Natalie Wojcik took the first fall of the night as the freshman tried to land her vault routine and took the breath out of Crisler Center right with her.
It’s not easy being the first competitor to miss the mark in a competitive Big Ten meet against 13th-ranked Nebraska (3-2, 2-1 Big Ten). There was a lot at stake.
“(Wojcik) was obsessing about what she did wrong,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki.
The team had to secure a win against Nebraska after losing last year. Given the circumstances, Wojcik’s reaction was understandable.
Wojcik’s breakout season has drawn a lot of praise, prompting even greater expectations.
“That’s the thing that you risk when you come out as a freshman and you're the superstar like that right out the gate,” Plocki said. “People think that you’re not human. (The mistake) does not matter, what matters is the next three events.”
After falling behind at the end of the first rotation, 48.777- 48.950, the Wolverines and Wojcik took to the uneven bars at the advice of Plocki.
The mistake does not matter, what matters is the next three events.
Wojcik soared and stuck her landing this time, earning the highest score of 9.925. Then she did it again on the beam, leading the others with 9.875 points. She almost did it a third time during her fiery floor routine, bested by only .05 points by senior Olivia Karas.
Entering the last event, Michigan was now ahead, 147.200-146.975, thanks in large part to Wojcik’s rebound.
A fall for junior Lexi Funk on the floor routine put the Cornhuskers back in the lead and after staying neck and neck, a fall from Nebraska’s Sierra Hassel meant that a stellar floor performance from Karas could nab the victory for the Wolverines.
This time last year, Karas could not have been in a more different position. Suffering a season-ending Achilles injury against Maryland forced her to spend the rest of her junior season watching from the sidelines in a wheelchair as her team ceded to Nebraska.
Her resulting 9.950 score — meaning that one judge awarded her a perfect 10 — was a personal victory as much as a team accomplishment, as the Wolverines stayed undefeated in Big Ten play, 196.500-195.700.
“I haven’t done a full floor routine on this floor yet, the one I got hurt on,” Karas said. “(Winning the meet) was a very emotional moment.”
Whether it be a fall in the first event or a season-ending injury, Michigan showed the perseverance to embrace adversity and overcome obstacles to pull off a memorable win.