From the moment the Maize and Blue Intrasquad began to the moment it ended, Cliff Keen Arena was never silent. But it wasn’t because of the crowd. On the sidelines, the booming cheers and words of encouragement from the Michigan men’s gymnastics team filled the room as they supported their teammates. 

“As soon as I heard the team behind me, I just got the confidence in my abilities,” said freshman Mitchell Brown. “It helped me realize that I knew how to get the job done.”

The sideline support clearly paid off for the team’s newest members, as four of the team’s eight freshmen — Brown, Mack Lasker, Justin Murphy and Thomas Paul — all earned mentions in the awards ceremony in their collegiate debut. Lasker and Paul took first-place titles in the pommel horse and still rings during the first and third rotation, respectively, each with a score of 13.500.

This annual intrasquad functioned as a way to get the men’s gymnastics team in a competitive mindset, and to give the freshman a taste of competition in preparation for the upcoming regular season.

The Blue team outperformed Maize in four out of the six events — floor, pommel horse, still rings and high bar — contributing to its 242.450 to 236.550 victory Saturday afternoon.  

Blue maintained a solid lead throughout most of the dual, with the exception of the end of the third rotation, where Brown and redshirt sophomore Marty Stretch’s outstanding vault performance put Maize ahead.

Sophomore Emyre Cole proved himself key to the Blue squad’s domination, earning the all-around title with the top score of 78.100. His highlights included taking joint first-place titles on both vault and high bar, with scores of 14.600 and 13.900, respectively. He additionally placed second on floor after sticking a two-and-a-half twisting double back, and earned a joint third-place title on still rings.  

Placing second all-around with a score of 77.050, Stretch impressively executed his routines as well. He took the joint event title for vault with a score of 14.600, and took the event title for parallel bars with a 13.650. Additionally, he earned second place on still rings and third place on the high bar.    

Senior captain Tristian Perez-Rivera and sophomore Justin Hopgood secured event titles as well. Perez-Rivera scored a 13.900 with a strong floor routine in the first rotation, and Hopgood earned his joint first-place title on high bar in the final rotation, also scoring a 13.900.

The intrasquad was not only a debut for the freshmen, but also a debut for the new Code of Points that was implemented for the 2017 season. The starting values for routines in every event have been altered, with vault start values being lowered by .040 and all other event start values being lowered by .050.  

“It will probably take a season for (the new rules) to become natural,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder.

While impressed with many of the skills he saw executed by both teams, Golder was disappointed with the hit percentage, which was around 50 percent and was lower than it had been a few weeks prior during training in the gym. Golder attributed this difference in part to the crowd and to the harder surface the gymnasts were landing on in Keen as opposed to the practice gym, where the softer floor gave way for easier dismounts.

Golder intends to focus on hit percentage in the upcoming weeks as the Wolverines approach their regular season, which will officially begin Jan. 14 at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago.

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