The meet against Penn State had already started, and sophomore gymnast Jamie Thompson still didn’t know if he would compete. He had warmed up his two events, floor and vault, and now all he could do was watch.
After a few of his teammates missed their pommel horse sets, Thompson knew he would be a cheerleader for the night. According to the experimental 13-man lineup idea (a gymnastics team may use just 12 men in the course of a meet), if the first few gymnasts didn’t do well on pommel horse, freshman David Chan would anchor the event. Had they hit their routines – just the four top scores on each event count – Thompson would have been inserted into the floor and vault lineups instead.
For most people, the realization might have ruined their night.
But after about two seconds behind the bleachers to collect himself, Thompson was fine. One of the loudest members of the Michigan men’s gymnastics team, he added his voice to the roar as the Wolverines pulled off one of their biggest wins of the year, beating No. 2 Penn State on the road.
“It takes a minute,” Thompson said. “You know you still have to be there for your team. They back you up when they’re not competing, so you have to do the same. You’re all still here for the same thing.”
That thing – a championship season – seems to be within reach for this year’s Wolverines. And despite the uncertainty of his position early in the season, Thompson remained an ideal teammate.
Now, finally, he’s becoming a fixture in the lineup.
“I’ve never heard him be negative,” fellow sophomore Kent Caldwell said. “You can always count on him in the gym to be happy or energetic or cheering people on. He’s never moping around or anything like that.”
In competition, Thompson is one of the stars of Michigan’s top-ranked floor team, as well as a clean, consistent vaulter. Thompson is ranked 11th in the country on floor and 29th on vault. At the Pacific Coast Classic on Feb. 24, he posted a season-high 8.85 on vault; a week later at Stanford, he notched a career-best 9.45 on floor.
“When he’s competing, he’s one of our cleanest guys,” Caldwell said. “He’s got a real good look to him, and he adds to our variety, especially in our floor lineup. You have (sophomore) Scott (Bregman) doing the Arabian stuff, I’m doing the twisting stuff and Jamie has all this clean combination tumbling. And he’s really loud.”
Since competing in the annual Whitfield Meet in Ann Arbor as a seventh grader, Thompson knew Michigan was the place for him. He went on other recruiting trips, “but (Ann Arbor) is where home was.”
The Athens, Ga., native was quick to make his freshmen teammates feel like Michigan was their home, too. Along with the rest of the gigantic sophomore class, Thompson spent much of the fall helping his younger teammates settle into their new surroundings, making sure they were included in all team activities and escapades.
“I trust him the most of anyone on the team,” freshman Josh Miele said. “He’s someone I can always go to talk to. . I was really nervous at first; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be on the team or not and thought I’d give it a try. Once everyone made me feel at home, it was a lot easier. I’m glad I stayed.”
Thompson won’t be looking back over the season anytime soon, dwelling on what he could have done against Oklahoma or Penn State. The entire team subscribes to the Crash Davis school of thought: “The moment’s over.”
“At the end of the meets, nobody says, ‘Oh, we’re the best!’ ” Thompson said. “Yeah, we got the higher score, but at the end of a meet, in our circle . we’re talking about the next meet. We’re not talking about the one we just had – it’s over. We won and that’s great, but everybody’s just looking to improve their own stuff and it helps the team, 10th by 10th.”