Jan. 31, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. - -
The Army gymnastics team is back in action this weekend (Feb. 1-2) hosting the 22nd annual West Point Open Friday and Saturday evening at Christl Arena with competition at 7 p.m. each night. The seven-team field will vie for the team crown Friday evening and individual titles on Saturday in what is considered to be one of the top venues on the East Coast.
Four-time champion Penn State, winner of 10 straight titles and 16 overall, will be missing from this year's competition. That opens the field for No. 14 Army, No. 11 William & Mary, No. 13 Temple, No. 15 Navy and No. 17 Springfield to battle for the title, along with club teams from Arizona State and Brockport.
The Black Knights, in the hunt for their first title, placed third the past two years behind runner-up Temple. The Owls are the defending Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) champion and the meet is a mini-version of the conference championship in March as all five collegiate teams are members of the ECAC.
If the scores recorded two week's ago at the Navy Open are any indication, fans can expect a meet that could go right down to the wire. William & Mary edged Temple for runner-up honors (409.4-407.05) with Navy finishing fourth (398.80) followed by Springfield (391.15) and Brockport (165.75).
Army was idle last week after opening its season against Penn State and Air Force on the road. The Black Knights came up short in both meets, but their team high 408.1 trails the best scores of 412.85 and 408.75 recorded by William & Mary and Temple, respectively.
The top marks recorded by the field in each of the six team events are close as well. William & Mary's highest score in floor exercise is a 70.65 with Temple (69.1) and Army (69.0) close behind. The Black Knights have the country's leading pommel horse gymnast on its roster in No. 1-ranked Garrek Hojan-Clark as Army boasts a team-best 68.7. The Tribe have scored a 68.05 and the Owls show a 68.00.
Army has also scored the highest mark among the field on still rings (69.15) and vault (71.55), while William & Mary shows a team-best 69.9 on parallel bars with the Black Knights close behind (68.05). Temple boasts the highest score of 69.35 on high bar followed by William & Mary (69.10).
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 1992. The event was a welcome addition to the area and continues to draw fans from all over the tri-state area. Olympians, All-Americans, NCAA champions, International competitors and USA Team members have descended over the years upon West Point to vie for team and individual honors.
ARMY (ECAC): The Black Knights are ranked No. 14 nationally (406.125 average) and third in the ECAC behind William & Mary and Temple. Senior Garrek Hojan-Clark is unbeaten this year on pommel horse and leads the country with a 15.325 average keyed by his school record-tying score of 15.4 recorded against Penn State. He will be looking to become just the fourth Black Knight to claim the title in this event at the Open, and first since 2011.
Freshman Jesse Glenn, unbeaten in all-around this season, is ranked No. 8 nationally with an 83.70 average. He is also among the top 50 in the country in five events. He lists 13th on vault (14.725), 35th on parallel bars (13.975), 39th on high bar (13.875), 42nd on floor exercise (14.2) and 50th on still rings (14.025).
Junior Kip Webber is 44th on still rings (14.125) and 53rd on vault (14.375); sophomore Jeremy Cahill lists 45th on floor exercise (14.15), while three others are among the leaders on parallel bars. Sophomore Alex Ganz shows a 13.457 average followed by freshman Chris Short (13.475) and senior team captain Ikaika Jakub (13.425).
Senior Nicholas Fettinger was third on parallel bars and Hojan-Clark was fourth on pommel horse at the 2012 West Point Open.
Army's highest finish at its own Open was runner-up to Penn State in 2006.
NAVY (ECAC): No. 15 Navy is coming off a 412.85-398.45 loss to William & Mary last weekend following a fourth place finish at its own Navy Open the previous week. All-arounder Chris Junghans captured the all-around title against the Tribe with an 80.56, just shy of his season-high 81.7 posted at the Open. He turned in a third-place finish on high bar (13.25) and was fourth on floor exercise (14.05) and still rings (13.8). Teammate Eric Viscardi was second on vault (14.4) and Joshua Steves and Eric Morrison were third on still rings (13.9) and pommel horse (13.7), respectively.
SPRINGFIELD (ECAC): No. 17 Springfield opened its season at the Navy Open followed by a home meet with William & Mary. The Pride finished fifth at the Open and fell to the Tribe in their home debut, 408.75-398.30, last weekend. Junior All-American Ryan Ponce captured still rings behind a season-high 15.35 to rank 33rd nationally with a 14.40 average. At last year's West Point Open, Ponce was fourth on still rings and Kevin Miner finished seventh on parallel bars.
TEMPLE (ECAC): Temple, the defending ECAC champion and currently ranked No. 13, has finished runner-up at the West Point Open the last six years. The Owls finished first among the collegiate teams with a 339.55 and second overall to Team Gattaca (347.10), a club team made up of Olympic Team members and former NCAA champions, in 2008.
Temple is coming off a 408.750-398.300 victory over Springfield last week with the Owls claiming five individual titles. Leading the way was senior all-arounder Allan MaLone with his winning score of 81.05. Team captain Evan Burke claimed titles on vault and on floor exercise. Team co-captain Taylor Brana earned a score of 14.350 on parallel bars to take the event title on that apparatus, while sophomore Michael Bittner was first on pommel horse (14.3) and senior Alex Tighe won high bar with a 14.750.
All but two of nine Owls who reached last year's individual finals are back with Burke turning in runner-up honors on floor exercise.
ARIZONA STATE (CLUB): No. 18 Arizona State is competing in its third West Point Open, and among the returnees is Alex Gaudaur, who placed third on still rings at last year's West Point Open. The Sun Devils, the defending USAG Collegiate National champions, are led by All-Americans Gaudaur, Riley Barclay Brian Malone and Lee Wilkerson.
BROCKPORT (CLUB): Brockport is making its fourth straight appearance at the West Point Open this weekend. Last year the Golden Eagles recorded a team score of 247.3 and return four members from that squad. Brockport was also part of the field at Navy's Open two weeks ago.
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.
Army's Knight Vision will have live video streaming Friday evening with Rich DeMarco and Nikolai Busco handling play-by-play duties with former Army gymnast Arny Ferrando (USMA '78) providing color commentary. 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 Knight Vision link.