The Michigan women’s gymnastics team has dominated the Big Ten in women’s gymnastics this year, going 9-0 against conference opponents. On Saturday, it was more of the same.
The Wolverines capped off a successful year of conference play with a strong performance at the Big Ten Championships at Rec Hall in State College. They came away with two gymnasts tied for the all-around award as well as the program’s sixth consecutive Big Ten trophy.
“It’s awesome,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “There’s been a lot going on and this team has refused to let anything get in the way of their goals and they’ve overcome a lot. For these seniors to go out with four Big Ten Championship rings is pretty amazing.”
The two Michigan gymnasts tied for the all-around award were freshman Natalie Wojcik and senior Olivia Karas. They each scored a total 39.600, and they also shared the award with Minnesota’s Lexy Ramler.
Karas and Wojcik’s scores, combined with the rest of the team’s performances, gave the Wolverines their total score of 197.400, nearly a full point ahead of second place Illinois.
Michigan started the meet on the balance beam. Though it’s one of the more difficult events to get high scores, the Wolverines led the meet with a combined score of 49.300 at the end of the first session.
Wojcik and Karas tied for the high score, each earning a 9.900. They were followed by sophomore Lauren Farley with a 9.875, freshman Maddie Mariani with a 9.825, as well as juniors Lexi Funk and Maddy Osman, who both had scores of 9.800. The team had a bye for the next event and took a break while other teams began with their respective events.
Soon enough, the Wolverines were back in action on the floor exercise.
On floor, Wojcik had the high score for the team with an impressive 9.950. She was followed by Karas with a 9.925 and senior Emma McLean with a 9.900. McLean and Karas are the sole seniors on the squad, and there was no better way to end their Big Ten careers than with a championship.
“I am speechless,” McLean said. “I am so proud of my teammates and the battles we’ve overcome, and we stuck together through all of it. We really just gave it everything we had from the fall to now and no matter what we kept pounding.”
Michigan was rounded out in scoring by freshmen Abby Brenner and Abby Heiskell, with scores of 9.850 and 9.825, respectively. Brenner and Heiskell, along with Wojcik and Mariani, were integral to the team throughout the season and have high expectations for the coming years.
“The future is bright,” Plocki said. “The freshmen now know what it’s all about and we’ve got a freshmen group that is unbelievable. They’ve got a really talented class coming in next year. It’ll be their job to teach next year’s class what it’s all about.”
The team was on vault next, where Wojcik had earned a perfect score of 10 earlier in February. There was no perfect score Saturday, but the Wolverines still had the highest vault scores of the meet. McLean had the high score of the event with a 9.900.
Wojcik and Karas each had a 9.875. Brenner earned herself a 9.825 and they were rounded out by Heiskell and sophomore Anne Maxim, each with a score of 9.800.
The final event of the meet for Michigan was the uneven bars. Brenner and Karas had the high scores of 9.900. Mariani and Wojcik each had a score of 9.875, and Maxim and Heiskell both earned a 9.825. With the conclusion of the uneven bars, the scores were added and the Wolverines were crowned champions.
The Big Ten Championship isn’t the end for Michigan, though.
“I think we can build on our momentum (into the NCAA championship) we’ve been creating all season,” said McLean. “We’re still climbing uphill and we haven’t reached our best yet. That’s what we’re looking for and hopefully, we put it together at the right time. I know we will. I know there’s exciting things waiting for us.”