The captains are back. The target meet system has been scrapped.

After a disappointing season that found the Wolverines watching NCAA team finals from the stands, the Michigan men’s gymnastics team is getting back to basics – and hopefully its winning ways.

This year’s squad, led by captains Justin Laury and Andrew Elkind, is primed both to avenge last April’s eighth-place finish and disprove its No. 8 preseason national ranking.

“If (last year’s finish) isn’t (good motivation), there’s something really wrong,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “I would expect that they would get the same motivation out of their finish that football did out of their finish last year. . I think they’re pretty much where they need to be.”

Last season, Michigan used the “target meet” system, in which the team used its top lineup only in certain competitions. Golder hoped that by using the other meets to rest key gymnasts, the whole team would be fresher at the end of the year.

But the system also seemed to send the message that Michigan was not trying to win every meet.

“We were going there to lose, instead of going there to win,” assistant coach Scott Vetere said. “Obviously, if you want to win the meet, you’re going to put your best lineup out. We weren’t doing that, so the guys thought we were going there to lose.”

Now Michigan plans to field a consistently tough lineup for every event, barring injury. Though the floor exercise team is not as deep as in the past, it should still be able to post high scores. Due to rule changes devaluing all vaults, running up points on that event will be difficult, but all collegiate teams will have to make this adjustment.

The most dramatic turnaround will be on the pommel horse and parallel bars. These two events, both glaring weak points for the team last season, may become strengths.

Both event squads will be bolstered by Laury, junior Paul Woodward and sophomore Ryan McCarthy – all returning from various injuries. In addition, three strong freshmen, Torrance Laury, Mel Santander and Joe Levine, should add solid scores.

The freshman class has generally been a source of pleasant surprises. Santander, a former junior national team member, originally planned to go to community college near home in Massachusetts to continue training for the Olympics with his club coach. But he changed his mind and committed to Michigan midsummer. Both he and Torrance Laury have a wealth of experience competing in important meets as veterans of Junior Olympic Nationals and the USA Championships.

Then, about a month into the semester, a “secret weapon” basically fell into the team’s lap.

Freshman Dave Chan, 21, spent the past two years serving his mandatory two years in the Singapore military. He chose Michigan for its engineering curriculum, not even aware the University had a men’s gymnastics team.

After learning about the team, Chan just hoped to work out at the gym after his two-year gymnastics layoff. Once the coaches saw him on the equipment, they knew they had to have him.

“Dave is the man,” sophomore Phil Goldberg said. “This guy comes in from Singapore one day asking if he can work out, and he’s really good! . Some of the stuff I’ve seen him do is pretty amazing. I can definitely see him coming in this year and helping us.”

And while many people may be counting them out, the Michigan gymnasts’ expectations for themselves are as high as ever.

“We have a lot of talent (and) we’ve all been putting in a lot of work,” senior Aaron Rakes said. “I expect a lot of wins, and especially a very big win at the end of the season.”

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