FORT WORTH, Texas – There was nothing that could stop the University of Michigan women’s gymnastics team on its quest to secure its name in the history books.
The No.1-ranked team in the nation could not stop the Wolverines.
A field of opponents loaded with schools, including the defending national champion, which have already achieved the ultimate prize proved to be little match for Michigan.
Not even the pressure of competing in front of a national television audience could deter the Wolverines.
Instead, Michigan turned all distractions aside and led wire-to-wire to claim the 2021 NCAA national championship after posting a school-record score of 198.2500 to win by the narrowest of margins over defending champion Oklahoma on April 17 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. Michigan’s winning total was also the third-highest team score in the history of the NCAA championship meet.
The meet was televised on ABC and marked the first time that network had ever broadcast a women’s college gymnastics meet.
The triumph gave Michigan its first national championship in school history. The Wolverines also became the first Big Ten school to win a national championship in women’s gymnastics.
Runner-up Oklahoma finished second with a 198.1625 while Utah (197.875) and Florida (197.1375) completed the scoring on the final night of the season. For Utah it was the highest team score ever recorded by the Red Rocks at the NCAA championship.
Michigan became just the seventh school to win a national championship in the 39-year history of the NCAA championship meet.
Georgia leads all schools with 10 national team titles, while UCLA and Alabama have won seven and six titles, respectively. Utah (5), Oklahoma (4) and Florida (3) are the only other schools to ever win an NCAA title in women’s gymnastics.
Michigan, which was making its 25th appearance at the national meet, had a pair of runner-up finishes (1995, 1998) to its credit as the highest previous-best team finishes before making history in the Lone Star State. Michigan coach Bev Plocki, in her 32nd year at the school, has been the architect in 24 of the school’s 25 national appearances.
The runner-up finish for Oklahoma marked the eighth consecutive season the Sooners have finished in the top three at the national meet.
Despite grabbing the lead after the first rotation it took a brilliant performance on the balance beam, the final rotation for the Wolverines, for them to secure the top spot.
Abby Heiskell, who Plocki predicted would play a key role as her team prepared for the start of the championship meet, proved to be just that. She led the Wolverines with a 9.925 while teammates Natalie Wojcik and Sierra Brooks also turned in brilliant performances on beam with scores of 9.9875 and 9.9625, respectively, to give Michigan the team title.
Oklahoma, which closed on floor, got a meet-high of 9.9625 from Anastasia Webb in the event to set the stage for Olivia Trautman, the final Sooner to take the floor with title hopes hanging in the balance. Trautman’s 9.9375 was not enough to allow Oklahoma, which had gotten matching 9.95s from Emma LaPinta and Bell Johnson to keep them in title contention, to get past Michigan.
The Wolverines had the top team score on two events and had the second-best score on two others to fuel their run to the title. They scored 49.650 on vault and a 49.625 on floor to lead the field. They scored identical 49.4875s on bars and beam to earn runner-up honors in both of those events. Oklahoma, which won the bars with a 49.5625, also tallied a 49.4875 on beam, while Utah’s 48.700 on beam was the only event captured by the Red Rocks.
Event Team Scores
Bars: 1. Oklahoma, 49.5625. 2. Michigan, 49.4875. 3. Florida, 49.4625. 4. Utah, 49.425.
Beam: 1. Utah, 48.700. 2. Michigan & Oklahoma, both 49.4875. 4. Florida, 48.7625.
Floor: 1. Michigan, 49.625. 2. Florida, 49.550. 3. Utah, 49.475. 4. Oklahoma, 49.3875.
Vault: 1. Michigan, 49.650. 2. Oklahoma, 49.575. 3. Utah, 49.3875. 4. Florida, 49.3625.
Finals Event Champions
Bars: Jordan Draper, Oklahoma; Maile O’Keefe, Utah; Megan Skaggs, Florida and Anastasia Webb, Oklahoma (9.9375).
Beam: Maile O’Keefe, Utah and Natalie Wojcik, Michigan (9.9875).
Floor: Anastasia Webb, Oklahoma (9.9625).
Vault: Jaedyn Rucker, Utah (9.9875).
All-Around: Sierra Brooks, Michigan (39.775).
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.