Jan. 16, 2014
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
The West Point Gymnastics Open, now in its 23rd year and ranked among the nation's top venues on the East Coast, has a challenging field of six teams descending upon the U.S. Military Academy this weekend. Competition for the West Point Open gets under way Friday evening at Christl Arena at 7 p.m. in the battle for the team title followed by Saturday's individual finals at 7 p.m.
While the meet will be the season opener for Temple, Springfield and Navy, Army, William & Mary, and Penn State are headed into their second week of competition. William & Mary opened 2014 with a strong performance at the State Open last week as four gymnasts combined to claim six individual event titles. Army and Penn State squared off last weekend with the host Nittany Lions, ranked fifth in the preseason poll, defeating the Black Knights 431.9-410.3.
Despite the loss, Army's 410.3 mark was over six points higher than last year's opening score against Penn State. Sophomore Jesse Glenn led the Black Knights with a pair of runner-up (vault and high bar) finishes in four of the six individual events, along with placing second in the all-around scoring (84.4). Glenn's scores in all-around and vault (14.9) rank among the nation's leaders where he lists third and eighth, respectively, following the opening weekend of competition.
Though Penn State, a member of the Big 10, was unable to compete at last year's West Point Open due to a scheduling conflict, the Nittany Lions have captured the lion's share of Open titles with 15. The Nittany Lions will be among the favorites this year with six All-Americans on their roster, including NCAA defending floor exercise champion Trevor Howard. As a freshman last year, Howard claimed Penn State's first NCAA individual title on floor exercise in 50 years.
Howard is currently ranked among the nation's best boasting the top mark in the nation on pommel horse (15.05) and lists third on still rings (15.45), vault (15.0) and all-around (87.6).
Temple is the defending Open champion after holding off Army, 417.4-416.1, at last year's meet in claiming its third title and first since 1995. It was just the second time that the Black Knights finished runner-up in the 22-year history of the Open. William & Mary finished third following by Springfield and Navy in rounding out last year's collegiate field.
With a year of experience to draw upon, Glenn will be looking to defend his title in the all-around scoring after becoming the first Black Knight at the West Point Open to capture medalist honors as a freshman last year. Also finishing among the individual leaders at the 2013 Open were Kip Webber in floor exercise, still rings and vault, Jeremy Cahill in floor exercise, Connor Venrick and Greg Fearnley on pommel horse and Alex Ganz on parallel bars.
At last year's West Point Open, eight Black Knights met the standard in 16 events for the individual finals (top eight) with three qualifying in five of the six events. In addition to all-around, Army crowned a champion on pommel horse in senior Garrek Hojan-Clark, who went on to reach the individual finals at the NCAA Championships.
With several of last year's contingent back, along with a talented freshman squad, head coach Doug Van Everen expects to see the Black Knights finish once again among the leaders in the team and individual scoring.
Army, Navy, Springfield, Temple and William & Mary, are members of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), and this weekend's meet could prove to be a sneak preview of the talent of each prior to the conference championships the last weekend in March that will be hosted by Navy.
Temple, ranked No. 12 in the preseason poll, is the defending ECAC champion and NCAA participant. The Owls are caught in a rebuilding season for head coach Fred Turnoff, who heads into his 38th season, following the graduation of 14 athletes.
The Owls will look to co-captains John Leonard and Scott Haddawa, along with senior Brendan Williams to provide leadership to a young but talented squad as Temple looks to finish among the leaders once again at the ECAC Championships.
Navy (ranked 14th preseason) will look to NCAA qualifiers in juniors Thomas Goodell, Joshua Steves and Eric Viscardi to support the team's lone senior (Chris Junghans) in the Midshipmen's effort to strive for the next level as they look to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Navy returns 16 student-athletes from 2013.
William & Mary, ranked No. 13th in the preseason poll, competed at the non-scoring State Open with two-time NCAA All-American Landon Funiciello's performance earning his selection as the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Division Gymnast of the Week. Funicello broke his school mark on the still rings (15.7) and was medalist on parallel bars (14.4), and sophomore Neal Courter was first on vault and high bar.
The Tribe finished runner-up to Temple at last year's ECAC Championships.
Springfield's Ryan Ponce will look to defend his still rings title at the West Point Open. A two-time ECAC champion in that event, Ponce tied for 18th place among 45 ring competitions at last year's NCAA Championships with a 14.85.
Also among the top returnees for the Pride are Pat Ryther and Jon Zirna, who qualified for the 2013 NCAA Championships on pommel horse.
A large crowed is expected for the two-day event at Christ Arena as 700 collegians and youth clubs compete Friday and Saturday at Christl Arena with the final youth session Sunday at Gross Sports Center. Youth competition will be held Friday and Saturday afternoon at Christl Arena.
Tickets may be purchased by calling the Army Ticket Office - 1-877 TIX-ARMY or order online at www.goARMYsports.com
Individual session tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for youth (18 and under), students and senior citizens. There is an all-session pass that includes the youth and collegiate sessions for $25.
Army's Knight Vision will have live video stream Friday evening with Rich DeMarco and Nick Desanctis handling play-by-play duties. Fans can follow the meet by logging onto the Army Athletic Association's subscription-based multi-media platform on www.goARMYsports.com and click on the Knight Vision link.
Twitter updates will also be provided via the official handle of Army gymnastics (@Army_Gymnastics).