9.900, pushing Michigan to an early lead in the meet.
“We wanted to be very intentional about where our emotions were and where our adrenaline levels were, and I think they did an incredible job (on beam),” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “It’s a blessing and a curse when you start on beam. It’s difficult, but it’s amazing when it’s behind you. I think it really started the momentum and the flow of the competition for us.”
On floor, every score that counted for the team was over 9.900, leading them to a program-high NCAA Championship floor score of 49.6500. Brooks topped off the event once again with another 9.9500, adding to her collection of high scores in the session. Heiskell and sophomore Gabby Wilson also had stellar performances, both with a 9.9375. Michigan extended their lead even further, staying exactly 0.500 points above Florida halfway through the meet.
“This past month, we’ve really let it be known that we are an amazing floor team, and when we hit, we hit phenomenally well,” Brooks said. “Today we were so excited for everyone, everyone was hitting the best that they could. It was just really fun to watch.”
The Wolverines continued their dominating meet on the vault, where they are ranked first in the country. Although the team didn’t finish the rotation with any stuck vaults, every pass scored above a 9.8000. Heiskell started the rotation with the highest score for the team, a 9.900. Michigan stayed comfortably in the lead with a 148.4750, over Florida’s 148.2125.
In the Wolverines’ last event, Michigan finished as strong as they started, with all counted scores over a 9.8500 on the bars. Brooks led the team with a 9.9250, securing her top all-around spot in the session with a stuck dismount. Wilson also had a stuck dismount on her double back layout, scoring a 9.900. The only uncharacteristic mistake of the day came from junior Natalie Wojcik with a fall on her high bar release move. However, Wojcik’s routine did not keep Michigan from finishing the meet in first, ultimately scoring a 197.8625 while Florida finished in second place with 197.4375.
Both Michigan and Florida advanced to the NCAA Gymnastics Finals tomorrow, where they will also face No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 6 Utah, who placed first and second respectively in the evening session. Plocki mentioned that for Michigan tonight, it’s about enjoying the meet and recovering both mentally and physically to be ready for tomorrow.
“We’re looking at this as such an incredible opportunity for us to step out on the floor with the best teams in the country and go to battle. We feel like we’re one of them, we feel like we deserve to be here.
“We feel that if we hit to the best of our ability in four events, we may be the team to beat.”