By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Rec Hall has erupted in cheers over the clean routines and stuck landings of a 5'4" freshman from Nazareth, Pennsylvania many times this season. And, as the new Nittany Lion gymnast takes Rec Hall by storm, he continues to focus on the bigger picture of team, brotherhood and Penn State as a whole.
That new gymnast is Alex Frack, and he is making the most of his Penn State opportunity.
"Alex just really embraces this atmosphere and he doesn't want to let anybody down and he's done a great job," head coach Randy Jepson said.
"He is kind of those guys who just loves the competitive atmosphere," sophomore Sam Zakutney said.
Although a new addition to the Nittany Lion squad, Frack has already made a lasting impact and cemented pivotal relationships within the walls of Penn State's Rec Hall.
"I think the whole team atmosphere has really helped him," Jepson said. "He's a real big team guy."
Not even a month into the official season, Frack cemented a Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor with his home showing against Army West Point.
"He was struggling a little bit in the summer and leading up to our first meet he looked a little bit off...but he really did his job and he did it well," Zakutney said. "I'm pretty proud of him."
In his first home appearance donning the Blue and White, Frack placed in the top three for pommel horse and parallel bars, while climbing the podium for his first high bar victory of the season. He improved upon each of his scores from the previous meet at the West Point Open.
"We knew Alex had talent," Jepson said. "I've been pleased to see him compete really well that's something that sometimes you have to learn. He's competing better than when I saw him in the junior level so I'm really pleased about that."
Two of his three performances during the home opener turned up the crowd's volume and left Frack pumping his fists.
"He's one of the guys that is going to go up first or second on any event and that really sets a tone for the team so he has done a really good job of doing that for us," Jepson said.
Although not as dominating against the Fighting Illini, he maintained a consistent showing for the home crowd as he finished third for Penn State and fourth overall in parallel bars.
"I mean, I have been pretty consistent so far, but I think I need to put more pressure on myself in the gym when it comes to practicing for a competition environment and I think that will help me compete better as well," Frack said.
"There are certain areas of routines that he can clean up and as he does that the scores will improve, but you know he has been hitting a lot of routines for us and that's tough," Jepson said.
As Frack continues working hard in the gym, the young gymnast also looks to the upperclassmen as mentors and for advice on balancing the student-athlete schedule. With a high standard of education rife throughout the men's gymnastics team, Frack has an immense weight of excellence on his shoulders in competition and classroom. Thirteen of the 21 gymnasts last semester made Penn State's Dean's List.
"Honestly all the upperclassmen, even sophomores, juniors and seniors, have all helped just as much equally," Frack said. "They have all been pretty accounting."
He also cites pommel horse specialist, senior Colin Coates, as a role model who motivated his transition onto the team.
"My mentor specifically is Colin Coates," Frack said. "He's been a great help. He's helped with some classes, some work, just anything I could pretty much ask for."
Coates success on the pommel horse and mentorship also aims to help Frack evolve his reach as a gymnast and reach his all-around pursuits.
"Honestly, my goal is to do all-arounds," Frack said. "I mean I'm not quite there yet, I still have a lot to do on vault and rings and even a little more on floor, but all-around is definitely a great goal."
As a freshman, Frack has high expectations of his future plans while representing the Blue and White.
"Maybe a team captain eventually looking even further into the future but hopefully some big things," Frack said of his goals.
As Penn State is looking at a road bout against conference counterpart Ohio State, on Feb. 9, Frack embraces his role as a Nittany Lion in hopes of bolstering his brotherhood of gymnasts, tackling his personal goals down the stretch and balancing what it means to be a representative of Penn State student athletics.
"I mean the momentum has just kept going this week," Frack said. "We have a lot to learn and a lot to grow on and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."
For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.