When freshman gymnast Trish Wilson catapulted herself off the high bar and landed both feet firmly on the blue mat, the Crisler Arena crowd erupted in its loudest cheers of the night.

Minutes later, her combined score of 9.900 flashed, putting her atop the uneven bars event scoreboard. It stayed there all night.

While Wilson’s performance was individual title-worthy, she wasn’t the only freshman to make an impact in the Michigan women’s gymnastics season-opener Friday night.

Along with Wilson, Kari Pierce and Kylee Botterman round out the trio of freshmen that was a crucial part of No. 9 Michigan’s domination in its season-opener over No. 14 Arkansas and No. 22 West Virginia.

Pierce led off the meet on vault (9.775) and later competed in floor exercise (9.725). Wilson won her lone event, uneven bars. Botterman posted solid scores in vault (9.750) and beam (9.575).

“The way all these guys went out there, maintained their composure and performed as well as they do in practice is definitely an achievement,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said.

To all three freshmen, the energy of the crowd and nerves were overwhelming at first.

Pierce was surprised to learn before the meet that she would be leading off on vault, the first event of her first career meet. But she put her nerves aside and began the wave of impressive Wolverine scores.

The other two freshmen have fought illness and injury since coming to Ann Arbor. Wilson has been battling mononucleosis since early fall, while Botterman has been recovering from a shoulder injury since the summer. Both athletes could earn spots in more event lineups as they bounce back.

Wilson’s illness limited her training early in the season, but Plocki said she is the freshman with perhaps the greatest long-term potential. But it could be a while before she gets there, though.

“Mono is just something that can hang with you for a long time, so we haven’t pushed her to try to get ready for the all-around lineup yet,” Plocki said.

Still, Wilson’s win in uneven bars showed she can make an impact, even without performing at full strength.

The versatility and talents of Wilson, Pierce and Botterman give the team more depth than it has had in recent injury-filled years. The deep roster could make it difficult for Plocki to choose which six gymnasts will compete in each event.

It’s a problem she probably won’t complain about.

Coming off last year’s disappointing 11th-place finish, Michigan looks to make the Super Six at Nationals this season. The freshmen have one goal in mind – standing on that podium.

Once they’re healthy, these three could be the spark that makes the Wolverines a National Championship-caliber team.

“They were all bright spots in this first meet,” Plocki said. “The upside potential for all of them as we go through the season is tremendous.”

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