mnastics team got a head start on exceeding expectations in the gymnastics community. Ranked sixth in the preseason poll after finishing fourth at the 2007 NCAA Championships, the Wolverines showed in their annual Maize and Blue intrasquad that they will, once again, be full of surprises.

The undermanned Maize team, with its lineups depleted by injuries, shocked the “stacked” Blue team, dominating the competition from start to finish.

“Maize won, and Blue didn’t think it was possible,” Maize freshman Chris Cameron said.

The Maize team was without the services of senior co-captain Paul Woodward, who sprained his ankle two weeks earlier. Cameron, normally an all-arounder, competed in just four events. Another all-arounder, freshman Ben Baldus-Strauss, was only able to compete on floor due to a wrist injury. The one-handed performance – his cast came off the previous day – drew cheers of amazement.

The intrasquad not only introduced the eight-man freshman class to Michigan gymnastics fans, but introduced many fans to a new scoring code, with the best scores stretching into the 15s. To further complicate matters, team scoring was modified, too. Instead of counting the top four marks in each event, all routine scores were added together and divided by the number of healthy competitors in the event. The average was then multiplied by four for the event total. Though the Blue team won four of the six event titles, the Maize team won the meet by a score of 329.07-326.266.

But the team rivalry was short-lived. As the meet wound down, all the gymnasts gathered in a corner of the floor to watch the final few competitors perform on the parallel bars. With everyone in their warm-ups, it was impossible to distinguish the teams.

The Wolverines kept up the intensity in Cliff Keen Arena all night, celebrating hit routines with uninhibited delight. Following his breathtaking pommel horse set, which drew excited cheers from the crowd, Cameron screamed, pumped his arms and ended up bouncing through a crowd of his teammates and off a padded wall.

Even normally reserved sophomore Mel Santander, who took the all-around title with an 85.75, joined in fun after his 14.0 routine on high bar.

Assistant coach Scott Vetere was excited by the freshmen’s competitive spirit.

“Chris Cameron, he knocked it out on his events,” Vetere said. “He knew he was going to hit. That’s a great thing to have and I think our team needs somebody like that.”

Appropriately for the youthful team, its younger members took all the event titles. Juniors Jamie Thompson, Ralph Rosso and Joe Catrambone respectively won floor, pommel horse and rings, respectively. Sophomore Torrance Laury tied Rosso for vault honors with a 15.55, and Santander bested all comers on parallel bars. Freshman Thomas Kelley’s near-flawless routine was tops on high bar.

But the Wolverines still have plenty of room to improve, especially with consistency and endurance. If the intrasquad had been scored like a regular competition, counting the top four scores, the team would have finished with a 351.0. On several events, Michigan counted sub-14.5s, something coaches hope they won’t do by the end of the season.

“We did really well tonight but it’s not good enough,” Thompson said. “It’s a great start, and we have a month or so before we have to compete again. Plenty of time to go work in the gym, relax a little bit, focus on basics, details, and we’ll have a great season.”

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