PALO ALTO, Calif. – The scoreboard reported a victory for the No. 1 Michigan men’s gymnastics team on Friday night, but the Wolverines’ faces didn’t.

Despite facing a No. 5 Stanford team depleted by injuries and the loss of junior co-captain and national-team member David Sender, Michigan almost let the 212.35-208.1 win slip through its fingers.

“It’s one of those hollow victories,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “Just because we didn’t perform well. We made quite a few mistakes. . Maybe we’ve got to change a few routines, maybe we’ve got to take some guys out of the lineup, I don’t know, but we can’t continue to keep making mistakes like we are.”

At the start, everything seemed to be going Michigan’s way. The late-arriving Stanford crowd meant that for a short while, Michigan supporters made up the majority. And after last weekend’s ugly showing on pommel horse, the Wolverines led off the meet with five clean routines of six.

Michigan took the lead with a typically strong floor showing – none of the five gymnasts scored lower than a 9.0. Sophomore Jamie Thompson posted a career-high 9.45. Fellow sophomore Kent Caldwell, amid his teammates’ chants of “Quad-well!” stuck his signature skill on his way to a meet-topping 9.65 mark.

But on the rings, Michigan’s fourth event, things began to go wrong.

The Wolverines’ nagging problem of failing to hold strength skills resurfaced in front of tough road judges. Even seemingly-solid routines received scores far below normal. Golder was so displeased with one judge that after the meet, he informed Stanford head coach Thom Glielmi that Michigan would not compete at Stanford again if the same judge worked the meet.

And sophomore Ralph Rosso, current Michigan rings record-holder, had the night off. Suddenly the meet was tight.

Michigan’s struggles continued on high bar, as only senior co-captain Andrew Elkind, who won the event (9.25), and senior Aaron Rakes (9.1) made it through their routines with no major form breaks.

For the final event of the night, most of the pressure was on Stanford. With just four gymnasts competing on high bar, every Cardinal score would count. Ahead by more than a point, the meet was Michigan’s to lose.

To the credit of the parallel bars squad, when Stanford buckled, the Wolverines held fast. After junior Paul Woodward led off the event with a 9.0, freshman Mel Santander executed a flowing, graceful set culminating in a stuck landing (9.35). After two missed routines, Elkind came through with a routine worthy of the No. 1 parallel bars man in the nation, scoring an event-winning 9.7.

“I was really proud of our p-bar team,” Caldwell said. “We weren’t having a really good meet, obviously, and just the way they came back and fought, did these beautiful routines, was really good. You just want that to carry through to every event and not (just) when it comes to crunch time.”

Michigan will have a much-needed home meet next Saturday against Illinois. After a month on the road, returning to familiar Cliff Keen Arena will be a welcome change.

“We have the most meets, hardest schedule, and hardest road schedule (of any team in the country),” Elkind said. “Illinois, they’re having a little bit of a down year, so we can easily at home get a nice big crowd, see all that blue again, hear the Go Blue (cheers) and The Victors, and that will get our spirits and confidence up again.”

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