Freshman gymnast Abby Brenner stood at the start of the vault runway, saluted the judges and took off toward the table.
In her debut for the Wolverines, Brenner executed her Yurchenko one-and-a-half with ease. She earned not only the highest score of the rotation, but the highest score of the entire competition on vault, a 9.875.
The Michigan women’s gymnastics team led the competition after a strong opening rotation on vault in a quad exhibition meet against Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. Rotation by rotation, the Wolverines extended their lead to win by 3.125 points, finishing the meet with a final score of 195.125.
The exhibition meet offered Michigan its first opportunity of the season to perform its routines in front of judges and a crowd.
“We train and train and train in the gym and athletes get into a comfort zone,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “And this is clearly not in a comfort zone for them. There’s a lot of things to get used to and adjust to. The landing surfaces in training are a little softer and more forgiving, but these are harder.”
At times, the Wolverines struggled. Sophomore Lauren Farley fell in the middle of her first release move on bars during the second rotation. Due to strong performances by the remainder of the lineup, her score was dropped, and the Wolverines stood ahead of the second-place Chippewas by just .625 of a point.
Mistakes followed Michigan to the balance beam. The third rotation was marked by wobbles and balance checks and was the lowest-scoring rotation of the evening for the Wolverines. Junior Lexi Funk led off on beam, and freshman Natalie Wojcik anchored it. Both preformed consistent routines and earned the two highest scores on the event.
Michigan closed the meet on floor exercise. Both Wojcik and Brenner performed successful, high-scoring routines to end their debut meet for the Wolverines. Wojcik won an event title on both bars and floor, as well as the all around title with a score of 39.225.
“Our freshmen were great today,” said senior Emma McLean. “I’m so proud of them. Their training in the gym every day is paying off, and I’m excited to see what they can do this year.”
In addition to strong performances by the two freshmen in the lineup, Michigan found consistency in other gymnasts. Junior Maggie O’Hara received a 9.825 for her bar routine after a near stick on her double layout dismount. Senior Olivia Karas, who was sidelined halfway through the season last year due to an Achilles tendon rupture, had a strong first meet back competing in three of the four rotations for the Wolverines. Her scores on vault and bars were second only to teammates Brenner and Wojcik.
Michigan hopes to improve these performances further, as the Wolverines don’t have their first scored competition until Jan. 4 at the Cancun Classic, another quad meet.
“We like to take what we can learn from here and apply that to practice the next month,” said McLean. “So that when we really start, we come out of the gate strong versus today which was putting it together for the first time and seeing where we’re at.”