While Friday marked the first home meet of Big Ten competition for the Michigan women’s gymnastics team this year, the Wolverines weren’t rusty at all. No. 9 Michigan (4-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) easily defeated No. 36 Rutgers (0-3, 0-2), 197.25-192.950, in both a memorable and meaningful night.
Instead of sparkled maize and blue uniforms, the Wolverines wore gleaming maize and purple in honor of the We Flip For Chip meet. The match was dedicated to the memory of Chip Hills, the late father of former Wolverines’ gymnast Cailee, and a strong advocate for the program.
The meet began with its only low in the vault jump where Michigan lost the event to the Scarlet Knights, 49.150 to 49.325. Both sophomore Natalie Wojcik and freshman Gabby Wilson received a 9.900 from the judges.
“My concern was that they would put too much pressure on themselves,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “We did some really nice big vaults and took some hops. I was like okay loosen up, loosen up, and we got better as the meet went along.”
The Wolverines regained their confidence with the bars, outscoring Rutgers, 49.325 to 48.775. Freshman Sierra Brooks got a 9.825 with her smooth transition between the bars and a near perfect landing.
One could tell that there was a 9.900 beam score in just hearing the jolts of applause from the packed section of alumni, family and fans at Crisler Center.
On the balance beam, Wojcik’s star talent took over. The sophomore received a 9.950, which was the highest individual score of the night, followed by Brooks who scored a 9.900. Senior Lexi Funk scored a 9.850 by elegantly turning her shoulder for a 180-degree finish.
Wojcik, who had the highest score in three out of the four events, credited her strong performance to her focus.
“I think it has to do with taking it one event at a time and staying in the moment locked in,” Wojcik said.
And Plocki had nothing but praise for Wojcik’s night.
“Awesome,” Plocki said. “She really came out tonight and showed what she is capable of doing. Hopefully this will give her even more confidence to continue to perform at this level.”
Michigan kept the strong momentum rolling into floor show. While Wojcik led the way with another 9.900, Brooks’ 9.875 also earned high marks from the judges. In her performance, Brooks sprung off the floor, her moves seemingly effortless. It was again Michigan’s night, winning the event, 49.300 to 47.475.
“I was really excited about the score and the win,” Plocki said. “It was just a special night for us with all the Hills family here.”