The University of Michigan Women’s Gymnastics team is usually the team to beat in the Big Ten, and if their exhibition meet on Saturday, December 2, is any indication of how their year will go, this season will be no exception. The team squared off with three other Michigan teams at 2 PM in the Crisler Center, marking the fifth year in a row Michigan has competed against Eastern Michigan for an exhibition meet in this location. The Wolverines competed against Central Michigan as recently as last spring but has not faced off against Western Michigan since 2011.
The 2019 team made their debut with a grand entrance, taking first place and boasting an impressive roster. They won with a score of 195.125, Eastern Michigan placed second with a 192.000, Central Michigan third with a 191.850, and Western Michigan fourth with a final score of 191.725.
Natalie Wojcik, a freshman, won the all-around title with a score of 39.225 after winning floor, bars, and tying for second on beam. Wojcik is one of six new team members, along with three other freshmen (Abby Brenner, Abby Heiskell, and Maddie Mariani) as well as two new sophomores — Anne Maxim and Anna Dayton. Their returning gymnasts are strong as well, with seniors Emma McLean and Olivia Karas both showing up as two-time All-Americans. Senior Emma McLean and junior Lexi Funk are the captains for the 2019 team.
The meet allowed six competitors and two or fewer exhibition routines per apparatus. The Wolverines were up first on vault, sending in a lineup of Lexi Funk, Maddy Osman, Olivia Karas, Emma McLean, Abby Brenner, and Natalie Wojcik to compete, as well as Anne Maxim for exhibition. The team vault total was 49.050, with freshman Abby Brenner’s Yurchenko 1.5 scoring a team high of 9.875 and winning her the individual vault title.
The next-highest vault score was from Olivia Karas, a senior this year making a comeback from a 2018 season-ending injury in February of 2018. Karas and senior Emma McLean both competed a Yurchenko full. Karas scored a 9.825 and McLean received a 9.800, giving the Wolverines the three highest individual vault scores in the competition. Funk, Osman, and Wojcik all scored a 9.775.
The team competed bars next, scoring a 48.975 total. Abby Brenner, Lauren Farley, Lexi Funk, Olivia Karas, Maggie O’Hara, and Natalie Wojcik competed on this event, Wojcik leading the team with a 9.875 high score. Karas and O’Hara hit their routines, scoring a 9.825 while Brenner and Funk each scored a 9.725 and Farley received a 9.225. The top five bars scores of the meet were given to the Wolverines, predicting bars as a strength for their upcoming season.
The Wolverines moved to beam and competed a lineup of Olivia Karas, Emma McLean, Abby Brenner, Lauren Farley, Lexi Funk, and Natalie Wojcik. Maddy Osman and Maggie O’Hara competed exhibition, and the team’s final score was 48.075. This is not a high score historically for the team, but beam scores were low for all teams on Sunday, so it isn’t a score fans need to be concerned about.
Michigan’s top beam scorer was Lexi Funk, who scored a 9.725 to win the event. Wojcik got the second-highest score on her team and tied for second in the overall competition with a 9.700, while her teammates followed behind with a 9.625 for Karas, a 9.600 for Farley, a 9.350 for McLean, and a 9.325 for Brenner.
The Wolverines finished the meet with a team score of 49.025 on floor with Lauren Farley, Maddy Osman, Natalie Wojcik, Lexi Funk, Abby Brenner, and Emma McLean competing, as well as Maggie O’Hara on exhibition. Osman, Funk, and Brenner all scored a 9.800, while Wojcik nailed her routine and received a 9.875, winning floor.
Wolverine fans wore big smiles as they entered the free exhibition, and there was heightened excitement among season ticket holders, who got to do meet and greets. Santa even made an appearance at the early December exhibition, providing even more smiles for young fans.
The team begins their 2019 season at the Cancun Classic in Cancun, Mexico, on January 4, where they will compete against Iowa State, Rutgers, and West Virginia; you can watch this meet live right here on FloGymnastics. Their first home meet is scheduled for January 18 against Michigan State, and they will host three other home meets as well during the regular season.