Olivia Karas stood at the start of the vault runway and prepared to debut her upgraded vault, a Yurchenko one-and-a-half.
The senior sprinted towards the table, flew through the air and twisted. Her feet landed perfectly on the mat. The score flashed. A 9.950. Freshman Natalie Wojcik followed up with the same vault as Karas, another stuck landing and another 9.950.
All season long, the No. 8 Michigan women’s gymnastics team (8-2-0 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) has searched for stuck landings, and Saturday against No. 24 Penn State (3-4, 1-3) it finally found them leading to a victory of 197.075 to 194.750.
Vault was the Wolverines’ highest-scoring event of the night, and in addition to Wojcik and Karas, the remainder of the lineup scored a 9.800 or above, combining for a 49.400.
“I’m extremely proud of this team overall and I’m really happy with how today went,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “We’ve been working so hard on vault, and we had two stuck landings. I think we improved the rest of our vaults and it showed in the score we got.”
On top of her performance on vault, Wojcik contributed a 9.900 on floor and a 9.925 on the balance beam. Her routines scored big enough to earn her three event titles — beam, floor and vault — and the all-around, where she tied her season-best score of 39.625 for the third time.
Opening the meet on bars proved a bit of a struggle for the Wolverines after freshman Maddie Mariani failed to catch the bar during her release move. But sophomore Lauren Farley stepped up, put together a strong routine and earned a 9.875, the highest score of the night on bars.
“Just knowing that your teammates are cheering so loudly,” said Farley. “We all just have each other’s back (it) just makes it all the more exciting because you’re not only doing it for yourself but for everybody.”
Following its strong performance on vault, Michigan headed to floor. Karas put up a strong performance while her teammates stood on the side and copied her dance moves. Senior Emma McLean wasn't in the vault lineup due to a shoulder injury, but she had a big showing on floor and earned a 9.825.
Farley carried her strong performance on bars to the beam where she scored a 9.900, second only to Wojcik. Her teammates followed her lead and received scores at or above a 9.825.
As the number of regular season meets remaining dwindles, the Wolverines continue to strive for even higher scores and cleaner routines.
“It starts to get to be a little bit of a grind in this part of the season,” Plocki said. “But it’s also where they see the postseason around the corner so it’s a big driving force for us. We want to perfect as many things as we can and be ready for that.”