Can't Break Steel:

Michigan Women's Gymnastics

As a photographer, it is difficult for me to describe the Michigan women’s gymnastics team in words. Their talent goes way above anything I could have ever expected. For several months, I photographed the team from warm-ups to post win celebrations, and have seen the story of their season unfold. I know this team deserves the recognition of all the accomplishments they’ve worked so hard for, which is why I wanted to share the story of their season in 2019. I am not an athlete in any capacity, but what I’ve seen behind the scenes, at practice, and at meets is the raw emotion, determination, and commitment that makes this team special. Here is what I captured:

Coach Bev Plocki hugs freshman Natalie Wojcik after her beam routine during the Elevate the Stage meet. Wojick would go on to become the 2019 NCAA Champion on Beam.

Coach Bev Plocki cheers on freshman Natalie Wojcik after she successfully landed the dismount from her beam routine in a meet against Oklahoma at Crisler Center on March 9th, 2019. 

Senior Olivia Karas and sophomore Lauren Farley congratulate freshman Natalie Wojcik on landing her dismount from beam during practice. Every practice, the gym echoed with "C'mon Blue" or "Let's Go Blue" to get each other hyped up. Hugs were also very common. 

Teammates Lauren Farley, Olivia Karas, Sam Javanbakht, Maddy Osman, Abby Heiskell, Anne Maxim, and Maggie O'Hara watch and cheer on freshman Natalie Wojcik as she does the splits during her floor routine at the Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastic Center. Behind closed doors or in front of a crowd, they cheer each other on no matter what. 

Freshman Abby Heiskell makes senior Olivia Karas laugh during the dancing portion of her floor routine during practice before the season started. 

Sophomore Anna Dayton and junior Lexi Funk cheer along with the team before introductions in a meet against Iowa at Crisler Center on February 10th, 2019. Before every home meet, the team would always cheer and would not stop before being introduced.

Sophomores Sam Javanbakht, Anne Maxim, and Lauren Farley cheer on junior Maddy Osman on beam during the Elevate the Stage meet. Essentially everyone who is not performing is cheering on the gymnast who is.

The team's reaction to freshman Natalie Wojcik's perfect 10 score on her vault routine at the Elevate the Stage meet. It was her first 10 of the season, having received a 9.975 twice before, just short of perfect. She was third in the nation on vault.

Sophomore Lauren Farley flips as part of her beam routine during practice in February. Her beam routine is one of her highest scoring events in her career at Michigan so far.

Junior Maddy Osman prepares for her beam sequence during the teams' practice for their intersquad meet. In the team's beam rotation, she is the only one to complete the dismount to the side of the beam.

Sophomore Anne Maxim gets taped up before warmups at the Elevate the Stage meet at the Huntington Center in Toledo, OH. Taping up the entire team can sometimes take up to an hour if not longer.

Sophomore Sam Javanbakht and senior Olivia Karas help senior Emma McLean rewrap her ankle in the locker room before Michigan went on floor. Breaks in the locker room consist of rewrapping, refueling, and a lot of dancing.

The wrappings on an ankle to protect from injuries.

Freshman Abby Brenner flips during her uneven bars routine at the Elevate the Stage meet, where the entire team scored 9.900 or higher, the second highest combined score in program history.

Junior Lexi Funk dismounts from the beam during the Elevate the Stage meet against Illinois, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Minnesota at the Huntington Center in Toledo, OH.

Freshman Natalie Wojcik twists herself during her vault routine during the Elevate the Stage meet. This was the vault that scored her a 10 and probably influenced her winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Senior Olivia Karas celebrates landing a pass during her floor routine in a meet against Iowa at Crisler Center on February 10th, 2019.

Junior Maddy Osman flips during her bar routine while warming up before a meet against Iowa at Crisler Center. This multiple exposure shot shows one of the more difficult parts of her routine on beam.

Sophomore Lauren Farley flips during her beam routine during a meet against Oklahoma at Crisler Center on March 9th, 2019. Prior to this routine, Farley had tried releasing from the uneven bars to flip and catch it again, but fell in the process. No one got down on themselves or her, and when she was first up on the beam, she landed a 9.900 out of 10.000, just .025 short of her highest score that season.

Seniors Emma McLean and Olivia Karas get ready before an exhibition against Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan at Crisler Center on December 2nd, 2018.

Senior Emma McLean puts sparkles on junior Maggie O'Hara before the Elevate the Stage meet in the locker room. The girls always put sparkles on, no matter what. During this competition, they actually gave me some sparkles as well.

A gymnast runs out of the tunnel for introductions before an exhibition against Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan at Crisler Center on December 2nd, 2018.

Junior Maggie O’Hara and sophomores Sam Javanbakht and Anna Dayton sing along to the music in between bar routines during the Elevate the Stage meet. The energy the rest of the team brings to the gymnasts in the lineup is irreplaceable; the team would not be the same without them.

The team holds hands during the national anthem before a meet against Iowa on February 10th, 2019.

The team's reaction to finding out they had beaten Alabama 197.275 to 197.225 to advance to the national championship at the Ann Arbor Regional. 

© 2020 by Katelyn Mulcahy 
 

Katelyn Mulcahy is a freelance action, editorial, and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, California.