Chris Cameron leads Michigan men's gymnasts into NCAA meet
If you’re waiting to hear Michigan gymnast Chris Cameron talk about himself, you’ll sit around for a long while.
Gymnastics is largely considered to be an individual sport — but the Michigan men’s gymnastics team, which starts its quest for a national championship today in West Point, N.Y., the sport can be summed up in Michigan football legend Bo Schembechler’s famous words: “The Team. The Team. The Team.”
Cameron won the all-around championship at the Big Ten meet two weeks ago, a title that is almost always accompanied by the conference Gymnast of the Year Award, and he’s definitely one of the top contenders for the national title.
He would gladly give all up for the Wolverines’ first team title since 1999.
“A team national championship has been the goal since I got here,” Cameron, a junior, said. “That’s what we’re aiming for. Anything else is just icing on the cake.”
Michigan coach Kurt Golder is much more apt to compliment his most talented athlete.
When he recruited Cameron out of high school, Golder went to see him perform in a U.S. National Juniors event.
“I thought he could be this high-caliber event (back then),” Golder said. “I just really liked the way he carried himself. He wasn’t afraid to celebrate a good routine And that means he is comfortable performing in the biggest stage.”
His best chance at the all-around title is putting himself out of reach with the pommel horse. Traditionally, it’s one of an all-arounders weakest areas, but he’s got a strong routine in the event.
Last Wednesday, Cameron reiterated his team-first attitude. During one of the team’s last practices before the national meet, he urged his teammates to focus on the common goal, keep things light and smooth and, most importantly just have fun.
And he seemed confident in his team’s ability to take the crown home.
“We just had a mock-meet in practice yesterday,” Cameron said. “Nationals is going to be the same thing. We’ve been practicing this routines for a long, long time, and now it’s just time to hit our marks.”
The Wolverines’ top competition for the team title are Stanford, the No. 1 team in the nation, Illinois and Cal-Berkley. The Fighting Illini squeaked by Michigan in the Big Ten meet to claim the conference title, but the Wolverines trumped Illinois a week earlier in a dual meet in Champaign.
Golder said his team was just as good as Illinois, and the meet will come down to who can perform at the highest level under such pressure.
But the biggest struggle will be simply catching up to teams like Stanford. The Cardinal boasts several gymnasts with much high start-values on certain events, which could give them as much a point advantage in one round.
Andy Reid covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com