Jan. 24, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
The annual West Point Gymnastics Open, now in its 21st year, welcomes several of the nation's elite athletes this weekend to Holleder Center. One of the top venues on the East Coast, competition gets under way Friday evening at Christl Arena beginning at 7 p.m. for the team title followed by Saturday's individual finals starting at 7:15 p.m.
No. 6 Penn State will be in the hunt for its fourth straight crown and 15th overall as it battles a collegiate field that includes Army, Temple, Navy and Springfield, along with club teams from Arizona State and SUNY Brockport. The top eight gymnasts in each of the six events advance to Saturday's finals to vie for the individual title.
The Open, considered the premier tune-up for the Winter Cup Challenge in February, was the creation of Army head coach Doug Van Everen, who introduced this meet to the Hudson Valley in the winter of 1992. The event was a welcome addition to the area and today continues to draw fans from all over the tri-state area where Olympians, All-Americans, NCAA champions, International competitors and USA Team members descended over the years upon West Point in January to vie for team and individual honors.
Army's ITT Exelis Knight Vision will have live video streaming Friday evening in the first of five multimedia packages being offered for gymnastics fans in 2012. Rich DeMarco will be handling play-by-play with former Army gymnast Arny Ferrando (USMA '78) providing color commentary and Rick Johnston handling on-floor interviews of Army athletes throughout the meet.
Fans can follow the action by logging onto the Army Athletic Association's subscription-based multimedia platform on www.goARMYsports.com and click on the ITT Exelis Knight Vision link.
The Big Ten's Nittany Lions won five of the six team events and was runner-up in the other for a winning score of 347.00 at last year's West Point Open. The next four spots were captured by members of the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference). Temple was runner-up with a 328.30 followed by the host Black Knights (320.00), who edged Navy (319.60) for the bronze, followed by Springfield (318.9).
Five champions are back to defend their titles with three from Penn State in Scott Rosenthal (still rings) and Mackenzie Dow (parallel bars), along with all-arounder Parker Raque. Army senior team captain Jonathan Hoey will look to reclaim his title on pommel horse as will Navy's Andrew Faulk on vault.
Hoey's toughest challenge on pommel horse could come from teammate Garrek Hojan-Clark, who missed the first few meets last season due to a preseason injury, but closed strong winning an ECAC title and qualifying for the NCAAs with a No. 4 ranking in the country.
Senior Chase Brown and juniors Jared Breeden, Nicholas Fettinger and Ikaika Jakub will be looking to improve upon last year's performances after placing among the top six. Brown was fourth on floor exercise and sixth on the high bar, Breeden placed fifth on still rings, while Fettinger and Jakub finished fourth and fifth, respectively, on parallel bars.
ARMY (ECAC): Ranked No. 14 preseason, the Black Knights are coming off a 349.8-321.6 loss to No. 6 Penn State in the season opener for both on Jan. 14. Army bettered the mark of 319.1 scored against the Nittany Lions in its debut last year en route to posting its highest season-opening score in four years.
Junior Garrek Hojan-Clark, the defending ECAC pommel horse champion, was runner-up in that event with a 14.5, just 4/10s of a point behind Penn State winner Tony Beck. Senior Chase Brown tied Nittany Lions' Parker Raque and Matthew Felleman for third-place honors on vault with 14.3s to trail Penn State leader Mackenize Dow's 14.7. Brown also turned in Army's top score on floor exercise (14.2) where he tied for fourth place.
Freshman Alex Ganz topped the Black Knights on parallel bars in his first collegiate meet with a 13.8 to finish fourth, edging junior teammate Ikaika Jakub (13.6) for that spot. Ganz, competing in four events, recorded Army's second- highest score on still rings (13.5) to finish sixth, trailing junior Jared Breeden's 14.1. Penn State winner Scott Rosenthal broke the school record on rings with a 16.3.
Senior team captain Jonathan Hoey was Army's top performer on high bar, authoring a 13.3 followed by sophomore Andrew Avelino with a 13.1. Freshmen Jeremy Cahill and MikeTserkovnyuk competed in three events in the opener. Cahill turned in his highest score of 13.3 on floor exercise and Tserkovnyuk's 13.5 was recorded on parallel bars.
Competing for the first time at the collegiate level following a season-ending injury the fall of his freshman year that resulted in several surgeries and a long recuperation period, Avelino's comeback resulted with being presented the Gene Wettson Award at the Penn State Meet and most recently he was tabbed the ECAC Gymnast of the Week.
NAVY (ECAC): Navy made its debut last weekend earning runner-up honors at its annual Navy Open. Temple captured the title in the five-team field with a 330.8 followed by the Midshipmen (309.4), Springfield (308.0), William & Mary (307.9) and Brockport (204.8).
Senior captain Andrew Faulk placed second in the all-around with a score of 81.6, along with third-place finishes on the rings (14.0) and horizontal bar (13.3). He was also fourth in the floor exercise (14.2), fifth on the pommel horse (13.6), tied for fifth on the vault (13.7) and tied for seventh on the parallel bars (12.8). Faulk is the defending West Point Open champion on vault.
Sophomore Nate Gessner turned in an impressive performance posting a score of 14.0 on vault that earned runner-up honors for the highest individual finish of the day by a Midshipman.
PENN STATE (Big 10): Ranked No. 6 preseason. Penn State (1-1) and picked third in the Big Ten, heads into the meet with four All-Americans in Miguel Pineda and Scott Rosenthal (still rings), Wasef Burbar (high bar) and Parker Raque (floor exercise and vault). Also on the roster is 2012 Olympic qualifier Felix Aronovich, who will compete as an all-arounder for Israel.
Rosenthal is the defending West Point Open champion on still rings and Raque won last year's all-around title.
Penn State is coming off a 340.300-338.45 road loss to Big Ten rival Michigan in Ann Arbor over the weekend after opening the season defeating Army, 349.8-321.6. The Nittany Lions were dominant in both meets on still rings. They outscored the Wolverines by nearly three points (59.650-56.750) after scoring a season-high 61.2 against Army.
Pineda, who sat out the opener with Army, won still rings against Michigan with a score of 15.300. Rosenthal, the reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Week, finished second with a 15.25 after shattering that school mark and tying the NCAA mark (FIG scoring era) with a 16.0 the previous week against Army. Sophomore Nestor Rodriguez finished in fourth with a career-high score of 14.650 helping the Nittany Lions post their second straight team win on rings.
Penn State scored a 59.200 in the floor exercise in going one two with Raque taking top individual honors (15.300) followed by runner-up Matt Chelberg (15.000). Dow, who is the defending West Point Open champion on parallel bars, won for the second straight week on high bar with a career-best 14.75 against Michigan. Competing for the first time since qualifying for the Olympics, Aronovich took third over the weekend on parallel bars.
SPRINGFIELD (ECAC): Springfield opened its 2012 season this past weekend at the Navy Open where the Pride placed third among a field of five teams. Ryan Ponce, an NCAA qualifier last year on still rings, denied Temple from sweeping all six individual events by capturing his signature event with a 14.4. The Owls won the meet followed by host Navy with Springfield edging William & Mary for the bronze (308.0-307.9).
Ponce also tied for fifth on parallel bars (13.2), and sixth on pommel horse (12.9), while senior Ty Evans turned in the Pride's top mark of 76.5 in the all-around. Evans placed third on high bar (13.3) and junior Jimmy Pezzino tied for fifth place (12.9).
TEMPLE (ECAC): Temple, ranked No. 12 in the preseason poll, is coming into the meet following a winning effort at the Navy Open. The Owls dominated the Navy Open as they outdistanced the field with a 330.8. The host Midshipmen were a distance second and Springfield was third in the five-team field.
Temple claimed five of the six individual champions at the Navy Open in Allan Malone (floor exercise, 14.7), Taylor Brana (pommel horse, 14.5), Evan Burke (vault, 14.4), Chris Mooney (parallel bars, 14.3) and Alex Tighe (high bar), 14.7, with Adam Al-Rokh winning the all-around (82.4) and taking second on still rings.
Head coach and USA Gymnastics Hall of Famer Fred Turoff, who is in his 36th season with the Owls, returned 17 of 21 gymnasts from last season's squad that finished second at the EIGL-ECAC Championships. Seven members of last season's team qualified for the nationals, and five returnees from that group will help form this year's nucleus. Patrick McLaughlin, now an assistant on the staff, garnered All-America honors last year on parallel bars.
ARIZONA STATE (CLUB): Arizona State, competing in its second West Point Open, is coming off a solid showing two weeks ago at the Rocky Mountain Open in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the Sun Devils finished fifth among a six-team field with a 314.10. Oklahoma, ranked No. 1 in the GymInfo preseason poll, was first with a 343.7 followed by No. 11 Air Force (333.3), No. 9 Nebraska (331.3), the Olympic Training Center (329.6), ASU and Washington (248.1).
Alex Gaudaur finished second in the all-around with a 77.9 followed by Lee Wilkerson (76.8) and Steward MacDonald (75.9).
BROCKPORT (CLUB): Brockport is making its third straight appearance at the West Point Open this weekend. Last year the Golden Eagles recorded a 263.6 with their highest score of 50.4 on vault with their highest individual finish of 25th place on pommel horse.
Brockport opened its season last weekend at the Navy Open, posting a 204.8 a with all-around David Albaranes turning in the team's top individual scores. He placed 10th on parallel bars, 14th on floor exercise, 15th on vault and 16th on high bar.
A large crowd is expected for the two-day event at Christl Arena as 700 collegians and youth clubs (compete Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon) perform. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Army Ticket Office 1-877 TIX-ARMY or order on line at www.goARMYsports.com.
Individual session tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for youth (18 and under), students and senior citizens. A package is available that includes all the youth and collegiate sessions for $25 for adults and $20 for youth, students and senior citizens.