Michigan Wins First Gymnastics National Championship in Program History

The Wolverines became the seventh school to win the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics National Championship.

By Savannah Moore

The Michigan Wolverine’s journey to an NCAA National Championship began in 1990, when after going 0–13 in the 1989 season, the program took a chance and hired 23-year-old Bev Plocki to be their next head coach. Plocki was able to turn the Wolverines around quickly, and in 1992 Michigan won their first Big Ten championship. Plocki now added 24r Big Ten championships to her resume—the most championships of any head coach in any sport in Big Ten history—but a National Championship still eluded her.

The Michigan Wolverines celebrating their win.

Only six schools have ever won a national championship in collegiate gymnastics, and half of them qualified for the 2021 championships. Utah has qualified for every NCAA Gymnastic Championship since its inception, and this year was no different. The Oklahoma Sooners were the defending champions, and looked to secure their fifth national championship in seven years. The top-ranked Florida Gators were seeking their fourth National Title. Despite the success within their conference, the Wolverines’ best performance on a national stage came when they were runner-ups in the 1999 NCAA Championships.

The Wolverines began on the floor exercise, and held a slim lead by the end of the first rotation. Utah and Oklahoma kept the pressure on—Utah even won the second rotation with a score of 49.7000, but Michigan was able to hold on to the overall lead. After the third rotation Michigan gave themselves some breathing room, but the other three teams remained in striking distance.

Oklahoma’s Anastasia Webb helped the Sooners make a push for first place in the fourth and final rotation. Webb, the 2021 NCAA all-around champion, scored a 9.9625 on her floor routine and gave Oklahoma hope for a repeat. Webb’s performance shifted all the pressure onto Michigan’s Abby Heiskell.

Abby Heiskell during her beam routine.
(SOURCE: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)

Junior Abby Heiskell’s beam routine would be the final routine of the day, and a score of 9.8500 would guarantee the Wolverines a national title. Heiskell scored a 9.925, and everyone knew it immediately. Right after the dismount Heiskell’s teammates ran over to embrace her. Michigan’s final score of 198.2500 is a new team record, and the third highest in NCAA championship history. Coach Plocki was especially emotional after the victory, championing her team’s resilience to continue to compete while dealing with the pandemic. After a storied career with the Wolverines she finally made it to the top; now the race to stay there begins.

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