The Michigan women’s gymnastics team is competing against Ohio State on Saturday, but for the Wolverines, it’s all about Johnny Leone.

For the third straight year, Michigan is pairing with the Ted Lindsay Foundation and Autism Speaks to hold an autism awareness meet. The Wolverines feel autism is often overlooked, though it is gaining awareness throughout the country. Michigan had an opportunity to get to know someone with autism, 18-year-old Leone, giving the team insight into the disorder.

“We’ve been able to meet a ton of really great and talented kids through the process of doing this autism meet for the past three years, so it’s always something we really look forward to,” said senior Lindsay Williams. “With all that we’ve learned about it, we’re really excited to help everyone who comes out to the meet to learn about it as well.”

The Michigan men’s hockey team will also be in attendance at the upcoming meet to help support the cause. In October, the hockey team had an autism awareness game, and some of the women from the gymnastics team went to cheer on the team as well as their event.

“I don’t think gymnastics and hockey are two sports that you would think would be associated together,” said senior Briley Casanova. “I think it’s great that we have two very different sports supporting each other and also having a common goal in spreading awareness about one cause.”

That’s not to say the Wolverines won’t be focused on winning the meet. The team is tied for No. 1 in the nation in just its second week of the season – the challenge now shifts to staying there.

“It’s a really nice motivation to our team to get them to really believe that they deserve to be competing with the very top teams in the country and they’re capable of doing that,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “We’ve really talked about the fact that we need to expect ourselves to be at the Super Six, and we need to believe that we have the ability to win the National Championship.”

The team has set the standard high for the rest of the season. After multiple athletes achieved personal-best scores against then-No. 9 Georgia on Saturday to go with a team win, they are excited for what the rest of the season has to offer.

But the Wolverines did not come away from their meet against Georgia unscathed. At each event an athlete fell early within the rotation, adding pressure on the women to perform their routines cleanly. Going into Saturday’s meet against the Buckeyes, Michigan hopes to work on its consistency and keep the positive energy up throughout the meet.  

And most importantly, the team hopes spectators will come not just for gymnastics, but also for the cause. 

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