Five years after arriving in Ann Arbor, Tristian Perez-Rivera finally got his Senior Night celebration.
After missing all of the 2016 season and most of the 2017 season due to injuries, the senior was granted a fifth year of eligibility in 2018. While his performance is now limited to just one or two events, he remains an integral part of the Michigan men’s gymnastics team.
“It’s too bad Tristian, with his health issues, is down to just doing a couple of events,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder. “But those two guys, (senior Dmitri Belanovski) and Tristian, have really helped a tremendous amount.”
Before Saturday’s meet against the University of Illinois-Chicago, Golder and the Wolverines honored Perez-Rivera, Belanovski and volunteer assistant coach Brennen Thomas.
Belanovski and Perez-Rivera have both starred in competition during their time at Michigan, while Thomas’ contributions are less immediately obvious. But Golder was quick to point out his key role during competitions, and anyone who has attended a meet has seen Thomas working with each and every gymnast throughout the competition.
“He tried out for the team two years in a row, got cut two years in a row,” Golder said. “He’s extremely valuable as you can see during the meet, he’s very helpful to the program.”
Thomas is frequently the first to congratulate the gymnasts after a strong performance, but he serves an equally important role in reassuring a gymnast after a disapponting routine.
Belanovski earned All-American honors in 2015 and 2016, though he missed most of the 2017 season with injuries. As a captain this year, his leadership has been key for the Wolverines as they’ve battled inconsistency throughout the season.
Saturday’s competition took place at Crisler Center, rather than the team’s usual home of Cliff Keen Arena. This move was intentional, preparing Michigan for the Big Ten Championships coming to Crisler next week. For the seniors, the extra experience in the competition arena will be a big advantage in the championship.
“It was special out here, competing on a podium especially. I don’t think there’s ever been a Senior Night on a podium before,” Belanovski said. “It was a nice test run before Big Tens, consider it a little bit of Senior Night part one.”
The Wolverines have not won a conference title since 2014, Perez-Rivera’s freshman season. He is the only gymnast on the team with a title under his belt, so the rest of the seniors are looking forward to making a run for their first title.
“We’re at home, you know, it’s ours to lose,” Belanovski said. “I think we have a great chance, and we’re ready to bring it home.”
And if they do bring it home, Perez-Rivera, Belanovski and Thomas will get to experience Senior Night on a whole new level for their final competition in Ann Arbor.