Last year, Michigan sophomore gymnasts Kara Rosella and Lauren Mirkovich had to watch from the sidelines. Rosella was used sparingly, while Mirkovich had a torn ACL.

This season, the two have become major contributors, impressing the Michigan coaches and teammates.

Rosella had a relatively quiet freshman year, posting good scores as a beam specialist. But with the help of the new $3.2 million training facility added last April – a building more conducive to gradually working more difficulty into routines – Rosella has blossomed into a three-event gymnast.

“I’ve said from the beginning that I’ve been so impressed with Kara,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “Her improvements have been extraordinary.”

Mirkovich, on the other hand, has travelled a long and painful road on her way to actually competing in college. Because of injury, she hadn’t competed before this season. But she has made enormous strides this year, competing in every meet, winning two titles on the bars and performing on vault and beam. She has practiced well, and hopes her success will carry over to competitions.

“Every week we’ve been impressed with how her development has been occurring,” Plocki said. “We hope that we’ll see the effects of how well her practices have been going more in competition too.”

But after 10 months of rehab, Mirkovich is just trying to get used to competition.

“I’m shaking off the cobwebs,” Mirkovich said. “Right now I’m just excited to be out competing.”

For Rosella, an Ann Arbor native with close ties to the University (her mother and sister are both alums), putting more practice hours in and developing more consistency has paid off. She feels that the mental aspect of her game has improved.

“I feel like mentally, I’m more relaxed,” Rosella said. “I can really key in on my technical work versus actually being nervous.”

Despite the emergence of Mirkovich and Rosella, Michigan isn’t getting any healthier. The coaching staff breathed a sigh of relief after stress fracture tests on freshman Becca Clauson (back) and sophomore Chelsea Kroll (fibula) came back negative, but both are still experiencing pain at practice. Elise Ray and Kallie Steffes remain out.

The Wolverines are also trying to bolster their confidence on the bars. Michigan has found it difficult to hit bar routines the last two weekends, posting season low scores. Tuesday’s bar practice could only be described as bewildering, as the Wolverines couldn’t seem to stay on, but they came back yesterday with solid routines.

“(Confidence) is always an ongoing issue – it doesn’t totally resolve itself in a matter of a couple of days.” Plocki said. “They can’t lose confidence in themselves to be able to do bars.”

Depth can help confidence, and the Wolverines will need Mirkovich and Rosella to continue their success as they get into the thick of their schedule.

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