Sunday was a pretty good day for the No. 7 Michigan men’s gymnastics team, considering it finished with its highest score of the season – the second highest of all team scores recorded in the nation this year, behind only No. 1 Penn State.
The Wolverines (4-4) beat No. 9 Illinois-Chicago 215.050 to 203.300 at Cliff Keen Arena in front of an animated audience. This convincing performance is proof that Michigan is slowly but surely reaching its potential.
“We’re finally approaching the level we’re supposed to be at,” senior Scott Vetere said.
Vetere contributed with the team’s second-highest score on the floor exercise and the pommel horse.
“We’re on our way to a national title, I’m sure of that right now.”
The Wolverines’ quest for challenging the top-ranked teams has been a seemingly intangible goal throughout the season. Injuries that have kept many upperclassmen out of competition have hampered the amount of leadership and experience currently available. But as Michigan coach Kurt Golder has been predicting all year, patience will allow the team to recover and fortify the lineup. This process could eventually result in a national championship caliber team. Thus far, it appears that progress is unfolding accordingly.
“As we get guys in, we get more and more confidence,” Golder said. “Now we have to add difficulty as the guys get more comfortable with their routines.”
The growing confidence is evident among all the gymnasts.
“I think we’re right where we want to be,” sophomore Geoff Corrigan said. “I’m impressed with the freshmen, they did really well.”
Of the freshmen, Justin Laury’s performance was the most impressive. Laury finished ahead of all competitors on the pommel horse and the horizontal bar, as he successfully executed routines with relatively high start values in all events.
The Wolverines dominated Illinois-Chicago (0-6) in five of the six events. Each event was anchored by consistent opening routines. Illinois’ helplessness was evident, as the team appeared to lose concentration in the last rotation in which it fell countless times. Meanwhile, Michigan entertained the home crowd by delivering a dramatic display of well-executed release moves on the high bar.
The success of the meet was partially smothered when sophomore Eddie Umphrey hurt his hand in the middle of his parallel bars routine. He left the meet for x-rays and there was no word of his status.
Umphrey is one of six Wolverines slated to attend the 2003 Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas next weekend, along with Jamie Hertza, Conan Parzuchowski, Justin Laury, Jerry Signorelli and Geoff Corrigan.
Umphrey’s presence on the team is significant, but his teammates remain optimistic.
“We have to be confident and have as much fun as possible,” Parzuchowski said. “That’s how you win. We still have some guys out, and we need to add some more difficulty. But, when the end of the season rolls around, the rest of the nation won’t even see us coming.”