It’s not every day that members of the Michigan men’s gymnastics team get to compete with Olympians at the Winter Cup for spots on the U.S. National Team.
Current Michigan gymnasts — senior Nolan Novak, sophomore Dmitri Belanovski and freshmen Anthony McCallum and Emrye Cole — competed in the Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas alongside three prominent Michigan alumni: Sam Mikulak, Stacey Ervin and Adrian de los Angeles.
The Winter Cup, which is a subsidiary meet of USA Gymnastics, is a three-day qualifying meet that determines the 15 athletes who will occupy the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Belanovski took 14th in the all-around with a final score of 83.800, the highest of the current competing Wolverines. His best individual event was the parallel bars with a score of 14.600 — good enough to claim sixth place. He beat Mikulak by .350 of a point.
“My goal was to get top 24 all-around so I could qualify to the U.S. Championships in June, so I accomplished that,” Belanovski said. “I’m happy with the outcome of 14th — you’re always trying to do the best you can and place as high as you can. The parallel bars was a little bit of a surprise, because it hasn’t been my strongest event in the last few years, but I feel like it’s really coming along, so it’s nice to go out there and do well on it.”
Cole, a Las Vegas native, had his best performance of the night on vault. He took ninth place with a 15.150, higher than all four Michigan alumni. He also finished out at 20th place on the floor and 27th on pommel horse, which boosted him to a final score of 82.400. Cole’s rankings led him to take 19th place in the all-around, six places higher than teammate McCallum but with just .400 more points.
Novak, who is a senior captain for the Wolverines, participated in just two events, one of which was his signature event, the pommel horse. He also competed on the high bar.
Mikulak, a three-time U.S. all-around champion who graduated in 2014, dominated the event despite being sidelined last year by an Achilles injury. He walked away with the all-around title at the Winter Cup with an overall score of 90.350. Mikulak also snagged the gold on the pommel horse with a two-day score of 30.600, and on the high bar with a combined score of 30.200.
“Having (Mikulak) there as well and having him win the meet was great,” Belanovski said. “We’re always trying to follow in his footsteps, he left such a great legacy and now we’re all trying to live up to that legacy. We’re always interacting with each other. Sam still comes by and says hi and cheers us on. You can hear him screaming for us from the other side of the gym. It’s a lot of fun.”
Michigan will regroup as a team to face Penn State and the Puerto Rican National Team in their annual spring break competition on March 5th. With the whole team in attendance, the Wolverines will work on living up to that legacy Mikulak has laid out for them.