NORMAN, Okla. -- Michigan's defense of its back-to-back national titles didn't get off to its expected start on Thursday. Beginning the preliminary round on the parallel bars, the Wolverines posted a 71 as two of the five gymnast had sub-par outings.
When the team gathered in a huddle waiting to move on to the next routine, there were several long faces looking back at each other. That is when Stacy Ervin knew it was time for him to do his thing. The Michigan senior did what he could to pick up the spirits of the defending champions and let them know it was not over yet. It's the same attitude he has showcased in the Wolverines' previous titles runs.“I think it's pretty important,” Ervin said. “We always say the more high energy we are, the more relax and fun we are, the better we do. It's absolutely true. So to have that attitude to be relaxed and carefree when the pressure is on, helps tremendously.”
Michigan rebounded from its slow start to take second in the second preliminary session of the day at the University of Oklahoma. Its 437.000 points were enough to edge out fellow Big 10 member Iowa by two points. They join No. 1 Oklahoma in advancing to Friday's team championship. The Sooners collected 450 points.
Ervin knows that if the team is to win another national title, they will have to go through an undefeated OU squad, which the Wolverines have done the past two years.
“We are going to just have to go out there and hit as many sets as possible,” Ervin said. “OU is a very strong team and we know that. We are completely aware of the challenge we have in front of of us. We are just going out go out there, be confident, be loud, high energy and make the best of it.”The high energy element has been a key for Ervin in his development at Michigan. Coach Kurt Golder has watched it mature and become a key weapon for his team.
“He is the spirit of the team,” Golder said. “He will get you going. He is a fun guy, he's a funny guy. He just has a spirit that is unparalleled.”
When his gymnastics career is over, Ervin wants to transfer that same spirit to the stage where he hopes a budding stand up comedy career is waiting on him.
“I just like to be high energy,” Ervin said. “Being with people, making people laugh and smile. It's so rewarding for me and them as well. That's something I'd like to pursue.”
But before he can worry about that, he wants to leave his home state of Michigan with one more title. A native of Taylor, Michigan, he knows how much winning means to the people in the state and his community.
“Being from Michigan has meant a lot to me,” Ervin said. “Because not many gymnasts from Michigan have gone to to Michigan, won All-American titles and national championships. So for me it's great because I have all my family and friends back home who realize the success and see it and really push me to do even greater things.”
Regardless of what happens, when competition ends Saturday, Ervin's competitive career at UM will be complete. The ride he's been on with his teammates is something he won't ever forget.
“This career has been a roller coaster ride, I'd say that,” Ervin said. “My freshman year we were and I was competing, we got sixth place in team finals. We promised ourselves we would never allow ourselves to feel that way again. We left so disappointed. So we worked tirelessly to win national championships. We've won two, we're still hungry.”