In a competition where teams average 350 points, losing by just a fraction of a point can be disheartening, but also motivating.
And for the No. 3 Michigan men’s gymnastics team, which fell short of No. 2 Oklahoma Saturday afternoon 354.450 to 354.000, just .45 of a point, it was just that.
Due to a lingering hand injury involving a sprain to his middle and index fingers, nationally ranked junior Chris Cameron was unable to compete in his normal events. He did compete in the rings and high bar, as they were the only events that would not strain his hand too much.
“We had two botched performances, and we still only lost by four tenths,” Cameron said. “We really have the depth and are a great team. We just need to pull it all together when it really matters.”
Cameron said he wasn’t sure when he’d be back to full steam.
“It’s really hard to tell,” he said. “It’s just a sprain and I got it x-rayed and there’s no fraction or broken bones. I’ve been surprised how much it’s been bothering me from day to day, but no matter what, I’m going to load it up and go for all six (events) at Big Tens and NCAAs.”
Oklahoma came into the meet with the top-ranked floor exercise routine in the nation. And their skill was evident when the Sooners hit the floor, finishing with the top two scores. Michigan was unable to match Oklahoma after poor performances in its parallel bar and vault routine, largely due to a low hit percentage and failed dismount landings.
“We dug a lot of holes,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “We dug more holes than we could get ourselves out of. When the pressure was really on it looked nearly impossible to pull it out, and the guys really performed well on the high bar. If we could have performed on one more event like we did on the high bar I think we would have come away with a victory.”
Michigan faced a marginal deficit going into the final rotation, down by 3.5 points. The high bar has always been a strong routine and after sweeping the event with top performances by Kelley, redshirt senior Ryan McCarthy and senior Mel Anton Santander, it looked like the Wolverines were going to make a comeback. They came up just short.
Kelley was a bright spot for the Wolverines placing first in the still rings and high bar, and second in the parallel bars and all-around competition. Other bright spots for the Wolverines included Santander’s first-place finish in the pommel horse and third place finish in the high bar.
Prior to Saturday’s loss, Michigan hadn’t really been tested much all season.
“It was the first meet where somebody came in here and they could beat us,” Cameron said. “It’s just fun to have that excitement and that motivation behind you.”
With another challenge ahead for the Wolverines next week, facing No. 4 Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., they will need to be more successful in some aspects of their routine to a legitimate contender. Michigan will look to use this narrow defeat as fuel for its upcoming schedule.
“As a team it was slightly disappointing,” Santander said. “We could have done a lot better. We’re just going to have to practice in the gym and transfer our training in the gym into competition when the pressure is actually on.”