By Sara Livingston

Daily Sports Writer

With the 2005 season underway, the Michigan men’s gymnastics team isn’t the least bit discouraged by its No. 7 preseason national ranking. After finishing in the top-five in each of the last six seasons, coach Kurt Golder and his crew of seniors are confident that, come April, they will be at the top of the polls.

“Rankings are pretty skeptical,” senior David Flannery said. “I mean, it’s like the BCS, and you can’t go by the BCS. You just have to work hard in the offseason, and everything will come together at the end of the year.”

While many of the gymnasts believe the team won’t reach its full potential until the second half of the season — and won’t peak until the NCAA Championships — they are sure that they will be climbing the polls once conference play begins against Iowa this Saturday.

“I’m pretty sure we will move up because we always start off slow,” senior captain Geoff Corrigan said. “And all of the rankings get tossed up, so it really doesn’t matter. In 1999, when (Michigan) won a national championship, (the team) was ranked No. 8. It all depends on NCAAs.”

“Obviously, our preseason ranking is a little low,” fifth-year senior and second-year captain Chris Gatti said. “So throughout the season we are definitely going to prove to the country that we’re better than that and we have the potential to be national champions. That is our goal for the season, and we want to go out on top.”

The team’s roster has only been strengthened from last year with the return of Gatti as well as the addition of four freshmen.

“My expectation for this season is to beat the preseason No. 7 ranking,” Golder said. “We’ve been in the top five for the last six years, and we didn’t graduate anyone. We’ve added a few freshmen, so I expect this team should be a top-three team and will be a real strong contender for the title.”

The strong roster erases any depth issues the team might run into throughout the season. This forces the team to focus its preseason training on the details of the gymnasts’ routines to make sure it enters the season strong and without any hiccups.

“We have been working hard all preseason, and we have some new talent on the team,” Golder said. “We have everyone returning from last season, and we’re going to go in and try our hardest. So I don’t foresee any major problems.”

As far as the freshmen are concerned, Golder won’t be looking for them to contribute until later in the season. He will instead be using the first few meets to determine the squad’s lineup preference and where the new faces will fit in best with the team dynamic. While the freshmen have been performing well in practice, Golder is well aware that success in the practice gym doesn’t always translate into successful routines during competitions. He plans on turning to the freshmen around NCAA tournament time, when he knows another championship will be impossible without them.

“By the end of the year, I will be counting on at least a couple of (the freshmen) to make some contribution to the team and, hopefully, help us win a championship,” Golder said.

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