It’s been more than just a big week for Natalie Wojcik. You could say it’s been her month.
Three weeks ago, in the opening meet of the season, the freshman gymnast broke Michigan’s record for highest score in a collegiate debut with a near perfect 39.625 — good for the all-around title at the Cancun Classic.
One week later, in front of 10,000-plus fans in Tuscaloosa, Ala., she claimed that honor again and won the individual vault and balance beam events.
Wojcik’s breakout performance in her first competition with the Wolverines landed her a selection as Big Ten Gymnast of the Week. In just two weeks, she had already received recognition as Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Twice.
But Friday night, when the award ceremony wrapped up and Wojcik’s name was called for her third all-around title in three weeks, the achievement had new meaning — she had done it at home.
In an animated Crisler Center, Wojcik stole the show with a meet-high 39.325, aiding the No. 8 Michigan women’s gymnastics team to a 195.975-194.050 conference and home-opening victory over Michigan State.
Currently sitting at No. 3, No. 6 and No. 21 in the nation in the vault, beam and uneven bars events, respectively, Wojcik has set a precedent of sustainable precision for herself in competitions this season. And Michigan coach Bev Plocki has taken note.
“She’s a perfectionist,” Plocki said. “She’s very in tune with what she’s doing, she gives 100 percent in practice every single turn she takes every day. And that shows up on the competition floor with confidence and with consistency.”
Wojcik’s performance on Friday, particularly in the uneven bars and beam rotations, embodied the artistry and skill the freshman has brought to the Wolverines’ roster this season.
Wojcik has anchored the vault, uneven bars and beam rotations for the Wolverines in their first three meets. Pressure is inherent to this role, as the anchor is the last gymnast to perform in a rotation, representing a final opportunity for a team to boost its score in any given event.
But from the moment Wojcik made her first leap onto the bars Friday, the pressure didn’t show. She wound up for her double layout, gaining speed as she circled the high bar. She released, flipping with perfect form.
Her feet connected with the mat. Flawless landing. A minute later, the scoreboard read 9.900.
“I do get a little bit nervous, but it’s more excited nervous, though,” Wojcik said. “So reminding myself that this is what I train for every day in practice and knowing the team is behind me really helps to calm me down.”
The weight of Wojcik’s role as anchor is especially evident when other preceding Michigan routines do not score as high as would be desired. This was the case on the balance beam Friday night, and the squad was looking for a knockout ending from Wojcik to head into the floor exercise with a significant edge over Michigan State.
As Wojcik gracefully executed a switch leap followed by a split jump, she couldn’t have looked more composed on the thin beam. The gymnast transitioned from a back handspring into a back layout without any signs of slipping following the flip. She finished with a clean dismount and stuck the landing.
Again, Crisler erupted. This time, the board flashed 9.950 — her top beam score thus far this season.
“That moment when I landed my dismount and had everyone cheering and high-fiving me was really exciting,” Wojcik said.
Added Plocki: “Her beam in general, is like, exquisite. She puts the artistry in artistic gymnastics. She’s beautiful, everything is so precise and perfect — and that’s from focus and repetition.”
As a top-scoring gymnast on a top-ranked program the past three weekends, Wojcik is a strong link on a team brimming with young talent, one that includes powerhouse freshmen in Maddie Mariani and Abby Brenner, who regularly hit solid routines in competition.
“This is definitely going to be a team that’s hopefully going to peak as we continue to go through the season,” Plocki said.
And if the best is yet to come for Plocki’s team, the potential for a dominant Michigan season is looking pretty bright.