BY MICHAEL LAURILA
Daily Sports Writer
Published February 20, 2011
Taking at least the top-two spots in the first four events, the No. 6 Michigan Men’s gymnastics team defeated No. 13 University of Illinois at Chicago this past Saturday at Cliff Keen Arena.
Even without freshman Sam Mikulak — the Wolverines top vault competitor — and senior Ben Baldus-Strauss, Michigan still defeated the Flames 341.90-322.70. Mikulak was suffering from a sternum and lower back problem and Baldus-Strauss wore a sling on Saturday, while recovering from a previous injury.
Senior Chris Cameron competed after missing last week, but his ailments aren’t completely gone. The U.S. Senior National Team member took third place on the pommel horse and still rings, but was troubled by falls and poor dismounts on the high bar and floor exercise. As he's still recovering, he couldn't perfect most of his routines this week in practice.
“(Cameron) wasn’t prepared well, and he’s still battling some mystery illness,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “At least he was better enough to feel like ‘I can get in the meet,’ but that doesn’t mean the preparation has been there. Hopefully if he can get feeling better, than we can get him back on track and back where he belongs.”
But injured gymnasts aside, senior’s Thomas Kelley and Ian Makowske, redshirt junior Andrew Vance, sophomore Rohan Sebastian and freshman Michael Myler led the way for Michigan
Kelley captured first place on the parallel bars and second place on the still rings and high bar. And Myler took second place on the pommel horse and floor exercise, respectively.
Senior Adam Hamers matched his highest pommel horse score of the season en route to winning the event. On the pommel horse, along with the still rings and vault, the Wolverines swept the events, taking first through fourth.
“I thought I did pretty well,” Myler said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit on pommel horse lately, but I kind of pulled it together this week and focused more on form and trying to maximize my execution score.”
Without the usual high vault score of Mikulak, Sebastian earned the event title. His score of 15.75 surpassed his season-best score.
Since UIC isn't one of the strongest opponents Michigan faced this season, the Wolverines came into the competition with a different preparation.
“I felt the team today didn’t really rise to the occasion,” Kelley said. “We were trying to go into this meet competing against ourselves and competing against our team score. I feel like we performed to the standards of our competition as opposed to ourselves.”
This was particularly evident on the last two rotations.
After the fourth rotation, the Wolverines led by 16.20. Normally on the last two rotations — parallel bars and high bar — Michigan is competing to earn a victory. On Saturday, none of the pressure to hit a set was there on those last rotations.
“It’s a little more difficult when you know you’ve got them beat,” Golder said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to keep the incentive up.”
Michigan will have plenty of opportunity for a close meet next weekend as No. 4 Stanford travels to Cliff
Keen Arena. Last season, the Cardinals were the runner-ups to the Wolverines at the NCAA Championships.
“They’re going to be coming after us big time,” Golder said. “We are the target. They were, at least I thought, supposed to win NCAA’s last year, and then we knocked them off. I’m sure their whole year since NCAA’s has been pointed to this meet.”