April 19, 2013
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The 11th-ranked Air Force men's gymnastics team collected the best NCAA qualifying finish in program history and qualified two gymnasts to the next round of competition this afternoon (April 19), as it placed fifth in the National Qualifier of the NCAA Championships at Penn State.
The Falcons, making their third straight appearance to the NCAA National Qualifier, posted a score of 417.900 to finish fifth in the six-team qualifying session. That placement is a one-spot improvement from its team finish at each of the last two first-round championship meets.
Junior Mac Ritchie claimed the Falcons' best finish of the day, as he took third on the high bar with a score of 14.650. Ritchie, who posted his third-highest score of the season to place third in the 35-competitor field, only trailed two members of the U.S. Senior National team, one of which is the defending NCAA high bar champion.
Ritchie was one of three Falcons to place within the top 10 during Friday's first national qualifying session. Sophomore Gared Chapman tied for sixth on the vault (14.950) and placed 10th on the still rings (15.050), while senior Tory Brown tied for 10th on the vault with a score of 14.600.
Sophomore Jon Spiro finished right behind Chapman on the still rings, placing 11th with a score of 14.950. He also led the Falcons on the pommel horse, using his second-highest score of the season (13.850) to finish 12th. He was one of three Air Force gymnasts to place within the top half of the field on pommel horse and one of four to finish within the top 20, as the Falcons finished third in the team standings on that event. Sophomore Greg Chaput and junior Nick Owen finished 15th (13.750) and 17th (13.600), respectively, while senior James Okamoto tied for 19th with a season-best score of 13.450
Chaput also paced the Falcons on the parallel bars, scoring a 14.350 to tie for 13th, while classmate Nick Gaudlip collected the program's top placement (16th) on the floor exercise (14.650) and added another 16th-place finish on the high bar (13.900).
Third-ranked Michigan won the afternoon session with a score of 443.850, while second-ranked Oklahoma (433.850) and seventh-ranked Illinois (426.900) earned the remaining berths into tomorrow's team finals with respective second- and third-place finishes. Sixth-ranked Minnesota finished fourth with a 424.700, while Air Force (417.900) and No. 10 Nebraska (417.550) rounded out the six-team field.
Individually, Ritchie (high bar) and Chapman (still rings, vault) advanced to the NCAA Championships, as one of the top three event specialists not on an advancing team or as an advancing all-arounder. Ritchie was the top individual qualifier on the high bar, while Chapman placed third among the event specialists on both the still rings and vault.
Following the second National Qualifier this evening, the 2013 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships continue tomorrow with the team and all-around finals at 7 p.m. (EST) in State College, Pa.