Coming off of the first rotation on uneven bars up by 0.900, with three consecutive 9.900-plus scores, the No. 1 Michigan women’s gymnastics team looked like it would be having another 198-plus score meet to follow their Big Ten regular season title-clinching performance at the Big Five meet last week.
So when three Wolverines fell in the second rotation on their nationally top-ranked vault, it was completely unexpected.
Forced to count two 9.325s for the vault, Michigan needed a gymnast to step up and deliver. That gymnast was junior Sierra Brooks.
Brooks delivered her first career perfect 10.000, en route to winning two event titles and the all-around, securing the Wolverines’ (12-0 overall, 9-0 Big Ten) undefeated Big Ten regular season against Nebraska (5-6, 4-5), 196.475 to 196.225.
“The thing that’s been so amazing about this team is that there hasn’t been just a single person that has dominated the all-around every time,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “When somebody struggles, somebody else steps up and does amazing. So I am really proud of Sierra today that she was able to come away with a 10.000 on an otherwise shocking vault performance.”
With victories on the vault and floor exercise, Brooks won her third all-around title this season. She is also the fourth Wolverine to post a perfect 10.000 on the vault, which made Michigan’s 48.275 vault score even more surprising.
“The hiccups that we did have are just something that are just truly uncharacteristic, especially on vault,” Brooks said. “So going into the rest of the meet, I think we were just in the mindset where we were like, let’s do what we know how to do… we have to rise to the level of competition that we’re seeing.”
The mark of a great team isn’t when they fall, it’s what they do after they get back up.
After their poor showing on vault, down by 0.025, the Wolverines needed a stellar performance on the floor exercise to retake the lead. With sophomore Reyna Guggino stepping out of bounds on her first pass, the pressure was on for the next five Michigan gymnasts. Senior Abby Heiskell and sophomore Naomi Morrison both posted impressive scores of 9.950, and Brooks anchored the Wolverines with a 9.975, tying her own personal best and winning the event title.
The Wolverines headed into the final rotation up by a slim 0.300, and after another high-scoring performance by Brooks, all eyes were on senior Natalie Wojcik as she stepped up in the fifth position with the Michigan lead down to 0.125.
Watching Wojcik’s 9.900 event-winning performance on beam, you would have never known that she fell on the vault and stepped out-of-bounds on the floor exercise. All you would see is a competitor who secured the win for her team in a high-pressure situation.
“To have (Wojcik) come back and make the floor routine and then win beam in a very clutch situation for us there just shows what a competitor she is,” Plocki said. “Great teams have the ability to leave the past in the past and stay focused on the present. You can’t look ahead, you can’t look behind, you have to be focused on what you’re doing in the moment.”
No coach, team, or athlete likes to fail. But sometimes failure is necessary to challenge a team, show them their weaknesses, and prepare them for a bigger challenge ahead.
“We have been so consistent, we haven’t counted a fault all season long… If this was going to happen, it happened in the perfect place,” Plocki said. “… Starting next weekend (at No. 2 Oklahoma), we need to be firing on all cylinders. Hopefully this was the down before the last uphill trajectory of our program to a successful postseason.”