One year ago, senior Lindsey Bruck was lying helplessly on a floor mat in Morgantown, W.Va., clutching her ankle in pain.

Moments before, during the second tumbling pass of her floor routine in the Wolverines’ first meet of the 2007 season, Bruck attempted a pike double back that went awry, landing on her side and slamming her ankle against the mat.

The music went off, the trainer came out and the grim prognosis soon came – Bruck had snapped her Achilles tendon.

A year later, on the eve of the Wolverines’ first meet of the 2008 season, Bruck reflected on last year’s injury.

“At first, when I did it, I was just mad that I fell,” Bruck said. “Then I realized that I was actually injured and couldn’t get up. When I figured out what happened, I was devastated because we were having a good meet as a team and I just wanted to get out there and help the team.”

From the moment Michigan coach Beverly Plocki saw Bruck land, she knew it was a severe injury.

Bruck was taken back to the training room, but returned on crutches by the final rotation to cheer on her team. The Wolverines went on to narrowly defeat West Virginia and James Madison.

“Some of the first things she told her teammates were that she was going to be in the gym everyday kicking their butts,” Plocki said. “She spent only about five minutes crying and feeling sorry for herself.”

Bruck wondered about her future as a gymnast at Michigan. She was uncertain if she would be able to recover from the injury, and if she could, whether she would be eligible to compete the next season, since she was a senior.

It didn’t help that all the available scholarships for this season were already taken.

Bruck’s career at Michigan had been brilliant. She was a two-time All-American, earning a first-team selection on the balance beam her freshman year. In 2006, she was the beam and all-around Big Ten Champion. Bruck had hoped her senior season would be even better.

“She’d had an incredible fall training, she was a senior, a captain, and was looking so forward to an incredible season,” Plocki said. “To have something like that happen right out of the gate is a disheartening feeling.”

Six days after the meet, Bruck had surgery, followed by five weeks off her feet. Then, she began personal training to improve the strength of her ankle.

“There were times she would get frustrated watching her teammates do what she wanted to be doing,” Plocki said.

Bruck received a medical redshirt from the NCAA because she injured herself in the season’s first meet. Now she has returned to lead Michigan as a fifth-year senior.

But Bruck was unable to secure a scholarship for the season. Technically a walk-on, she is paying her own tuition with help from her family.

“I admire and respect her so much,” Plocki said. “Most of the time when you’re a senior you feel like it’s time to be done, but she has so much love and passion. She was not going to let her career end that way.”

Every time Bruck steps onto the mat, she’s aware of what could happen. She has to focus more attention on her technique to avoid re-injuring her Achilles. The hardship has only made her work harder than ever in the gym.

“As I go into the gym every day, I’m honored to be doing gymnastics again,” Bruck said. “I’m thankful to be part of a team and program that make gymnastics fun again.”

Although Bruck hasn’t competed in over a year and might not be able to perform exactly as she did before the injury, her coaches and teammates appreciate her more than ever.

“Every girl in that gym works hard for the program and for Michigan, and a little bit for her,” Plocki said. “They want to make this a special year for Lindsey.”

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