The Wolverine

June-July 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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42 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2021 BY JOHN BORTON O ne little slip. One slight bob- ble. One droplet of sweat, lurking remorselessly on a four-inch wide balance beam, ready to inflict disaster. That's what Michigan junior Abby Heiskell stared down, when she ascended the beam for the Wolver- ines' final routine of the 2021 NCAA Championships. Her teammates all held their breath. So did her head coach, Bev Plocki, a veteran of 32 years in Ann Arbor. She'd guided 21 teams to top-10 finishes over the years, includ- ing eight in the top five. Twice, the Wolverines earned national runners- up honors. In this moment, Heiskell could thrust Michigan's index finger sky- ward for all time. "I took a very deep breath," Plocki admitted. "I stood back and I just was thinking to myself, she's got this. I was nervous — I'm not going to lie. As I'm standing there, I'm hoping she is thinking the right things." Heiskell thought them, then did them. Mentally prepped by assistant coach Maile'ana Kanewa-Hermelyn, she nailed move after move, exud- ing confidence, precision and near perfection. When she flew from the beam to stick the landing, she handed her teammates and coach a new title. National champions — for the first time ever. "About a third of the way into the beam routine, after she completed BEAMING THEM UP The U-M Women's Gymnastics Team Soars To A National Championship The Wolverines became just the seventh school to claim an NCAA title in the sport and did so with a program-best score of 198.2500, the third-best tally in national championship meet history. PHOTO BY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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