April 8, 2014
The 10th-ranked Air Force men's gymnastics team closes out the current campaign this week, as it travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the 2014 NCAA Gymnastics Championships on April 10-12. The Falcons, who are making their fourth straight team appearance at the national meet, will open competition in the second of two national qualifying sessions on Thursday, April 10.
The 2014 NCAA Men's Gymnastics National Championships will be held at Crisler Center on the campus of the University of Michigan. All-session passes are $28 for adults and $20 for youth (18 and younger) and seniors (55 and older), while single-session tickets are $10 (adults) and $7 (youth and seniors). Live scoring and video streaming will be available, while the final two days of competition will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
THURSDAY, APRIL 10
1:00 p.m.: National Qualifying Session 1
7:00 p.m.: National Qualifying Session 2
FRIDAY, APRIL 11
7:00 p.m.: Team and All-Around Finals | Individual Event Preliminaries
SATURDAY, APRIL 12
7:00 p.m.: Individual Event Finals
LET'S MEET THE TEAMS
The first session of the NCAA Qualifier will feature top-ranked Oklahoma, No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 Illinois, No. 8 Iowa, No. 9 California and No. 12 William & Mary, while the evening session includes No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 6 Penn State, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 10 Air Force and No. 11 Nebraska. In addition, both sessions will include individual event specialists from Army, Navy, Illinois-Chicago, Springfield and Temple.
WELCOME TO THE GROUP
Illinois-Chicago all-arounder Jason Gaides will rotate with the Falcons during the National Qualifier on Thursday, April 10.
HOW THIS WORKS
The national qualifier, which consists of two six-team sessions, will be held on Thursday, April 10. The top three teams, top three all-around competitors not on an advancing team and the top three individuals on each event that are not members of an advancing team or advanced in the all-around, will compete on Friday, April 11, during the team finals, all-around finals and individual event prelims. The top 10 individuals on each apparatus during Friday's meet will advance to the individual event finals, which will be held on Saturday, April 12.
A QUICK CHECK OF THE RANKINGS
Highlighted by a pair of No. 6 rankings (pommel horse, 72.700; high bar, 71.375), Air Force is ranked among the nation's top 10 in four of the six events. The Falcons, ranked 10th overall with a National Qualifying Average of 427.900, are listed ninth on both the floor exercise (72.700) and still rings (72.863), while holding a No. 11 ranking in the remaining two events. Individually, Tim Wang is ranked sixth in both the pommel horse (14.956) and all-around (86.313), while Nick Owen is also listed among the top 15 on the pommel horse with a No. 14 average of 14.700. Air Force also holds two top-15 rankings on the still rings, as Tyler Huebner and Gared Chapman are ranked 13th (15.150) and 16th (15.044), respectively.
Air Force is making its fourth straight team appearance to the National Qualifier. Prior to the 2011 season, the Falcons hadn't sent a full squad to any level of the national meet since 1998, when it qualified for the NCAA West Regional (the current national qualifier replaced the regional meets in 2000). Air Force has made nine appearances in the team finals of the NCAA Championships (1961-62-63-64-70-72-73), with its best finish (sixth) coming at the 1972 national meet.
GOING OUT IN STYLE
Patrick Duffy, Tyler Huebner, Mac Ritchie and Ben Zaiser are the first class of seniors to help their teams to four straight NCAA National Qualifiers. Duffy, Huebner, Ritchie and Zaiser were freshmen during the Falcons' first team appearance at the national meet in 2011 and have kept Air Force listed among the nation's qualifying teams every year since. With that foursome in the lineup, the Falcons have competed in NCAA National Qualifiers at Ohio State (2011), Oklahoma (2012), Penn State (2013) and Michigan (2014).
Eight Falcons have claimed All-America status at the NCAA Championships, including Greg Stine, who became the program's first gymnast to claim multiple certificates in a single meet (still rings, all-around) at the 2008 championships. Jim Weaver (1962 trampoline), Doug Reynolds (1964 tumbling), Terry Higgins (1966 parallel bars), Bill Ritter (1972 floor exercise), John Tomich (1973 vault), Joel Miller (1992 sill rings) and Tim Hess (1993 floor exercise) have also earned All-America honors for the Falcons.
SCOUTING THE COMPETITION
Michigan, which won its second straight Big Ten title last weekend, holds the highest National Qualifying Average of the second session, recording a score of 442.263. The Wolverines are led by Sam Mikulak, the three-time B1G Gymnast of the Year who is ranked first on the floor exercise, and Syque Caesar, who leads the nation on the parallel bars. Ohio State, which is ranked third overall with an average of 441.888, also boasts a pair of national leaders in Michael Newburger (pommel horse) and Jake Martin (vault). Penn State and Minnesota are ranked sixth (433.638) and seventh (432.638), respectively, in the national standings, while Nebraska is ranked 11th with a NQA of 424.663.
Air Force is the only non-Big Ten team competing in the evening session.
YOU LOOK FAMILIAR
Air Force has only faced two of the teams in its national qualifying session, but it combined to face those two programs on five occasions. The Falcons hosted both Nebraska and Minnesota at the Academy's Cadet Gym, while traveling to Huskers' gym twice and facing the Gophers during a neutral site meet in Lincoln.