In the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” Neal Page continually faces the prospect of not being able to get where he really wants to go, having to use all three modes of transportation to get home for Thanksgiving. The Michigan women’s gymnastics team has its own version of that story in the form of freshman Becca Clauson. Clauson was delayed in realizing her destiny, much like Page was.
“Ever since age 12, when I saw my first gymnastics competition with Michigan, I knew I wanted to go to Michigan and compete on the gymnastics team,” Clauson said.
Clauson had a prolific amateur career. She is a four-time Junior National competitor and was the 2000 Junior Olympic floor exercise national champion. These honors established her as a bonafide national recruit as a senior in high school, and she could sense that she was close to realizing her childhood dreams of donning the maize and blue. But things did not happen quite as planned.
“The thing that’s really interesting about Becca is that because she is weaker in uneven bars, she was not one of the kids that was right at the tip-top of our list,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said of Clauson’s recruitment. “We were very interested in her, we liked her, we knew she was going to be really strong on three events, but in the recruiting process we were trying to put our priority in going after a four event, all-arounder person, and we did not originally offer Becca (a scholarship). She was the next person on our list.”
After the initial disappointment, Clauson, who hails from St. Paul, Minn., chose to remain close to home and verbally committed to Minnesota.
As luck would have it, the Wolverines lost one of their top-priority recruits when the gymnast backed out of her commitment. Clauson, still hopeful of making Ann Arbor her home, called Plocki back to see if she had a chance to compete at Michigan.
“I didn’t feel like ethically it was appropriate for us to recruit her when she had already verbally committed,” Plocki said. “We told her that, and the next thing I knew she called the University of Minnesota and told them that she had changed her mind, and she uncommitted herself to the University of Minnesota, and then called us back.”
When Plocki eventually offered Clauson a scholarship, it was that much better. Since then, Clauson has shown glimpses of brilliance that have the coaching staff excited for her future.
“I think that with Becca (what is most impressive is) just her consistency,” Plocki said. “If you look at Becca, she is just so darn consistent. She might not go out there and win all of her events every time, but you can count on the fact that she’s going to hit, that she’s going to come up with the big score.”
Clauson has performed on the vault, balance beam and in the floor exercise thus far. On February 28 against then- No. 5 Utah, she took first on vault with a 9.875 and tied her career high on balance beam with another 9.875 to tie for third. The interesting part, despite her scores on beam and vault, is that floor is probably her best event.
“I love doing the floor exercise, especially in college,” Clauson said. “The crowd gets very involved, which makes it very exciting. Every time I step out onto the floor, I get the biggest rush. It feels so good.”
All in all, Clauson’s experiences thus far at Michigan have been everything she’s dreamed of, and then some.
“I always imagined that it would be a great experience, but this is more than I expected,” Clauson said. “I love everything about Michigan – the school, the campus, the people and the team.
And that feeling is mutual, as noted by Plocki’s response to what she would have done differently in Clauson’s recruitment process if she could do it again.
“I would have offered her right out of the gate,” Plocki said. “If I had my crystal ball, and I knew then what I know now, Becca would have been at the top of our list.”