By Matt Allibone,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - When Trevor Howard stepped out onto the floor at Rec Hall last Saturday for his first collegiate gymnastics meet, the Penn State freshmen anticipated that it would be a learning experience that he could build off of.
What he didn't expect was that he would wind up winning two events to finish the night as one of the team's standout performers.
"I really didn't expect to have that kind of performance," said Howard. "I was just looking to go out and get used to the atmosphere and the feel of everything."
With first place finishes in both rings (15.700) and vault (15.200), Howard not only adjusted to everything, he ended up as one of the biggest difference makers in The Nittany Lions 447.850-404.150 over Army.
Those performances, along with a third place finish on the parallel bars resulted in Howard being named Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
"I feel truly blessed and honored to have gotten that award," said Howard. "I didn't expect it but it's great to be able to come out strong."
The performance that Howard seemed most proud of was his routine on the vault.
"I felt I had done enough in practice to be prepared for the vault but I still surprised myself with how much rotation I got on it," said Howard. "I had been having some minor knee problems so I didn't think I'd be able to turn so much."
Another part of Saturday's meet that took Howard by surprise was the atmosphere provided by the home crowd.
"It was definitely a lot louder than what I'm used to," said Howard. "Most of the club meets I'm used to have been a lot quieter."
While the decibel level may have been higher than what he was used to, Howard admitted that he felt at ease during the entire meet.
He stated that the nerves he expected to feel melted away as soon as he set foot onto the floor for warm ups.
"When I first started training I felt like I was going to get a lot of pressure on me when the meets started," said Howard. "As soon as I walked in there though, I felt like I was home with all the guys cheering me on."
Penn State has been feeling more and more like home for Howard ever since he arrived on campus to begin training.
He credited that to the help his teammates have given him in adjusting to college as both a student and a gymnast.
"The upperclassmen are basically like my brothers the way they've taken me under their wing," said Howard. "They've helped me out a lot not only in practice but also by showing me around campus and telling me good classes to take."
Howard stated he has adopted to the extra training that comes with being a college gymnast, even if he still isn't thrilled with how early he has to wake up to do it.
"It's definitely been different waking up at 6:30 in the morning for practice," said Howard. "The extra sets can be a little taxing on your body but its been worth it."
Another person Howard credited with helping his development, as a gymnast was head coach Randy Jepson.
What sets Jepson apart from other coaches, according to Howard, is his ability to know when to push a gymnast and when to lay off.
"Coach Jepson doesn't push you when you're hurting because he knows you know your body better than anyone," said Howard. "Still, if he knows you can get something done that day that will impact your future, he'll tell you to do it."
Now that he already has Big Ten Freshman of the Week under his belt, Howard has his eyes set on bigger goals, for both him and his teammates.
"I'm hoping to make the national team and to be an All-American," said Howard. "The big goal is to bring home a Big Ten Championship and a national championship for the team."