By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - It was quite a weekend for Penn State men's gymnastics, as the Nittany Lions put together a very strong performance at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas. Five gymnasts, including former Penn Stater and volunteer assistant coach Trevor Howard competed, and they all represented the university well.
The gymnasts totaled nine top-20 finishes between them, including Howard's seventh-place finish on still rings and Leroy Clarke's identical placing on pommel horse. Some of the best gymnasts from all over the United States competed, and the Nittany Lions were right there with the elite.
"All of the guys did well," head coach Randy Jepson said. "We had a couple high points and for the most part it was a great showing for Penn State."
Back east, the remaining members of the team brought home no shortage of hardware themselves, taking the top spot in the athlete dance competition at THON on Saturday night. They beat out the women's volleyball and football teams, helping energize a crowd of students and families that raised over $10 million for pediatric cancer research.
"We were anxious to see how the guys would do, they put a lot of time and effort into that," Jepson said. "Wednesday is our light day and they took some time then to really work on their dance."
The team reunited early this week to put some solid practice sessions in before one of the critical stretches of the season. Only four regular season meets remain on the schedule, including back-to-back road meets this weekend and next.
There will be a change in format to watch out for the rest of the season in the way meets are scored. To this point, each team would send six competitors to participate in each event, taking the top five scores. From now on, only five gymnasts will be allowed to participate in each event and every score will count towards the team's overall total.
While this puts more pressure on individual performance, it's certainly nothing the Nittany Lions haven't experienced before, as most gymnastics events leading up to the college level are scored individually, placing all the emphasis on every performance counting. This is simply par for the course and an exciting opportunity for Penn State to show off the consistency and depth on their roster during this final Big Ten push.
"We prepare that way all season," Jepson said. "We're always looking at hit ratio as the team but also as individuals and we're constantly looking at who are the most dependable guys."
The Nittany Lions head to Navy this weekend to take on the Midshipmen. It will be their second time seeing the Midshipmen as they met earlier in the season at the West Point Open. The road trip continues next weekend at Nebraska before closing the regular season at home against Michigan and Iowa.
Saturday's meet will begin at 2 p.m. in Annapolis.