Naomi Morrison: “I want to do anything and everything to chase that moment and chase that feeling again!” 

By Ashlee Buhler 

The first two years of the college journey have been an absolute whirlwind for Michigan rising junior, Naomi Morrison. She has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and gone from mainly being a one-event wonder to an All-Around star for the Wolverines — all within her first two seasons. 

Not many gymnasts walk on campus as a freshman and help their team win a national championship, let alone the first national title ever in program history. But Morrison can say she has done that; she’s reminded every day when she walks into practice and sees the NCAA Championship banner hanging high in the Donald R. Shepherd Training Center. 

“Honestly, I don’t think any of us really realized how historic of a moment that was,” Morrison said. “Yes, we won a national championship and that’s a huge accomplishment in itself, but we literally won the first one for our program! For me now, sitting back and thinking, ‘I was on Team 45’ and Team 45 is gonna be attached to that first national championship win… forever. I want to do anything and everything to chase that moment and chase that feeling again!”

Chasing that feeling started the moment she got on the plane with her teammates and left Fort Worth — trophy in tow. A mainstay in the vault lineup all season long, that was the one and only event Morrison competed in the NCAA final. 

“I was just thinking about how that season went and we just won the highest of highs, but internally, you have to think about your performance as well, and for me, the one thing I knew is that I was better than just my vault,” Morrison said. “I was better than what I put out there that season.”

Morrison immediately shifted her mindset. She knew she could be better and was determined to make it happen. “The sky’s the limit,” she told herself. 

When the 2022 season rolled around, Morrison stepped onto the competition floor a completely different gymnast. She was now competing on all four events and proving to be one of the top scorers for the Wolverines. She has career highs of 9.975 on vault (which she casually did three times in a four week span last season), 9.9 on bars, 9.925 on beam, and 9.975 on floor. 

Things were looking great for the Michigan team as they sat in first place in the national rankings for the first eight weeks of the season. Mentally and physically, Morrison said the Wolverines were ready to be on the floor once again at the NCAA finals, fighting to defend their title. But with several uncharacteristic mistakes in prelims, it wasn’t to be. 

“We don’t really know what happened, but what we do know is that teams have bad days,” Morrison said. “You know, it’s inevitable — we’re not perfect! We had a bad day on one of these worst days to have a bad day.” 

Instead of wallowing in the disappointment, Morrison and her team are using what happened as motivation to come back stronger. And at the end of the day, they know their worth on and off the competition floor. 

“That one day, that one single day, does not define us whatsoever,” Morrison said. “We are still a super talented team. For sure experiencing that low, it motivates us so much for this upcoming season… We’re going to make sure that bad day doesn’t happen again. We know we have everything we need to succeed and we’ve seen in the past that we’re capable of winning a national championship. We’re going to work our booties off to do that!” 

And so begins season three. Morrison is spending her summer in Ann Arbor, working hard with her eyes set on redemption in 2023. Although she made such a strong contribution to the team during her sophomore season, Morrison knows there are still many areas she can improve in order to reach her full potential. 

Of course she wants more stuck landings across the board (but particularly her bars dismount now that she has more experience competing the double layout), but she also wants to build her confidence on beam and consistency on floor, where she has become known for her sky high full twisting double tuck done with perfect form! 

From a team perspective, she hopes everyone will have the same grit and passion they showed last season, so they can be the best gymnasts they can possibly be. And together, as a family, they will chase that feeling of victory once again in 2023.  

Naomi’s advice for gymnasts beginning the recruiting process: 

“I would tell them to trust the process and trust the time no matter how long it may take. Also take your time, because this is a big decision you’re making! It’s the next four years in which you’re going to spend your life and you want to enjoy that. So make sure you’re really looking for schools that suit you and you can really see yourself at. Something that is always said amongst my team is: if gymnastics didn’t exist, you want to be at an institution and a place you would truly thrive at. Finding that place where, ‘Ok can I see myself here without gymnastics.’ Finding that place that suits you not just as a gymnast, but suits you as a person.”

On why she chose Michigan: 

Michigan offers something so amazing! You’re not sacrificing your academics for your athletics or your athletics for your academics. You get everything that you could possibly want in one institution and I think that is absolutely amazing! Also the culture here is awesome, just within the team and how close the girls are. The girls that I was coming in with, I was like, ‘ok, you guys are sweet girls, you seem awesome!’ So that really drew me to the program. Also just how sincere the coaches are. It’s awesome to have not only amazing coaches, but have coaches who are amazing people. So the people, the culture, the academics, the athletics [the balance between it all.]

Photos by Lloyd Smith  for Inside Gymnastics

For more:

2022 NCAA Headquarters

Breaking Boundaries

College State of Mind

Norah Flatley Readies for New Chapter

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