When Natalie Wojcik steps up to the beam, there’s no stress.
Even with the No. 2 Michigan women’s gymnastics team trailing after the first two rotations on Friday, there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that the graduate gymnast would lift her team back up from the anchor position.
Some gymnasts need a little extra motivation for the beam, one of the most nerve-wracking events. But not Wojcik. Everyone, especially her, knew she was going to do what she does best.
And that’s exactly what she did — scoring a perfect 10.
With that perfect score, Wojcik led the Wolverines to a program-best 49.625 on the beam against No. 19 Minnesota. That score was key in helping secure the victory for the Wolverines.
After a shaky start on vault and the uneven bars, Michigan had a tall task in front of it. Down 0.075 points, it would’ve been easy for nerves to get to the gymnasts while awaiting their turns on the beam and floor. But Michigan coach Bev Plocki made sure to continue instilling confidence in her team, even when they trailed.
“I felt confident,” Plocki said. “I told them (that) before we went. We always take a deep breath and shake out all of that kind of (energy). You have to be in the right zone for beam. Adrenaline can’t be pumping. You have to be more relaxed. … And they were great.”
The Wolverines knew this event was crucial for their chances in the meet. As the 12th-ranked beam team in the country, Michigan had to seize the opportunity in front of it. Plocki’s message and calm energy stuck with the team at the right moment.
“We were calm and collected,” senior Nicoletta Koulos said. “No one was freaking out. … Bev just had us take a deep breath before we went on beam. It was just like just do what we know how to do. And that worked well for us.”
The Wolverines got into the right zone immediately. In the lead-off spot on the beam, junior Carly Bauman stuck an impressive side somi in a piked position before finishing with a stuck landing off a pike gainer. Scoring a 9.850, Bauman got Michigan off to a solid start.
With one confidence-building routine out of the way, the Wolverines didn’t look back, improving on each score through the next three routines. Senior Gabby Wilson showed off her incredible strength with a standing switch leap and capped off her routine with a roundoff double tuck dismount. She blew her season average away, scoring a 9.875.
As Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” played throughout Crisler Center, Koulos looked to keep Michigan’s momentum going on the beam. Using the song as further motivation, Koulos scored a career-best 9.925. She landed a cat leap front aerial and finished with a near-stuck landing with a round-off one and a half.
“I just finally nailed all my skills on the beam,” Koulos said. “I’ve just been confident and aggressive and honing the beam. … I kind of just want to get up and attack my skills, and it worked out in my favor today.
Koulos’s performance on the beam is a testament to just how far she has come. From joining the team as a walk-on her freshman year to being a senior captain this year, she has proved herself as an extremely valuable asset to the team.
Senior Sierra Brooks and graduate student Abby Heiskell each performed well, scoring a 9.950 and 9.875, respectively. Brooks stuck the landing on her back handspring double twist dismount. With a double fist bump and a hug from her coach, it was clear that the Wolverines were hitting their stride.
Finally, it was Wojcik’s chance to push her team over the top. The 2019 beam National Champion stepped up to the beam looking to break the program’s beam record. With high scores from the first five gymnasts, that record was within sight. But Wojcik needed to be near perfect.
As the eighth-best beam gymnast in the nation, perfection is the standard for Wojcik. And she rarely disappoints. With a triple flex series of a back handspring, back handspring layout and a round-off one combined with a half-stuck landing to finish, Wojcik delivered with precision and excellence.
“It was so exciting,” Wojcik said. “The last time I got a 10 on beam was actually at home at the Flip for Chip meet as well. It was a really cool full circle moment to do it at home as a fifth year, and at a meet that means so much to our team.”
Few within the Michigan team were surprised by Wojcik’s score.
“At this point, we’re like ‘is she going to get a 10 or is she going to get a 9.975?’ ” Koulos said. “There’s no stress when she goes. It’s at ease. Everyone is relaxed. … We’re like just do your thing. And then ten, it’s always just icing on the cake.”
As Plocki flashed ‘10’ with her hands, the scoreboard confirmed what Michigan already knew: her beam star was once again perfect.
And with that score serving as the icing on the cake, the Wolverines soared to a program-best.