Lexi Funk took the floor, waved and stood slightly in front of her teammates to watch her tribute.
Sunday’s Senior Appreciation Night went to the two-time captain, highlighting her illustrious career as a Michigan gymnast.
Over her four years, Funk has evolved from a promising freshman with strong placements in the beam and floor rotations, to a leader that shapes the feel and chemistry of the team.
“I think being in the captain role, your job is to keep the energy up on the team and keep the team motivated,” Funk said. “And when someone goes down, you’re the person that brings them back up … bring the inspiration to the team, and the positivity, and the excitement.”
On Sunday against Ohio State, Funk put up an impressive 9.900 on beam to increase Michigan’s lead with a stuck landing. And despite being pulled from the floor rotation after securing a team win with a season-high final score of 197.350 to preserve her health, Funk’s celebrations were far from mundane.
“Lexi’s an incredible senior,” sophomore Natalie Wojcik said. “We all look up to her so much, she’s been a great leader and captain on this team, so tonight was just really special for all of us.”
This season, she has claimed an event title on beam, has scored a 9.900 or more on two beam routines and has been a crucial part of the beam and floor rotations.
Through her four years at Michigan, she has been part of four very different teams, forming special relationships especially with last year’s seniors, Olivia Karas and then co-captain Emma McLean.
“(Karas and McLean) did a really good job of bringing the team together and making it like a family,” Funk said. “And I think that’s why we were so successful last year. This year, too, we’re so comfortable with each other and we’re so bonded as a team that I feel like they did a really good job with that, so I want to bring that to this year’s team, as well.”
Michigan coach Bev Plocki has seen Funk’s growth in her tenure, through all that she has been through with multiple teams and injuries.
“(I’ve seen) a tremendous amount of personal growth,” Plocki said. “She came in as a high school girl … just sort of trying to figure it out.
“And I always preach to the upperclassmen that the underclassmen, when they come in, they’re going to develop into the people and the leaders that you demonstrate. And that’s exactly what Lexi did.”
With two NCAA Championship appearances, three conference and regular season championships, respectively, and four career event or all-around victories under her belt, Funk is far from done.
As far as looking toward the future, she wants to be an inspiration to her teammates and bring out the absolute best in them, something she has learned from those that came before her.
“Always improving, week by week (is the goal for the season moving forward),” Funk said. “I’m excited for the day it all comes together, and we can shock the world.”
“She’s not somebody that will give herself a break. She will push, and push, and push,” Plocki said.
“She’s going to be graduating, now, from coming in as a young girl to being a mature, responsible, independent woman.”
As the season continues and in the world beyond gymnastics, Lexi Funk has proven she is a force to be reckoned with. And she will not be backing down anytime soon.