Spotlight on Natalie Wojcik!
“This team is ready to put up a fight, and we are so excited to finish the season out strong!”
By Ashlee Buhler for Inside Gymnastics
She will go down as one of the greatest gymnasts in Michigan gymnastics history; and she’s not done yet.
Natalie Wojcik, the junior from Douglasville, Pennsylvania, has been a force for the Wolverines from the very moment she stepped foot on campus. During her freshman season, she scored a perfect 10 on vault, won a share of the Big Ten All-Around title, and became only the ninth gymnast in Michigan’s program history to win an individual NCAA title when she performed a flawless beam routine at the 2019 NCAA Championships. It was no shock when she was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year at the end of the season.
The momentum continued through her sophomore campaign. She led the Wolverines with sixteen event and All-Around wins in addition to posting a career-high All-Around score of 49.775. Wojcik was an integral part of Michigan’s recording-breaking season in 2020, which included posting the top two scores in program history in back-to-back meets. All signs were pointing to another Big Ten title and a trip to the NCAA finals when the season abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In Michigan, gyms were closed for nearly six months, which posed some challenges in the preseason, but Wojcik and her team were able to pick up right where they left off. So far in her junior season, Wojcik has found her name in the top of the national rankings in the All-Around and balance beam throughout various points in the season. She also became the first Michigan gymnast to score a 10 on balance beam since 1997. It may be hard to believe, but as the season progresses, Wojcik is on course for having her best season yet. With postseason right around the corner, and her senior season still ahead of her, one can only wonder what else she has up her sleeve.
In this interview, Wojcik talks about her successes at Michigan so far, and what she and the team are doing to make their goal of competing in the NCAA finals a reality.
Your team was on a roll last season and was expected to do big things in the postseason before the season abruptly ended. How difficult was that for you and your teammates?
It was definitely frustrating to miss out on the best part of the season and it was especially tough to see our seniors end their careers without closure. It was weird to be competing one day, and not even a week later be told that we would not have anything in person for gymnastics or school for a pretty long time. That being said, we tried to keep the bigger picture in mind. This team cares so much about our community, those who support us, and the health of people everywhere, so we understood that ending the season and taking a pause was what we needed to do to help protect the health of everyone.
Talk about the pre-season and how the team resumed training despite all the uncertainty…
Pre-season is known to be tough, but on top of the usual challenges we also had to manage not being able to train together for a lot of it. We really value being close as a team, so it was difficult to only practice with a few girls at a time and lose some of that whole-team energy. But instead of dwelling on the struggles, we used this time to build really strong relationships with the people in our small training groups, and also did our best to guide the freshmen through an unusual first semester. We still had the opportunity to have fun all together on Zoom, scheduling regular check-ins and even a few virtual game nights. When the team was finally all back together, it felt like we picked up right where we left off last season, and the freshmen quickly found their new roles and embraced them.
This season you scored the second perfect 10 of your career and your very first on beam! What were you feeling in that moment when you saw the score come up?
I was beyond excited! Beam has always been my favorite event, and I have gotten judged at a “10” in practice before, so I was really happy to be able to do that in competition where it counts. Experiencing that with my team was the best feeling ever!
You are one of the top All-Around gymnasts in the country and spent four consecutive weeks ranked first in the nation, as well as being first on beam. Does that add pressure or motivate you?
I really try not to pay attention to the rankings. They motivate me, but more so when it comes to the team ranking. I feel thankful for the things I have accomplished individually, but it’s doing it for the team that makes it special to me. I can’t wait to keep growing with these girls throughout this season and show everyone what this team has to offer.
A spot in the NCAA finals has eluded Michigan since 2011. As a team, what are you guys doing to ensure you can make it happen this year?
NCAA finals is our biggest goal this season, and we have been making small goals along the way that will help us get there. One of our main focuses this year is stuck landings, and it has been great to see our progress from week to week in this area. We have also been getting creative with different types of pressure sets in practice, which has been both fun and challenging, and will definitely help us as we move towards the postseason.
I know college is all about the team, but do you have any specific goals you want to achieve as an individual?
Individually, I hope to continue improving my execution and consistency on all four events to be the best contributor that I can. I also think it would be really cool to score a 10 at least once on all four events, but ultimately the scoring is up to us only partially, so I want to focus on the things I can control like my work ethic and mindset.
What is one skill that you’ve never competed, but you have always wanted to?
I really love my routines right now, but I have a lot of single-skills on beam that I enjoy keeping up with in practice that could be fun to add into competition routines in the future!
Who is another gymnast that you have always looked up to or admired?
I have always admired my three younger sisters, Nicole, Nadia, and Noelle. Nicole is a freshman on the gymnastics team at Lindenwood University, and Nadia and Noelle are Level 9’s in J.O. It’s been amazing to watch them all grow into incredible gymnasts, and they inspire me to be my best every single day!
What has been your favorite moment from your career at Michigan so far?
There are too many to choose just one! I think one of the most memorable was Michigan being an NCAA regional site my freshmen year and qualifying as a team to NCAA’s in a very close meet. As soon as the final scores flashed on the board in Crisler, the whole team started jumping up and down celebrating and we even broke the corral by accident. In that moment it felt like all of our hard work that year was worth it, and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
What is one thing that fans might not know about you or Michigan gymnastics that you would like for them to know?
This team is ready to put up a fight, and we are so excited to finish the season out strong.
Photo credit: Dave Donoher and Lloyd Smith
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