As junior Gabby Wilson awaited her vault score, her teammates swarmed her, jumping up and down. Before it was even announced they knew it was perfect.
Following Thursday’s regional where Michigan exerted uncharacteristically low energy and appeared a shell of its typical self, someone needed to step up in Saturday’s regional final.
Wilson did. Despite a slow start from the Wolverines on the day overall, Wilson landed a perfect 10 on vault that propelled her team back to the national championship.
“She was amazing,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “ … And that brought a lot of energy for us.”
After failing to find its voice on Thursday, Michigan needed a spark plug to guide the team back to its usual form. In the first two rotations — beam and floor— no one provided that edge.
Going into the third event, UCLA held a 0.200 point advantage over the Wolverines. Michigan hoped that on vault — on which it ranks first in the NCAA — it could tighten the gap.
A burst of energy, thanks to Wilson, did just that.
Senior Natalie Wojcik started the surge for the Wolverines, scoring a respectable 9.875. As she rushed back to her teammates with a huge smile on her face, the mood shifted in the right direction.
And four routines later, after Wilson’s impeccable landing, that atmosphere electrified.
Wilson usually finds her greatest success on the floor. That routine has amounted to two perfect scores already this season — one in early February and one in the final meet of the regular season. On Saturday, she added a flawless vault to her list of accomplishments.
“Gabby’s absolutely incredible,” Wojcik said. “Her vault was stunning — it was a well deserved 10.”
In mid-February, Wilson scored a 9.975 on vault, but in the four meets that followed, her scores trended downwards. In the regional final, as she landed with her feet planted firmly on the mat, she knew that she had broken that streak.
“We’ve been … really trying to hone in on those landings and I’m really glad I was able to show how hard we’ve been working,” Wilson said. “I’m very happy about it.”
As she hugged Plocki, grinning ear to ear, Wilson knew that her hard work paid off. She displayed greatness, but the question remained whether the judges thought so, too.
And for the first and only time in this year’s regionals, they saw perfection.
“For Gabby to come out and nail her vault, that’s the perfect thing when judges are wanting to be strict and wanting to take all these deductions,” Plocki said. “To come out and just put that vault right in their face was amazing. I was really ecstatic for her.”
Wilson’s perfect score gave Michigan its first glimpse of success, surmounting the Bruins’ previous advantage. With the Wolverines’ spirits heightened, Michigan hoped to carry that rekindled momentum from vault into its final rotation.
Led by Wilson’s ignition, that spirit never wavered.
“It’s been one of the joys of my career to see her grow and develop personally and emotionally,” Plocki said. “ … To be able to see how far she’s come and the absolute joy she has in doing the sport … just really makes my heart feel good.”
Wilson has proven her value for the Wolverines all year and when they needed a spark, she stepped up.
And after extending its season, Wilson has the opportunity to help her team on the biggest stage.