April 18, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Nine members of Army's gymnastics team are headed to the NCAA Championships this weekend being hosted by the University of Oklahoma with high hopes of making their presence felt starting with Thursday's Qualifier to Friday's team championship to Saturday's individual championship finals where the top eight earn All-America honors.
Army will compete in Thursday's pre-qualifying evening session at 7 p.m. (CT) with each session featuring six of the 12 qualifying teams, six all-arounders and six of 12 event specialists. Army's session includes No. 4 Illinois, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 8 California, No. 9 Temple, No. 12 Air Force, along with the host Sooners, ranked No. 1 in the country.
The teams competing in the afternoon session are No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Stanford, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 10 Nebraska and No. 11 Iowa. Stanford is the defending NCAA champion with Oklahoma runner-up and Illinois third in 2011.
The top three teams from both the afternoon and evening session, along with the top three individuals in each of the six team events not part of a qualifying team or as an all-arounder, advance to Friday's finals at 7 p.m., which serves as the team championship and all-around champion. The top 10 gymnasts in each of Friday's six team events advance to Saturday NCAA Championship individual event finals.
Senior captain Jonathan Hoey and junior Garrek Hojan-Clark are making their third straight appearance, while heading to their second NCAA meet are senior Chase Brown and juniors Jared Breeden and Ikaika Jakub. Meeting the standard for the first time are junior Nicholas Fettinger and freshmen Alex Ganz, Jeremy Cahill and Mike Tserkovnyuk. This group is Army's largest individual contingent since 12 qualified in 2003.
Hojan-Clark has ranked among the nation's elite on pommel horse since his freshman year. The Army junior lists eighth in the country with a 14.675 average and second among the six qualifiers in his event. Hojan-Clark's career-high 15.4 broke his own school mark on the horse this year. He is among a handful of gymnasts to score in the 15-point range, having done it four times this season en route to earning medalist honors five times. The highest score of 15.9 was recorded this year by Ohio State's Ty Echard, who is tied for fourth with a 14.95 average.
Hoey joins Hojan-Clark on pommel horse for the second straight year after qualifying on high bar his sophomore year. Hoey, who turned in a 14.9 season high, is tied for 44th on the horse with a 13.875 average.
Brown met the standard in two events, floor exercise and high bar, for the second straight year in the former and first time in the latter. The Army senior is ranked 43rd (14.35) on floor exercise and 69th on high bar (13.475). Breeden and Jakub met the standard on still rings and list fifth and sixth, respectively, among the individual qualifiers.
Breeden qualified for the second year on still rings where the junior lists 42nd (14.4) and is joined by Jakub with a 14.15 average that ranks 53rd. Jakub, who competed as an all-arounder last year, shows a season best 14.6 to Breeden's 15.0. Fettinger, who copped the silver at the West Point Open, has shined all season on parallel bars to head into the meet second among the individual qualifiers and ranked 34th with a 14.125 average and season-high 14.5. Joining him in that event is Ganz, listed fourth among the qualifiers and 63rd nationally with a 13.625 average and 14.4 season best.
Cahill will join Brown on high bar and Tserkovnyuk rounds out Army's pommel horse contingent where three Back Knights qualified. Cahill turned in a season high 13.8 compiling a 13.15 average on high bar with Tserkovnyuk, whose season high is a 14.4 on the horse, list 57th with a 13.675 average.
"I am confident that we will have two to three advance following the opening session," stated Army head coach Doug Van Everen. "Garrek (Hojan-Clark) has one of the most difficult routines in the country on pommel horse, and is our highest ranked competitor (eighth nationally). An added plus for the team is competing in the evening session which draws the largest crowd."
All session tickets to the NCAA Championships ($25 Adult, $15 Youth and OU Students) are on sale and cane be purchased online at SoonerSports.com or by calling the OU Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 456-GoOU.
Single-session tickets will go on sale the first day of competition at the Lloyd Noble Center at least an hour prior to competition beginning. Single-session tickets are $10 for adults and just $5 for youth and OU students.
Army fans unable to make the trip to Norman, Okla., will be able to follow the action with a live webcast of each session available on NCAA.com with live stats on SoonerSports.com.
Army is sending its largest individual contingent (nine) to the NCAAs since 12 qualified in 2003.
Garrek Hojan-Clark is ranked No. 8 nationally.
Third time competing at the NCAAs for junior Garrek Hojan-Clark and senior Jonathan Hoey.
Hojan-Clark qualified on pommel horse in 2010, 2011 and 2012
Hoey met the standard on pommel horse the last two years after qualifying on high bar in 2010.
Army has 31 All-America certificates ... Coach Doug Van Everen has had four earn All-America honors:
Imad Haque ... Still Rings, 1994
Ben Hayward ... Pommel Horse, 1997
Dustin Greenhill ... Parallel Bars, 2003 (runner-up)
Brian Lee ... Still Rings, 2005 (runner-up)
Army has four National Champions who combined for six titles
Robert Sears ... 1938 Horizontal Bar/Rope Climb; 1939 Rope Climb
Ray Belardi ... 1939 Rope Climb
John Claybrook ... 1952 Rope Climb
Jon Aaronsohn ... 1960 Flying Rings