Anthony McCallum stood at the end of the runway, visualizing himself sticking his Tsukahara double pike vault. Five seconds later, he landed it, for the final time in his Michigan men’s gymnastics career, with his feet glued to the floor.
All gymnasts strive for stuck landings, and this time, it won the senior his third national title on vault with a score of 15.266 — just 0.434 below his maximum score. In a sport where even the smallest errors incur deductions, that’s about as good as it gets.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” McCallum said. “It just feels really good to end it the way I envisioned it to end. So many other things could’ve happened. It just feels good to make my legacy even better than it was before and finish off the way that I wanted to.”
After winning the title on vault both his freshman and sophomore years, McCallum missed the majority of the 2018 season with an injury. That year, he scored just a 14.000 in the qualifying round at the NCAA Championships and failed to advance to the vault final.
In Friday’s qualifying session, McCallum again marked a 14.000 after putting his hands down when landing, but he advanced to Saturday’s final because the Wolverines qualified as a team. Michigan ultimately finished fourth of six teams with a score of 406.354.
“Yesterday, he had trouble with his vault,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder on Saturday. “It’s just such a difficult vault, but for him to stick it today — you know, it’s the last vault he’ll ever do for Michigan and he sticks it and wins the national title. Doesn’t get much better than that.”
For the first time in his NCAA Championships career, McCallum competed alongside his teammates in the final round of competition. Until Friday, the Wolverines had not made it to the second day of the championships as a team since 2015.
“It was really exciting being with the team,” McCallum said. “In the past, the other times that I’ve won, it was as an individual. I really was just thinking about the team and that ended up bringing out the best competition in myself.”
McCallum’s score propelled Michigan to a score of 73.264 on the vault and made the Wolverines just the second team this season to score above 73.
But despite the high scores on vault, Michigan couldn’t overcome low scores on pommel horse and high bar.
“Anytime you can (make it to the Super Six), you’ve gotta be happy,” Golder said. “Just didn’t do quite what we were capable of, and of course that’s what you want in a national championship.”
While the Wolverines didn’t find much success as a team, three of McCallum’s teammates joined him as All-Americans after placing in the top eight on their respective events.
Fifth-year senior Marty Strech earned a seventh-place finish on the still rings for his routine that he capped with a stuck dismount. Michigan competed on rings in the second rotation on Saturday, and Strech’s score of 14.300 remained in podium position throughout the competition.
“(Strech is) just so clean,” Golder said. “He doesn’t have a great start value. There’s a lot of guys with a higher start value, but he executes so well that it doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s nice to see in a big championship meet that he holds up pretty well.”
Sophomores Jacob Moore and Cameron Bock also earned All-American honors. Moore finished in third place on floor exercise and Bock placed fourth in the all-around.
Although Michigan earned high scores from gymnasts like McCallum and Moore, its overall struggles in the team competition left the Wolverines scoring more than two points below their season average.
But it was Michigan’s first trip to the Super Six since 2015, and for a program that’s won three national titles this decade, it was an important step toward being a national contender again.