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April 21, 2021 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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The 2021 gymnastics National

Championship came down to the
very last routine of the meet. Junior
Abby Heiskell stared down the beam
as she mounted it. As she performed
her routine, she completed each skill
with an intention to do it perfectly,
a lesson Michigan coach Bev Ploc-
ki has drilled into the mind of her
gymnasts all season. Heiskell showed
no ounce of doubt in any of her skills,
and when she finished the routine
with a stuck dismount, she proved
that she was capable of being there
for her team in the moment it needed
it most.

Heiskell, joined by her teammates,

could not peel their eyes from the
scoreboard, and neither could Okla-
homa. Waiting for only junior Ol-
ivia Trautman’s score on floor and
Heiskell’s score on beam, the teams
sat tied at 198.0750. Trautman’s score
came in at a 9.9375, leaving Heiskell’s
routine to need a score of 9.8500 or
better to win the meet for the Wol-

When the number came in on the

scoreboard, a 9.9250, the team, the
coaches and the fans erupted. Mich-
igan would be the 2021 National
Champion, the first Michigan wom-
en’s gymnastics team to ever win a
National Championship. The team
clinched a program record 198.2500
in the competition of its life.

“We’ve talked about this for so long,

and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this
is actually happening. Oh my gosh,
the meet is over, and we’re nation-
al champions,’ ” sophomore Sierra
Brooks said. “So much went into this,
it’s so amazing seeing our hard work
pay off.”

Michigan clinched the win, in the

end, by securing the lead they held
onto the entire meet. Coming into
the Finals, Oklahoma was ranked
first and Michigan second, based on
the semifinal scores, but the Sooners
were never given a chance to shine.

Michigan started the meet on floor

with six strong routines, all counted
scores at a 9.9125 or higher. Junior
Natalie Wojcik led the pack, scoring
a 9.9500, landing all of her tumbling
passes smoothly and without fault.
Sophomore Gabby Wilson also post-

ed an impressive score of 9.9375, and
the solid performance from the rest
of her teammates landed the Wolver-
ines at a 49.6250, only 0.0250 points
short of their record floor score

Oklahoma’s start on vault left them

trailing by 0.0500 to start the meet,
a deficit they never overcame. Utah
had a solid bars rotation as well,
scoring a 49.4250. Florida, who, prior
to the weekend, was seeded to place
first, had two falls on the beam, forc-
ing the team to count one extremely
low score that they would never
recover from.

Michigan carried their energy to

the vault for the second rotation,
where it was not only seeded first
in the country, but had the highest
team start value of any team in the
competition, all vaults starting with
a 10.0 start value. Heiskell began the
event, sticking her one and a half
Yurchenko, forcing the judges to
search for any deduction. Her vault,
and its score of a 9.9750 started the
consistency of the event, which was
followed up by another stuck vault
from Wojcik, earning herself a 9.9375
and Brooks, who notched a 9.9750.
The team’s vault performance extend-
ed their lead over the rest of the field
even further, gaining a 0.1375 lead
over Oklahoma at the halfway mark.

“(Vault’s) just been amazing,”

Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “At
the beginning of the year, we were
doing big vaults, but we couldn’t get
the landings, and it was a process. We
absolutely peaked at the right time
this year. … Right before the
championship part of the
season, we started
being able to nail
those 1.5s.”

Heiskell started

off Michigan’s
next rotation on
bars with a stuck
dismount. The
Wolverines’ top
scores of the
rotation came
from Brooks
and junior Abby
Brenner in her first
competitive routine
in months since
hurting her ankle at
the Big Five meet on

Feb. 27. Their clutch performances
earned both gymnasts a 9.9250, and
kept Michigan with the same lead
over Oklahoma as they had going
into the event.

This lead, though, was deceptively

large. The Wolverines had to move
to the beam, a nerve racking event to
conclude a meet on, while the Soon-
ers ended on floor, whose scores were
the highest of any event throughout
the whole meet. Utah also trailed
closely behind as they wrapped their
meet up on the vault, another typi-
cally high scoring event.

“I just said to them: ‘Take a deep

breath, exhale out all of the nervous
energy and let’s just go do what we
do, one routine at a time for six
routines,’ ” Plocki said “We got this,
breath in the confidence, be aggres-
sive. That’s what we wanted them to
do, was just go do confident, aggres-
sive balance beam.”

Michigan’s rotation did not start as

strong as they would have liked, with
the highest of the first three routines
coming from freshman Carly Bau-
man’s 9.8500. Wilson showed some
wobbles, earning the lowest of the
scores, a 9.7500. Meanwhile, Okla-
homa scored highly on the floor,
all of which coming in at high 9.8s.
However, Brooks turned the rotation
around for the Wolverines.

“Before I even went, I was on the

verge of tears because I wanted it so
bad for this team,” Brooks said. “I
knew those routines were semi off,
but I also trusted myself and the rest
of the lineup, so I wanted to get out

there and do my

thing. I got on the beam and I just
honestly approached it with as much
confidence as I could ever have.”

Brooks performed her beam series

perfectly, as well as the rest of her
skills, all the way up to the stuck dis-
mount to score a 9.9625. The incred-
ibly high score made up for some of
the points her former teammates had
lost, but Wojcik and Heiskell still had
to nail their routines for Michigan to
have a shot at the win.

Wojcik one-upped her teammate,

sticking every skill just as solidly and
scoring a 9.9875, the highest beam
score of the day. Her score, along
with the scores of the Sooners on
floor, brought the meet to a tie before
the very last routine of the competi-

Heiskell handled the pressure with

ease, flowing through each skill,
punctuating her landings. Her skills
on the beam, as well as her perfect-
ly stuck dismount off earned her a
9.9250, well over the score the Wol-
verines needed to win the National

“It’s very hard to describe how it

feels,” Plocki said. “This is 32 years
I’ve been waiting for this feeling …
It’s just an unbelievable pride and
just an admiration for what our team
has been through and the sacrifices
that they’ve made. I knew this was
possible because, for the
first time, they have
belief in them-


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Julia Schachinger & Madeline Hinkley / Daily | Design by Lizzy Rueppel

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