Michigan 2020 Hall of Honor: Cain’s drive to enhance an exemplary American-style career
12-time All-American with eight first-team citations, two-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year (1997, 2000), 1997 Big Ten Freshman of he Year and holder of 11 career perfect 10.0s, Sarah Cain will be inducted into Michigan Athletics Hall of Honor in a ceremony on Friday October 22 as a member of the Class of 2020 with Kelli Gannon (field hockey), Ty Law (football), Jim Paciorek (baseball), Tripp Welborne (football) and Lexi Zimmerman (volleyball) -ball).
By Steve Kornacki
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – When a weakness becomes a strength, it says a lot about a student-athlete’s determination and work ethic. He says they like a challenge and are anything but complacent.
When Sarah Cain Arriving at the University of Michigan from Grand Island, Neb., in the 1996-97 school year, uneven bars were her weakest event. But she was motivated to make improvements to it that helped catapult a memorable career that earned her 12 NCAA All-American gymnastics honors.
She ended up getting the most recognition as a superb performer in this competition, taking place on two parallel bars about 18 inches apart that are set horizontally at different heights on vertical poles. Gymnasts swing and glide from bar to bar while performing routines before performing acrobatic descents.
Cain has won more of his All-America honors on those uneven bars than any other event, claiming first-team nationwide recognition in three separate years. She was also a two-time member of America’s first all-team all-around and Big Ten Gymnast of the Year in both freshman in 1997 and senior in 2000.
She became one of the most decorated gymnasts as a head coach Bev plockihighly successful program and Friday (October 22) will be inducted into the Michigan Hall of Honor.
Cain has accomplished so much in gymnastics, but what she’s done on those uneven bars has contributed the most to her development into a Wolverine legend. Work with longtime Michigan assistant coach Scott sherman helped this to happen.
“He’s an amazing technical trainer,” Cain said of Sherman. “He made my (uneven) bars what they are. Before I came to Michigan I wasn’t consistent on bars. I didn’t put them together and I really struggled, and Scott made me the bar clerk that I was.
“Ironically enough, this is the event where I ended up performing best nationally. I finished second at the Nationals on uneven bars twice. The other huge impact after Scott on bars was my teammates. to come to Michigan, I trained alone in the morning and with teammates in the evening, but I never trained or competed at the level that I have done. But a lot of my competitions and my travels I l I did it alone. had 12-17 other athletes who were at or better than me, who pushed me and really helped me succeed. “
Cain becomes the program’s fourth Hall of Honor inductee.
“It’s a huge honor,” she said. “It’s an incredible honor. I was shocked when (athletic director) Warde (Manuel) called to tell me the news. That Beth Wymer (Humbles), Wendy Marshall (Martin) and Elise Ray (-Statz ) are in it really means a lot. Beth was a bit before my time, but very important in making the program what it is today. Wendy was a senior when I did my recruiting visit to Michigan and so I was able to spend some time with her. Elise was a new recruit after I was a senior and some of us went to Boston in 2000 when she was on the US Olympic team (and won a bronze medal).”
They all helped Plocki – whose 25 Big Ten Championships are the most important for all conference coaches in all sports – to build a gymnastics dynasty. Cain was one of three of those Big Ten title teams, as well as three of Plocki’s 10 NCAA Super Six teams, which included a runner-up in the national competition in 1999.
“Bev’s biggest impact has been improving my confidence and consistency,” Cain said. “Before coming to Michigan I had a lot of skills, but I was nowhere near as consistent in competition.”
Cain has scored the perfect 10.0 from judges 11 times in his career and won six Big Ten Individual Championships in addition to his dozen NCAA All-American honors. She won the all-around, floor exercise, vault and uneven bars. However, the beam remains his favorite event.
“I loved the balance beam,” Cain said. “And that was the only event I wasn’t an All-American in. So (laughs) the elusive balance beam. But I loved the competition and the practice of the balance beam. .
“I liked the challenge of this event. It’s a very lean device. Being able to stay and be consistent competition after competition. I really enjoyed that, and it was fun to train and to perform.”
Cain went from the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award in 1997 and both of these conference Gymnast of the Year awards to Michigan’s Female Athlete of the Year as the senior in 2000.
What has she enjoyed the most about her college career?
“Twenty years later,” said Cain, “two things really stand out. It was an amazing experience and I felt lucky to be a part of such an amazing program.
“The team’s two memories are winning the Big Ten Championship in Minnesota in my freshman year – when it was the last year they combined the men’s and women’s championships. It was very special. The other was when we finished second in the NCAA tournament in Utah. We had an amazing year in my junior year, and it was just an amazing group of women too. “
Cain could have taken a completely different route to Michigan. She participated in the 1994 American Olympic Festival and was invited to train in a more national setting. But she chose to stay home and compete for the Grand Island Twisters and coach Ricardo Appel.
“I wasn’t interested in that at all,” Cain said. “I didn’t want to leave my hometown, my club coach. I wasn’t talented enough to really compete and be part of this Olympic level, and I realized it when I was 16 or 17. It wasn’t My path. What was important to me was college, and to go to college, I knew I didn’t have to move. “
Plocki once told the Michigan Daily, “Nebraska really felt they had a lock on it.” Cain grew up just west of Lincoln, and many thought she had become Cornhusker. “
“I visited Nebraska, and they also had a wonderful program,” Cain said. “I had known the coach and the program for quite some time and was a huge Nebraska sports fan. But after visiting Michigan and meeting the girls on the team, the coaching staff and the university she “I even felt it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. It was the best fit for me.”
“I visited Stanford as well, and California seemed very foreign to me. Michigan was still the Midwest and I felt right at home. And the whole package combined was exactly what I was looking for.”
She graduated in Organizational Studies and was a volunteer coach for Plocki for two seasons.
“I absolutely loved the two years I was able to spend coaching alongside Bev and Scott,” Cain said. “It’s pretty amazing that they are still part of the program because a lot of coaches are leaving or retiring. But it was really a fun experience to train with them, and to look at it from the perspective of training, rather than as an athlete.
“It didn’t work out with schedules and things like that with my family to take it further. But I’ll always be so grateful that I got the opportunity to do it in Michigan and coach some really amazing talented athletes. So it was a very positive experience. “
Cain has found a new home in Ann Arbor, where she still lives with her husband, Sean, and three children: Jake, 15; Kellan, 12; and Scarlett, 11. She has worked in photography and convenience food companies, but has settled in the past five years with an administrative position at the University of Michigan Diabetes Research Center and the Elizabeth Weiser Diabetes Institute. Caswell, which opened in 2020.
“I participate in the Feasibility Pilot Program, a student summer program that I facilitate, and a number of administrative-type tasks,” Cain said.
“I stayed and love Ann Arbor. It’s a great community.”
She looks forward to Hall of Honor induction with soccer players Ty law and Tripp welborne with volleyball Lexi zimmerman, field hockey Kelli gannon and baseball Jim paciorek.
“Can’t wait to have a pic with Ty Law,” said Cain, who started laughing at the idea of meeting the three-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Fame member. “I told my family who was going with me, and my brother said, ‘I haven’t bragged about anyone as much as I’ve bragged about you these last few days. These are huge names that you are enthroned with. This is a very big deal! ‘
“That’s pretty cool. I’m a huge fan of all the great people in Michigan, and I can’t wait to meet them all.”