Five meets into the No. 10 Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s season (7-2 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) all four members of the freshmen class filled the lineups for the first time.
The Wolverines’ freshman class — Maddie Mariani, Natalie Wojcik, Abby Brenner and Abby Heiskell — was the No. 1 ranked recruiting class coming into the 2019 season.
“We’re definitely excited to get all four of us out there finally,” Wojcik said. “Maddie and Abby (Heiskell) have been working really hard to come back from their injuries. To be able to see them put their routines out on the floor today was really exciting.”
Wojcik has been a star for Michigan since the moment her feet hit the mats in her first meet. A month into the season, she’s already been named Big Ten Gymnast and Big Ten Freshman of the Week, twice and four times, respectively.
Sunday’s meet against Iowa (2-4, 1-2) was no exception. Wojcik earned a personal best on the uneven bars — a 9.950. With an event title on bars and a win in the all-around, her title total rose to 18.
But Wojcik’s focus isn’t set on individual goals — she’s all about the team.
“Honestly the team’s scores mean more to me than the individual ones,” Wojcik said. “To be able to be a part of such a strong team…to stay strong together and compete for each other has been a really special thing this season.”
Wojcik isn’t the only freshman star, both Brenner and Mariani have been making consistent contributions for the Wolverines meet after meet. They appear regularly in the bars lineup alongside Wojcik. Sunday, both earned a 9.875 for their routines, a personal best for Mariani.
The past couple of meets Mariani has made her way into the anchoring spot of the beam lineup, an important role, and provided the team with solid scores: 9.725, 9.850 and 9.750.
Week after week, the vault, bar and floor lineups are filled with Brenner. She won her first ever career event title with a 9.850 on her Yurchenko 1.5 vault Sunday.
The missing piece of Michigan’s freshman class — Heiskell — made two lineup debuts and competed for an exhibition routine in the meet against Iowa, after spending the first half of the season on the sidelines due to injury.
“(Competing) was amazing,” said Heiskell. “It’s been the first time in almost a year that I’ve competed. My team is supporting me 100 percent of the way.”
Her best score of the night came from an exhibition routine on the balance beam, a 9.750. She competed in the leadoff spot on vault, performed a Yurchenko 1/1 and received a 9.600 in part because of her step on the landing. On the floor, her score of 9.675 — due to sloppy landings on her tumbling passes — was dropped.
“Abby Heiskell’s still a little bit nervous,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “She has so much more in the tank to give and I expect her to continue to get better and better as the season goes on.”
With just under half of the regular season remaining, the Wolverines’ freshman class is leading the way as the team looks to reach new heights.
“They inspire me every day, push me, make me strive to be the best that I can be,” Heiskell said. “It’s great to have a class of girls that is so motivated and hard working.”