Standing on the edge of the floor before her routine, junior Natalie Wojcik watched as her teammate’s score came in at a 9.950, securing the win for Michigan and advancing it to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships. However, Wojcik still saluted the judges, stepped out on the floor and performed a strong routine that allowed the No. 4 Wolverines (20-2) to tie their program record team score at the NCAA Regionals over the weekend.
The Wolverines showed some nerves on the first day of competition in the Regional Semifinals, but the team ultimately placed first and advanced. Michigan’s biggest errors in its first day of competition came on beam, the team’s first event of the day. None of the gymnasts fell off the beam, but there were many large balance checks that left the team with an uncharacteristically low score of 48.925 to start the meet.
Instead of letting its first rotation set the tone for the rest of the meet though, the Wolverines bounced back in the rest of the events, ending the meet in first place with a 197.650 and advancing to the Regional Finals.
No. 13 UCLA also qualified for the next day of competition, trailing Michigan by 0.600 points with a team score of 197.050.
On Saturday, the Wolverines needed to place in the top two out of the four teams in their Regional Finals to qualify for the National Championships. Facing No. 5 University of California, Berkeley, the Bruins and Ohio State, Michigan excelled on the competition floor yet again, placing first to secure its National Championship spot.
“I feel like people are paying attention to us and hopefully giving us the credit we deserve for being … in contention for winning that national championship,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “It’s not a fluke when you (score over 198) three times in the same year, so I hope people are paying attention to the University of Michigan.”
The Wolverines began the day with a strong vault rotation, one of the team’s best events, to have an immediate lead in the meet. Junior Abby Heiskell started with a low score, but the rest of her team made up for it, led by two 9.950 vaults from senior Sierra Brooks and freshman Naomi Morrison.
Using the energy from the first rotation, the Wolverines moved to bars, where they broke a program record score with their performance.
“Abby Heiskell put us on a great note, hitting her first routine,” Brooks said. “It was beautiful, the dismount dropped right in, and right when that happens we just get extremely excited, and we’re not worried about making little mistakes that usually get to us.”
Heiskell started the rotation with a 9.950, which was matched by sophomore Gabby Wilson and Brooks. Wojcik anchored the rotation with a stuck landing on her dismount, winning the event title with a 9.975. The high scoring performances kept Michigan in the lead with second place Golden Bears trailing by 0.375 points.
Despite the Wolverine’s beam performance in the previous day’s competition, the team was able to stay consistent. Brooks posted a huge 9.950 score, and Heiskell finished out the rotation with a solid 9.900 to keep the team’s lead going into its last rotation on the floor.
The Wolverines kept their momentum on floor, with four gymnasts earning scores of 9.900, and Wilson topping the rotation with a 9.950. Wojcik finished the rotation with a 9.900, even though the team had already won the meet before her performance even began.
“It’s great to have five solid routines before going into that anchor spot, because it definitely takes some of that pressure off,” Wojcik said. “You know that everyone else has done their job, and it sets you up to really just do your best and be carefree but also be able to hit and add another solid routine to the mix.”
Although Wojcik’s stellar routine wasn’t necessary in securing Michigan’s win, it pushed the team to tie its program record and give the Wolverines necessary confidence as they move into the National Championships. Michigan also posted the second highest score of any team in the country this weekend, only falling short to No. 1 Oklahoma.
“We are just hoping to continue building on this meet and have more meets like this at Nationals,” Wojcik said. “We’re in contention for a national title, and we know we’re capable of doing that, so we’re going to use our energy to get our goal accomplished.”