Feb. 2, 2011
Three members of the No. 12 Air Force men's gymnastics team will represent the Academy this weekend at the prestigious 2011 Winter Cup Challenge on Feb. 3-5 in Las Vegas, Nev. Senior Nash Mills, sophomore Tory Brown and classmate James Okamoto will compete against some of the nation's top gymnasts at the annual event that helps determine the spots on the U.S. National Team. The meet begins with preliminary competition on Thursday, Feb. 3.
Meet Notes 04: at Winter Cup Challenge
The 2011 Winter Cup Challenge, which features an invited group of the nation's top gymnasts, is designed to determine the 15-member U.S. Men's Senior National Team. In addition to some of the top collegiate gymnasts, the meet will feature all seven members of the 2010 World Championships Team and four Olympians. The participant list includes reigning U.S. all-around champion Jonathan Horton and reigning NCAA all-around champion Chris Cameron (Michigan), as well as defending Winter Cup champions Steven Legendre (floor exercise, vault), Danell Leyva (parallel bars) and Brandon Wynn (still rings).
The preliminary round of Winter Cup action will be divided into three sessions, which will take place on Thursday, Feb. 3, at the Las Vegas Sports Center. The Air Force contingent will be in the first session, which is slated to begin at 10 a.m. (PST). The trio will begin on the pommel horse rotate with Penn State's Matthew Chelberg, Miguel Pineda and M. Parker Raque, as well as Sean Johnston from St. Charles Gym. The top 42 gymnasts, based on the Men's Program Committee's points ranking system, will advance to the final competition, along with the top three gymnasts on each apparatus. The event finals will take place on Saturday, Feb. 5, beginning at 7:15 p.m.
The selection of senior Nash Mills, sophomore Tory Brown and classmate James Okamoto to the 2011 Winter Cup Challenge marked the second straight year that Air Force has sent three gymnasts to the prestigious national meet. Mills and Brown became the first-ever Falcons to earn multiple selections to the Winter Cup, as the pair competed at last year's meet.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
From 1990-2009, Air Force had qualified three gymnasts to the Winter Cup Challenge (Joel Miller-1992, Jeff Andersen-2004, Greg Stine-2007). In the past two years, four gymnasts - Tory Brown (2010, 2011), Nash Mills (2010, 2011), James Okamoto (2011) and Joel Uptmor (2010) - have qualified a total of six times.
LAST YEAR AT THE WINTER CUP
With an eighth-place finish on the vault (15.600), Tory Brown paced a trio of Falcons at the 2010 Winter Cup. Joel Uptmor also earned his top finish on the vault, as he scored a 15.400 to place 13th. Nash Mills' best finish of the night came on the still rings, where he placed 26th with a score of 11.950.
RANK YOU VERY MUCH
As a team, the Falcons are ranked among the nation's top 10 in a pair of events. Air Force is ranked 10th on both the floor exercise (55.317 average) and vault (61.200 average). Individually, James Okamoto is ranked 17th on the pommel horse with an average of 14.033, while Nash Mills (82.075) and Colton Wulf (81.250) are ranked 16th and 20th, respectively, in the all-around.
WULF EARNS MPSF HONOR
Colton Wulf claimed his first MPSF Gymnast of the Week honor on Feb. 1, after pacing the Falcons on a pair of events with career-best totals at Nebraska. Wulf scored a career-best tally of 14.650 on the floor exercise - the highest on the team to date and the 10th-best floor score in Academy history - to finish second, while also leading the team with a fifth-place score of 13.900 on the parallel bars. In his collegiate debut on that event, Wulf posted the best score by an Air Force gymnast this season and the 15th-best p-bars score in program history.
MOVING ON UP
In just his second collegiate meet, Ben Zaiser posted a 15.600 to win the vault title during the Falcons' meet at Nebraska on Jan. 30. That score, a full point improvement over his debut against Army one week earlier, is the Falcons' second-highest score of the season and the eighth-best total in Academy history.
In addition to Ben Zaiser's first-place finish on the vault, Air Force earned a pair of runner-up spots against Nebraska. James Okamoto finished second on the pommel horse with a season-best score of 14.600, while Colton Wulf placed second on the floor exercise with a tally of 14.650. Nash Mills (14.100, high bar) and Dan Klimkowski (13.900, still rings) also garnered third-place finishes on their respective events.
For the second straight week, Air Force improved its overall team score by at least three points, tallying a combined score of 334.400 against Nebraska on Jan. 30. The Falcons fell to the host Huskers, who posted a combined score of 343.000. After three meets, the Falcons are averaging a 330.567 to rank 12th in the national standings.
WHAT'S AHEAD FOR THE FALCONS
Following the Winter Cup Challenge, Air Force will be off from competition until Friday, Feb. 18, when it travels to Minneapolis, Minn., for a dual meet with the seventh-ranked Gophers. It will be a busy weekend for the Falcons, as they will also travel to Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 20, for the annual All-Academy Championships against service academy rivals, Army and Navy.