The instant that junior Natalie Wojcik powerfully stuck the landing of her dismount from the balance beam, Michigan gymnastics coach Bev Plocki’s arms both shot like rockets into the air with palms open and fingers spread.
A perfect 10, she visually proclaimed for all to see.
“She is so beautiful in that event, and we have judged her at a 10 so many times in practice,” Plocki said. “And it's so amazing to see her put together that routine. When she stuck the dismount, she didn't give the judges any opportunity to take anything. So I knew that it had to be a 10.”
The judges table did not disappoint and awarded Wojcik with a full 10 points, adding the exclamation point to a dominant win for the No. 8 Wolverines over Nebraska on Monday afternoon.
Michigan’s 197.650 to 195.300 win was expected, but it also answered a lot of open questions regarding the Wolverines’ form following the University’s 14-day practice pause and the team’s 24-day break from competition.
Michigan impressed many with a win over then-No.4 Minnesota on Jan. 22, but a multi-week stoppage posed to halt its momentum.
The Wolverines made sure they picked up where they left off.
“I give a lot of credit to our captains and the athletes, they're very motivated,” Plocki said. “We have tried very hard to focus on the things that we're grateful for. And we're grateful for the opportunity to have the support resources that we did to help us and guide us with some of our conditioning and our to help our bodies (while we couldn’t be together). And when we came back, we were able to put together a practice plan to ease them back into normal routines and just tried to build a lot of confidence and remind them how good they are and what they're capable of doing.”
Michigan came out strong and never looked back, winning each round, convincingly.
The meet began with Michigan on vault and Nebraska on bars.
Every Wolverine who vaulted earned a score of at least 9.800, with Wojcik and junior Abby Brenner earning high scores of 9.875 and 9.900 respectively. Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers struggled on the bars with only junior Kynsee Roby earning above a 9.775.
Michigan ended the first round with a lead of 49.375 to 48.900, and the margin only grew from there.
Nebraska’s scores improved on the vault as the teams swapped events in round two with freshman Danielle Press earning a noteworthy 9.875, but twin 9.900’s from Brenner and Wojcikon the bars served to quell any thoughts of a comeback.
This trend continued in the third round, when Wojcik earned her 10.000 on the beam, effectively ending the match before the final round even began.
“I have been working to earn the perfect 10 for such a long time now, and I’m so happy to have made that happen,” Wojcik said. “The best part of it, by far, was seeing my teammates jumping up and down after I finished my routine and getting to celebrate it with them.”
Wojcik’s words are very fitting in a match that was a celebration of team unity. Monday was the Wolverines’ annual “Flip for Chip” meet, which sees the team honor the late father of former Michigan gymnast Cailee Hills.
“Chip Hills really is the root of our positive mindsets, our resilience and confidence,” sophomore Gabby Wilson said. “And so really being able to channel his energy, even though he isn’t with us, just being able to carry that and continue that for generations at Michigan is super important and was continued tonight.”
There is perhaps no meet where the attitude the Wolverines take from Hills’s legacy could be more appropriate.
Coming off less-than-ideal circumstances in which some worried about rust, Michigan responded with a perfect 10.000 and an event sweep — a textbook display of resilience.