Standing at the edge of the runway gearing up for her vault, Sierra Brooks thought of her coach’s advice. “Don’t overdo it,” assistant coach Scott Sherman always tells the sophomore. He reminded her again before her turn.
At that point in the meet, it was harder than usual to heed that advice. During the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s first rotation on floor on Saturday, junior Abby Brenner suffered an ankle injury landing her first pass and was unable to finish the routine. Then, the normally steady Natalie Wojcik and Gabby Wilson both fell. Even Brooks, whose routine had no major mistakes, earned a lower-than-usual 9.75. Forced to count two falls, the Wolverines already faced a nearly insurmountable deficit.
But at that moment, all that was in front of Brooks was the vault. Motivated by a desire to bounce back for Brenner and the team’s seniors on Senior Day, Brooks sprinted down the runway and completed a near-perfect Yurchenko 1.5, complete with a stuck landing. The vault earned a score of 9.975 and with a rotation score of 49.525, Michigan was right back in it.
At this weekend’s Big Five quad meet, the Wolverines couldn’t completely overcome their disastrous floor rotation, ultimately placing second behind Iowa. But in the second half of the meet, Michigan rallied to finish ahead of Penn State and Rutgers in large part thanks to Brooks, who won two event titles and the all-around and proved herself a steadying force.
“I think this season’s been super hit or miss,” Brooks said. “I’ve had some super good routines and then I’ve had very small slipups. I think it finally came together, and it was very exciting and really rewarding for me and I was happy to be able to be there for my team when we were having an off day that started the way it did.”
Following her vault, Brooks earned a 9.9 for her bars routine, one of four scores of 9.9 or higher on the apparatus from the Wolverines. On beam, she showcased a high-flying triple series and a front toss, with her only mistake being a small step on her double tuck dismount for a 9.95. Brooks was the highest scorer of the meet on both vault and beam, with the former tying her career high and the latter topping it.
Though Brooks has been a top performer since she first arrived at Michigan, this year she’s flown under the radar a bit in the shadow of her teammate, Wojcik, the reigning NCAA beam champion who captured the all-around and beam titles at all four of the Wolverines’ previous meets this season. Brooks has always been capable of matching Wojcik but has never found quite the same consistency. This time, the tables turned when Wojcik had an off meet and Brooks stepped into the spotlight.
“Sierra’s a rockstar,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “She sometimes gets overshadowed by Natalie, so I’m actually glad to see her have her moment to shine here today. Either one of those two could come out on top on any given day and again, I’m really proud of Sierra and all of our other athletes that really dug deep and found it in them to come out and perform like gangbusters. Sierra stuck her vault for the first time this season, she rocked it out on beam and also had a very good bar routine, so I was very very happy and proud of her.”
Brooks and the rest of the Michigan team could’ve mentally collapsed at the first rotation. Instead, Brooks found extra resolve and led her team to a second-place finish.
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