Derek Helsby and Kevin Tan Advance to Finals at Winter Cup Challenge
Feb. 8, 2008
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - With standout performances in preliminary competition at the Winter Cup Challenge on Thursday, senior Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) and Penn State assistant coach Kevin Tan have qualified for the finals of the prestigious event. The pair of Nittany Lions will compete against a field consisting on the nation's top 42 gymnasts on Sat., Feb. 9 at 10:15 p.m. ET at the Las Vegas Sports Center in Las Vegas.
Competing in the afternoon session, Helsby tied for 18th place in the all-around with a score of 82.350. The four-time All-American's best showing came in the pommel horse, as he earned a ninth-place finish (14.000). Helsby also placed 22nd (tie) in the parallel bars (14.050), 24th in the floor exercise (13.800), 39th in the vault (14.750), 54th in the high bar (12.659), and 57th in the still rings (13.100). Helsby's point total of 38 placed him 27th among the field of 42 that has advanced to the finals competition.
Tan, the two-time defending Winter Cup rings champion, again dominated the competition in the event, taking first with a score of 16.350. His nearest challenger, former Ohio State standout and Team Chevron teammate, Raj Bhavsar placed a distant second with a mark of 15.800. The former two-time NCAA rings champions and six-time All-American also performed well in the high bar (3rd, 15.000), parallel bars (7th, 14.950), and pommel horse (14th, 13.650). Tan's point total of 99 placed him seventh among the field of 42 that has advanced to the finals competition.
At stake in the Winter Cup Challenge finals are seven spots on the U.S. Men's Senior National Team. Three athletes will be added to the team based on the national team points system rank order, while the final four gymnasts will be selected from the Winter Cup Challenge participants and petitioned athletes by the Men's Program Committee. These seven, along with the seven members of the 2007 World Championships Team who already qualified for the team, will comprise the Senior Men's National Team until the 2008 Visa Championships in August in Houston.
Other Nittany Lions also turned in solid performances in the preliminaries. Senior Vladi Klurman (North Miami Beach, Fla.) competed in four events, with his best showing coming on the pommel horse (17th, 13.550). Junior Shaun Antonio (Rio Rancho, N.M.) did three events, placing the highest on the floor exercise (28th, 13.700). Former Nittany Lion and 11-time All-American Luis Vargas, though a native of Puerto Rico, received a special invitation, along with three other of his countrymen, from the Men's Program Committee to participate. He took advantage of the opportunity by excelling on day one and advancing to the Winter Cup finals. Vargas placed eighth in the all-around, earning top 20 finishes in the parallel bars (5th), pommel horse (14th), vault (15th), and still rings (19th).