The defending National Champions, Michigan, had a strong start to the 2022 season. Tess Crowley/Daily. Buy this photo.

With the first routine of the season, sophomore Reyna Guggino raced down the vault runway and soared into her Yurchenko one and a half. She landed on the ground as the crowd, including a full student section, roared, her feet staying still to complete a stuck vault. 

Guggino’s vault scored a 9.900 and set the tone for the rest of the gymnastics meet on Thursday as No. 1 Michigan (1-0) defeated No. 15 Georgia (0-1) in its first meet of the 2022 season 197.750-194.500. The Wolverines ultimately won the meet by over 3 points and earned the highest score in program history for a season opener. 

The meet also marked the first time fans were allowed to watch in person in the Crisler Center since COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season. 

“It was amazing to have everyone in here,” senior Natalie Wojcik said. “Everyone was super involved, cheering the whole time and participating in all our little traditions that we have throughout. And the student section was completely filled, so it was really cool to see their support and just to be here back with our families and all of our friends.”

Following Guggino’s first vault, the rest of the vault rotation also delivered high-scoring routines, highlighted by 9.900s from senior Abby Heiskell and junior Sierra Brooks. Every gymnast in the rotation completed a Yurchenko one and a half, which gave them an extra boost in their scoring, since the vault allows for a start value of 10.0.

“In order for (the more difficult vault) to be a benefit, not only do you have to do them, you have to do them well,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “Because if you do it and you don’t do them well, it will probably be a bigger deduction. But if you do them well… in theory it gives you a tenth, tenth and a half edge over someone else.”

As the Wolverines completed their vault rotation, the Bulldogs struggled on bars, giving Michigan a full point lead moving into the second rotation. The Wolverines continued their strong performance onto the bars, led by a 9.950 from Wojcik and a 9.925 from Brooks. Meanwhile, Georgia suffered another rough rotation on the vault with a fall. Michigan gained a 98.900-97.525 lead halfway through the meet. 

The Wolverines continued to increase their lead with a set of solid routines on the beam. Wojcik and Heiskell both stuck their dismounts, earning a 9.950 and a 9.925. When Heiskell finished her routine, she ran directly to assistant coach Maile’ana Kanewa-Hermelyn — who leads the coaching efforts for beam —  to embrace her. The event has been a steady force for the team and was instrumental in its national championship title last season.

“Maile has been amazing,” Plocki said. “Our staff is amazing, we complement each other so well. Scott and I both have more experience, which comes with age, but she’s been such a great infusion of young energy and some new ideas. And she choreographed all of our floor routines, which I think are spectacular.”

Michigan’s floor routines did not disappoint in the final rotation, where the team clinched the win. Junior Gabby Wilson closed out the meet with the highest scoring routine, earning a 9.950. Sophomore Naomi Morrison also assisted on the floor and throughout the rest of the competition, as she competed in her first all-around effort for the Wolverines. 

“(Competing in the all-around) gives me a confidence boost,” Morrison said. “I just want to be a steady force for this team, and I really want to put up scores for them and help our team succeed, and hopefully win a national championship again.”

Michigan’s performance secured the win against Georgia, but also proved why it is the top ranked team going into the season. Its score of 197.750 was the highest for any team in the NCAA this weekend, as well as the highest-scoring season opener for the Wolverines in program history.