By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 4, 2011
Some people come to Arizona to escape the harsh Midwest winters. Others hope the dry climate will help cure an illness.
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The Michigan men’s gymnastics team came to the desert to rejuvenate their spirits and morale after a disappointing loss four days prior against Stanford.
With the doors to the Aspire Training Center open to allow warm breezes into the gym, the sixth-ranked Wolverines rolled over Arizona State, 353.40- 327.550. Michigan had gymnasts finishing in the top three in every event at the dual meet, giving the team its highest final score of the season.
“Today’s goal was to go big,” senior captain Thomas Kelley said. “We had some points we needed to make up for our average and we just wanted everyone to step up. (The team) was really motivated to redeem the season and keep pushing forward.”
Instead of viewing the meet as a serious competition, the Wolverines instead looked at it as a training day in the gym, and took advantage of its relaxed nature to try out new moves for the first time; over half a dozen of the athletes implemented a fresh aspect into their performance.
Junior captain Syque Caesar claimed first place on the parallel bars using an upgraded routine. Caesar posted a career high of 15.45 with the addition of his new skill.
“People are adding in new skills, and that is what’s going to make us a better team,” Caesar said.
Michigan’s highest scores of the meet came from the vault. Freshman Sam Mikulak scored 16.60 to easily win first place. Mikulak performed his famous triple twist; he is currently only one of two gymnasts in the country who can execute this move. Senior Ben Baldus-Strauss followed Mikulak with a career high of 15.90 to take home second place.
The dual was a series of firsts for the team this season; the Wolverines only had four days of rest following their last competition and had to rise early to start competition at noon instead of its typical 7 p.m. timeslot.
Unlike other competitions that usually take place in large arenas, Wednesday’s meet was located in the gym where Arizona State trains. The Sun Devils are not known for being a national powerhouse, causing Michigan coach Kurt Golder to go into the meet a little uncertain about the mentality of the team.
“It’s very easy for the guys not to be (revved) up for the competition,” Golder said. “Sometimes you can be so lethargic when you go up against an opponent that’s not real strong. I’m really proud of the enthusiasm they had from start to finish.”
The Wolverines’ focus is now on becoming as healthy as possible and maintaining their high standards of performance throughout the rest of the season. The team has two more home competitions before facing the rest of the conference at the Big Ten Championships.
“Moving forward, we just need to get that consistency going on each event,” Kelley said. “Each event is its own meet and we need to make sure that the guys are hitting the routines as best they can.”