Kurt Golder looks for only one thing when his No. 3 Michigan men’s gymnastics team has intrasquad meets: consistency.
In Saturday’s meet, he found that consistency on some events, like pommel horse, but on others, like floor exercise, the Wolverines vacillated between clean, hit routines and routines that had multiple falls or errors.
Pommel horse is a historically difficult event for Michigan, and senior Mack Lasker — the Wolverines’ pommel horse specialist and captain of the Blue team in Saturday’s meet — wasn’t competing, which made starting on that event even more difficult for his group. But Blue rose to the occasion and posted a 54.150 on the event — nearly four points above Maize’s mark on the apparatus.
Fifth-year Uche Eke, competing for Blue, led both squads on pommel horse with a score of 13.90 in his return to competing for Michigan after missing all of last season with a torn labrum, and other gymnasts on the Blue team — freshman Markus Shears and junior Jacob Moore — finished second and third on pommel horse.
“The most pleasing part was the pommel horse performance, because that’s a difficult event and it’s hard to get it all together, particularly early in the season,” Golder said. “I don’t know if we scored the highest there, I haven’t looked at the results yet, but I feel like that was our best event.”
In the end, the Blue team’s early consistency gave it the edge over the Maize team, 317.00-316.25.
In a typical men’s gymnastics competition, one team is on pommel horse while the other team competes on floor, and then they switch. So, while the Blue team was on pommel horse, the Maize team began the day on floor, and it was there that the consistency Golder was looking for failed to appear.
Freshman Adam Wooten led off for the Maize team with a clean routine, but juniors Anthony Tawfik and James Read each fell during their routines, and freshman Casey Cummings fell twice. It wasn’t until sophomore Miles Miller stepped up to compete that team Maize turned in another routine free of major errors. After Miller, the mistakes returned, with junior Alan Gerdov falling twice in his routine.
And it wasn’t just the Maize team that struggled on floor. In the following rotation, the Blue team saw three of its five gymnasts fall on tumbling passes and one, freshman Paul Juda, fall on his flair series.
The Wolverines are typically strong on floor — Moore finished second on floor at the NCAA Championships his freshman year and took third last season — but on Saturday, floor was the event that caused the most trouble.
“Little disappointment came on floor,” Golder said. “We’re usually a real strong floor team. We had quite a few mistakes there, and some from people that I really didn’t expect they would make a mistake. … (Moore) is our top floor guy and he’s a real good vaulter for us and he isn’t able to do those two events.”
Throughout the rest of the meet, though, Golder largely found the consistency he wanted to see. One or two gymnasts in each rotation had trouble, but with the first real meet of the season over a month away, the Wolverines have time to fix the trouble spots and find true consistency across all six events.
And Golder has high expectations for this team, which was picked to finish first in the Big Ten in the preseason coaches’ poll. The NCAA Championships are in Ann Arbor in April, and the last time Michigan hosted the national championships, the Wolverines came away with the trophy.
It’s clear that all of Golder’s gymnasts know that history and know they have a chance to win a title on their home floor — if they can find consistency.
“I know we have a shot,” Eke said. “It’s top three at least, so I’m so excited for that. If we all put on, we could even — we’re gonna win. If we all put on, we can win.”