Air Force Finishes Sixth at NCAA National Qualifier
April 14, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Making its first appearance as a team at the NCAA national meet in 13 years, the ninth-ranked Air Force men's gymnastics team scored a 339.700 to finish sixth in the first session of the National Qualifier on Thursday, April 14, in Columbus, Ohio. Five Falcons advanced out of the qualifying session to vie for a place in the individual event finals.
Air Force opened the meet on the still rings, where junior Devin Menefee tied for 12th with a score of 14.800 - a mark just 0.100 off of his season high. Menefee was one of seven Falcons to finish within the top half of the field on a combined nine occasions.
Sophomore Tory Brown and senior Nash Mills placed within the top half of the field on the vault, with Brown scoring a 15.900 to finish seventh. Brown's score was just 0.050 shy of his Academy-record that he set at the conference championships on April 2. Mills also finished within the top 20, tying for 18th with a mark of 15.450.
The Falcons struggled on the parallel bars, as senior Matt Thorne claimed the Falcons' top finish with a 29th-place score of 14.350. As the Falcons' top two finishers, Thorne and classmate Dan Klimkowski (32nd, 14.200) both improved their career-best marks on that event.
Air Force rebounded on the high bar, as three gymnasts finished within the top 20. Freshman Colton Wulf tied for ninth on the high bar with a score of 14.150, while Brown and freshman Mac Ritchie finished tied for 14th (14.000 and 18th (13.850), respectively.
Senior Aaron Zaiser, who made his third appearance in four years at the national qualifier, scored a 14.600 to pace the Falcons with a 17th-place finish. Wulf also finished among the top half of the 42-man rotation, as he tied for 20th with a score of 14.450.
On the final event - the pommel horse - sophomore James Okamoto collected the Falcons' best event finish of the national qualifier. Scoring a 14.250, Okamoto tied for sixth to bring Air Force's total of top-10 finishers to three.
Wulf, the Falcons' lone all-around competitor, scored an 82.800 to finish sixth in the qualifier.
Top-ranked Oklahoma won the first session with a score of 363.500. The Sooners will advance to tomorrow's team finals with No. 4 Illinois and No. 5 Penn State, who tied for second in the qualifier with matching scores of 356.000. Rounding out the first session of qualifiers was No. 8 Minnesota (346.850), No. 12 Illinois-Chicago (340.000) and No. 9 Air Force (339.700).
The top three teams, top three all-arounders not on an advancing team and the top three event specialists not on an advancing team or qualifying as an all-arounder will return to St. John's Arena tomorrow night (Friday, April 15) for the team finals and event preliminaries.
Advancing out of the qualifier for the Falcons were Brown (vault), Menefee (still rings), Okamoto (pommel horse), Wulf (high bar) and Zaiser (floor exercise). More information on tomorrow's session will be available following the evening qualifier.
The five Falcons that qualified to the NCAA Championships (individual event preliminaries) are the most by an Air Force squad in at least 15 years. It is the first time since 2008 that any gymnast has advanced out of the national qualifier and just the third time since 2000.