The No. 8 Michigan men’s gymnastics team knew this year’s Maize and Blue Intrasquad meet would have a different feel.

“Everybody last year was like, ‘Let’s go have fun, hit, whatever,’ ” sophomore Jamie Thompson said. “This year, Maize and Blue, we’re at each other’s throats. In the gym, here (at Cliff Keen Arena the night before) training, everyone was just cutthroat, wanted to win.”

The Maize team edged the Blue team, 155.8-155.5, but both squads were pleased with their Dec. 16 performances. Even gymnasts who didn’t compete last season made good showings – freshman Dave Chan posted an 8.7 on pommel horse after a two-year layoff, and both junior Paul Woodward and sophomore Ryan McCarthy, who missed last season with injuries, notched high scores on parallel bars.

If the meet had been scored like an official competition, counting the top four scores on each apparatus, Michigan would have notched a 212.1. The Wolverines’ highest score last season was 213.8, posted in a dual meet against Minnesota in February.

And the gymnasts aren’t even in peak shape yet. Because of decreased start values, Michigan struggled to post high vault scores. The team also fought through problems in the final two events: parallel bars and high bar.

So when the apparatus teams fire on all cylinders, Michigan should be a very difficult team to beat.

“I think we did an amazing job for an intrasquad,” sophomore Joe Catrambone said. “This is a lot better than where we were at any point in the season last year. We proved that we are more than capable of being the No. 1 team in the country, and that this is just one step closer to our goal, which is NCAA champions.”

The event that showed the most marked improvement was pommel horse.

A clean routine was an exception last year, but it was the rule during this meet. Of the 12 competitors, just four came off the horse.

“I’m so happy that we went so well (on pommel horse),” senior Aaron Rakes said. “We’ve been practicing a lot in the gym; We’ve been having our pommel horse intrasquads. I was so glad that we were able to be consistent on that event because when we’re at an away meet, we’re going to start on pommel horse.”

The younger members of the team also shined, with all of the events and the all-around competition won by freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore Scott Bregman posted the highest score of the night with a 9.5 on floor exercise.

Their performance provides a confidence booster as the team prepares for its first regular season meet, the Windy City Invitational (Jan. 13).

“I feel a huge relief now going through my first competition,” said freshman Torrance Laury, who won the rings and parallel bars competitions with scores of 9.4 and 9.3, respectively. “It was pretty nerve-wracking at first, but now I feel a lot better. . Now that I know how the college atmosphere is going to be in the meets, I think that I’ll be a lot more experienced and a lot more prepared for the next meets.”

Despite being ranked third in the Big Ten and eighth nationally, the team’s expectations are higher than last year’s third-place finish. Michigan will begin the six-team meet on parallel bars, so unlike the intrasquad, fatigue should not be a factor in the Maize and Blue’s most troublesome events.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.