2019 Preview – Michigan Wolverines

Olivia Karas
  • Competed in first 5 meets of 2018 before season-ending injury
  • RQS in 2017 of 9.895 VT, 9.890 FX, 9.865 BB, 9.845 UB
Emma McLean
  • Competes weekly VT/FX
  • #1 returning score on both from 2018 (9.930 FX, 9.890 VT)
  • Can provide UB/BB as needed
Lexi Funk
  • Competed AA in 9 of 14 meets in 2018
  • #1 returning score on BB (9.880)
  • RQS of 9.895 FX, 9.805 UB, 9.775 VT
Maggie O’Hara
  • Competed 1 BB in 2018 for 9.300
Maddy Osman
  • Did not compete in 2018 after missing end of 2017 with injury
Anna Dayton
  • Joining team as sophomore
  • 7th UB, 2016 JO Nationals
Lauren Farley
  • Made final 2018 lineups on UB/BB
  • RQS of 9.870 BB, 9.810 UB
  • Competed 1 FX for 9.850
  • Did not compete in first season
Anne Maxim
  • Transfer from Michigan State
  • RQS of 9.820 UB
  • Competed 5 VTs with peak of 9.800
  • 7th FX, 2017 JO Nationals
Syd Townsend
  • Made final 2018 lineups on VT, UB, FX
  • #1 returning score on UB (9.875)
  • RQS of 9.875 VT, 9.830 FX
Abby Brenner
  • Metroplex
  • 4th AA, 4th VT, 4th UB – 2018 JO Nationals
  • 1st AA – 2017 JO Nationals
Abby Heiskell
  • Southeastern
  • 5th AA, 2017 Nastia
  • 1st AA, 2016 JO Nationals
  • Arizona Dynamics
  • 4th AA, 2017 JO Nationals
  • Stallone
  • 1st AA, 2018 JO Nationals

2018 – 13th
– 10th
2016 – 13th
2015 – 7th
2014 – 10th
2013 – 7th
2012 – 13th
2011 – 6th
2010 – 10th
2009 – 14th

Michigan’s recent history has been defined by achieving the expected, solid results during the regular season but underperforming upon reaching the elimination meets.

For the last three years, Michigan has been the 7th-best team in the NCAA on both talent and January-March scores, but Michigan has nonetheless missed nationals in two of those three years—and in the other year, counted a fall on beam in the semifinal to finish 10th. Over the last five seasons, only two top-10 teams have failed to advance to nationals, and they’re both Michigan.

The realistic goal in 2019 will once again be to reach that coveted golden goose called nationals, but it’s so much harder now that only the top eight teams can make it. Some big programs will be left out, even with postseason hits. Expect Michigan to advance comfortably to the regional finals (top 16), but this team cannot afford to underperform its 7th-place talent in the postseason even a little bit this time around and still make it to nationals.

VAULT 2019
Lineup locks: Natalie Wojcik, Abby Brenner, Emma McLean, Olivia Karas
Lineup options: Lexi Funk,A bby Heiskell, Anne Maxim, Maddy Osman, Maddie Mariani

Michigan’s best opportunity to improve on last season’s scoring potential comes on vault, with a roster that is clearly superior to 2018’s lineup—especially the 2018 lineup put out after Karas’s injury.

Confidence in Michigan’s vault improvement stems primarily from the introduction of the freshmen Wojcik and Brenner—both lineup locks with Y1.5s. They’ll raise the team’s start value and scoring potential considerably, and joined by the stalwarts Karas and McLean, should produce a formidable four (with four 10.0 starts).

For the remaining spots, expect a Yfull arms race among quite a few similarly believable 9.8 options (we didn’t see Heiskell in the exhibition, but I do like her full). The wildcard may be Anne Maxim, the transfer from Michigan State, who is vaulting a Tsuk 1/2 (10.0 start). If the landing is there, Michigan will want that option in the lineup.

Note: Syd Townsend remains on Michigan’s roster officially and would be another lock in this lineup with her Y1.5 under normal circumstances, but I don’t think we can project anything for her as of right now.

BARS 2019
Lineup locks: Natalie Wojcik, Lauren Farley, Olivia Karas
Lineup options: Abby Brenner, Maggie O’Hara, Lexi Funk, Maddie Mariani, Abby Heiskell, Anne Maxim, Emma McLean

Of the four events, I’m currently the most concerned about Michigan’s bars, the team having lost pretty much all of its best scores from last season. A couple solid mid-lineup routines do return, but not that many, and not with obvious 9.9+ potential.

As on vault, it appears that Wojcik and Brenner will be called upon to try to become those new 9.9s. Wojcik was the obvious star of the bars lineup in the exhibition with a fab DLO, though similar attention must be paid to the winner of Most Improved, junior Maggie O’Hara, who is suddenly looking like New Polina for 2019. (I see blonde hair, and I’m like, “You’re probably Polina…”) We’ve barely seen O’Hara during her first couple seasons, but she was a bars star in JO and was brought in for that event most of all.

Michigan needs two of these three lineup-newbies to learn how to get weekly 9.9s this season, otherwise we could see bars scores fall a little.

Karas, Farley, and Funk are all now seasoned bars workers, and a realistic lineup would have all three of them return, though I think the routine from Mariani can be fairly equivalent and should see time as well.

BEAM 2019
Lineup locks: Natalie Wojcik, Lexi Funk, Olivia Karas, Lauren Farley
Lineup options: Maddie Mariani, Abby Heiskell, Maddy Osman, Abby Brenner, Emma McLean, Maggie O’Hara

The beam lineup may be Michigan’s most depleted, but in this case, I do see some obvious potential 9.9s that can keep this lineup scoring well through 2019. That means I’m not overly concerned about beam (I mean…any more than usual…it’s beam), just as long as Michigan can find some mid-lineup consistency to supplement the stars.

Lexi Funk is a wonder who got buried in the leadoff position for occasional 9.800s last season, but she has exceptional skills and is very capable of 9.9+ beam work. Of the four pieces, Wojcik’s starring apparatus this year may be beam, where she has gorgeous splits worthy of some of the best scores you’ll see. The numbers should be there for those two. Beyond them, I expect Karas and Farley to return to the lineup without drama this year, so really Michigan is just looking for two more people with consistent, believable hits to ensure the lineup isn’t a terror of stress.

As on vault, Michigan should have plenty of options to play around with to find that consistency (i.e. most of the roster). I’m partial to the idea of the freshmen Mariani and Heiskell. We saw neither in the exhibition, but if Michigan is to return to nationals this year, it will be on the back of this stellar freshman class.

Also, don’t read anything into those hilariously harsh beam scores from the exhibition where everyone got 9.4. Beam Judge #2 might be my soulmate, but also it’s adorable if you think NCAA beam is actually going to be judged like that this season (9.900s for everyone!)

FLOOR 2019
Lineup locks: Olivia Karas, Emma McLean, Natalie Wojcik
Lineup options: Abby Brenner, Lexi Funk, Maddy Osman, Abby Heiskell, Maddie Mariani, Lauren Farley, Anne Maxim

We haven’t seen Karas return to floor yet, but she’s going to be absolutely essential in 2019 once she does. When healthy, her floor work is the class of the team, and she’s more than capable of bringing the big, which this roster lacks a little in general. It’s not a “bam-bam, I have all the huge E passes” roster, so clean control will be essential. That’s exactly what Emma McLean rode to big scores last season, and she’ll be expected to do so again. Natalie Wojcik has a sneaky front 2/1 middle pass and superb leaps that should see her make this lineup, along with all the other lineups, and score quite well.

Brenner has the biggest potential tumbling among all the freshmen, which should help her prospects, and Funk competed floor throughout last season, which means there’s no reason she shouldn’t return to the six. The final spot will be TBD, but I did like the possibility I saw from Osman in the exhibition. Osman has been sort of injured/on-the-cusp in her first two seasons but could break into the floor group this year.

I would expect this team can stay steady on floor compared to last years’s results.


13 thoughts on “2019 Preview – Michigan Wolverines”

    1. Unfortunately I think they might have. She broke the law, and surely broke team rules in the process. It definitely wasn’t her fault, and I’m not saying it’s right to kick her off, but that’s most likely what happened. Very sad situation. 🙁

      1. No she’s still on the roster. If not, she’ll probably transfer – she’s valuable and any school team would love to have her on their vault/bars lineup.

        It’s a huge loss for Michigan if they lose her.

  1. She was caught having sex in public with a team coach assistant or something like that (definitely someone from the Michigan staff who apparently is married with children)

    1. Scott Vetere, the (former) assistant coach.

      She was a consenting adult who got arrested for breaking the law, so yes, the school has every right to dismiss her. I’m sure there is some wriggle room if she were an actual victim in this scenario, but this doesn’t seem like a Nassar-predator situation …. just two adults caught in a moment of bad judgment. In any case, I could imagine it might be a pretty awkward dynamic for her on the team right now anyway.

      1. I don’t necessarily agree with the assessment that it was just two consenting adults in a moment of bad judgement. It’s worth considering that there is a significant power dynamic between a coach and an 18-yr-old athlete under his charge, even if both are technically over the age of consent, that can make situations like this very iffy.

      2. Agree with Another Jo, especially if you consider she was 17 when she arrived at Michigan and this had likely been going on for a very long time before they got caught.

  2. If Morgan Porter is still allowed to compete at Missouri after what she did to a fellow teammate (credit card fraud/theft) I see no reason why Syd shouldn’t be allowed to compete still at Michigan. Especially considering that yes, she broke the law, but there were clearly some messed up power dynamics going on

    1. She probably could have thrown him under the bus and claimed pressure or harassment, but she probably didn’t? Anyways, she’s a strong gymnast, and other teams would probably see this as a one-off mistake less severe than fraud or alcohol-related offenses. (But yeah, someone should definitely be booted for a guilty verdict of fraud.) It’s not as though she’s likely to transfer and hook up with the assistant coach of another team! So hopefully she’ll get a fresh start elsewhere if that’s what she wants.

  3. She’s a foreign student with a VISA so she might have trouble staying in the country with an arrest….no matter how “valuable” she might be to other teams, if I were her parents, I’d get her home to Canada so she doesn’t get stuck in a legal limbo in the US.

Comments are closed.