March 30, 2012
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Backed by a season-high score of 341.050, the Air Force men's gymnastics team successfully defended its USAG national team title at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships on Friday, March 30, at the Academy.
The Falcons, who have now won the last three USAG national titles, improved their overall score by over two points to defeat William and Mary (331.850), Navy (326.900) and Springfield (324.350). On the club side, Arizona State won its 14th title in 15 years with a score of 328.600, defeating Brockport (289.900) and Washington (287.450).
Air Force opened with a strong start on the high bar, earning five of the night's top six scores. Sophomore Mac Ritchie recorded a career-best 14.650 - the third-best score in Academy history - to easily post the best score of the night on that event, as he bettered the field by 0.450. Junior James Okamoto (career-best 14.150), classmate Tory Brown (14.100), freshman Josh Ramos (14.050) and classmate Corbin Palmer (14.000) helped Air Force dominate the top of the scoreboard on the high bar, as the Falcons recorded the fourth-best team score in program history (56.950).
The Falcons also had a good showing on the still rings, using an Academy-record performance of 59.450 to distance themselves from the rest of the field during the fourth rotation. Senior Devin Menefee and freshman Gared Chapman tied for second in the 38-member field with matching marks of 15.100. The mark is the second-highest of the season for Menefee and a career improvement of 0.300 for Chapman. Sophomores Tyler Huebner (career-best 14.900, fifth) and Ben Zaiser (14.350, seventh-tie) also placed within the top 10.
Behind freshman Greg Chaput's winning mark of 14.000, Air Force claimed five of the top-six scores on the pommel horse. Junior James Okamoto scored a 13.850 to finish in a three-way tie for third, while freshman Nick Gaudlip used a personal improvement of 0.850 to finish sixth (13.750). In just his second appearance of the season, junior Alex Jessop scored a career-high 13.700 to place seventh, while Palmer finished eighth with a mark of 13.650.
Ramos won the preliminary round on the parallel bars with a score of 14.500, while Palmer finished third with a career-best score of 14.100. In addition, Chaput scored a 13.700 to finish seventh on the parallel bars. Gaudlip was the runner-up on the floor exercise with a score of 14.550, while Palmer and Brown finished sixth (14.250) and seventh (season-best 14.150), respectively. With a score of 14.350, Zaiser paced a quartet of Falcons to top-10 finishes in the 40-competitor vault. Menefee added a score of 14.300 to finish sixth, while Brown placed seventh at 14.150. Okamoto also placed within the top 10 with a 14.100.
The USAG all-around title was also determined this evening, with Navy's Andrew Faulk winning the varsity title (84.300) and Arizona State's Alex Gaudaur taking first in the club division (83.200).
Tonight's event preliminaries determined which gymnasts will advance to the individual event finals. The top-eight finishers from each event (with no more than two gymnasts from each school per event) will compete. Air Force will be represented on the floor exercise (Gaudlip, Palmer), pommel horse (Chaput, Okamoto), still rings (Menefee, Chapman), vault (Zaiser, Menefee), parallel bars (Ramos, Palmer) and high bar (Ritchie, Okamoto).
The individual event finals will take place tomorrow (Saturday, March 30) at the Academy's Cadet West Gym. Action is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.