Jan. 15, 2011
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Highlighted by a first-place finish on the pommel horse from sophomore James Okamoto, the 13th-ranked Air Force men's gymnastics team opened the 2011 season with a strong showing at the Rocky Mountain Open on Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Academy's Cadet West Gym. Okamoto was one of three Falcons to earn a trip to the medal podium on the night.
Posting the squad's top finish for the second straight year, Okamoto tallied a score of 14.300 to win the pommel horse. He became just the third Air Force gymnast to claim an event title at the Rocky Mountain Open since 2001, joining former Falcons Jake Schonig (still rings, 2008) and Aaron Jackson (floor exercise, 2003).
Senior Nash Mills and sophomore Tory Brown tied for second on the vault, with matching scores of 15.900. That score, career-best tallies for both gymnasts, is just .050 shy of the Academy record. Okamoto, Mills and Brown accounted for the most top-three finishers in the last decade of the Rocky Mountain Open.
Among the collegiate competitors, senior Dan Klimkowski and junior Devin Menefee posted a pair of fifth-place finishes. Klimkowski paced the Falcons on the floor exercise with a score of 14.000 to take fifth in the collegiate field and eighth overall, while Menefee earned the same finishes (both collegiately and overall) on the still rings with a matching score.
In addition to his second-place finish on the vault, Brown was the top finishing Falcon on the high bar, as he placed 13th overall on the high bar (eighth in collegiate field) with a score of 13.300. The sophomore also tied for 10th overall (seventh in collegiate field) on the floor exercise with a score of 13.800. Freshman Mac Ritchie opened his Air Force career by pacing the Falcons on the parallel bars. Ritchie scored a 13.300 to tie for 16th overall and 11th among the collegiate gymnasts.
Air Force also added five top-10 finishes among the collegiate gymnasts. Mills and classmate Aaron Zaiser tied for 10th in collegiate field (13th overall) on the floor exercise with matching marks of 13.600, while junior Jacob Houder claimed the same finishes on the pommel horse with a score of 13.000. Mills and Klimkowski wrapped up the placements, as they finished eighth (13.600, 12th overall) and ninth (13.400, 13th overall), respectively, on the still rings.
Members of the Olympic Training Center collected a team score of 350.750, while third-ranked Oklahoma captured its 12th collegiate title with a score of 346.500. No. 9 Nebraska finished second among collegiate teams and third overall with a total of 334.500, while Air Force (327.300) and Arizona State (312.200) rounded out the team.
The Falcons' score is a two-point improvement over last year's season-opening tally and the best season-opening total since the new scoring system was implemented.
Oklahoma's Jake Dalton defended his collegiate titles on the parallel bars (15.100, tied second overall), high bar (14.500, third overall) and all-around (88.500), while winning the floor exercise (15.700) and finishing as the top collegiate competitor on the still rings (14.700). Dalton's OU teammate, Steven Legendre, won the vault with a score of 16.400.
The Falcons remain at the Academy next week (Jan. 22) when it hosts service academy rival Army at 1 p.m., in the Cadet West Gym. The meet will run simultaneously with the women's home opener against conference opponent, Seattle Pacific.