Penn State Places Fourth in Qualifier of 2010 National Collegiate Championships; Six Nittany Lions Advance
April 15, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. - The No. 8 Penn State men's gymnastics team posted a score of 345.550 to place fourth in the first qualifying session of the 2010 National Collegiate Championships on Thursday afternoon at Christl Arena on the host campus of the United States Military Academy. With the top three teams qualifying from the session, Penn State will not advance to vie for the national championship for the second consecutive year.
While it will not move on as team, there will be a strong Penn State presence at Friday night's competition. With the top three event finishers not on a team advancing to the team finals earning the right to continue on, six Nittany Lions will compete for a spot in the individual event finals in all six events.
Senior Noam Shaham (Kfar Saba, Israel) will lead Penn State, advancing in all five events in which he competed - floor exercise, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar.
Four other Nittany Lions will also compete on Friday night, led by Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year Felix Aronovich (Kiryat Bialik, Israel), who will perform in three events (pommel horse, still rings, and parallel bars). Joining Aronovich will be senior Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) (floor exercise, vault), freshman Nick Grant (Butler, Pa.) (floor exercise), senior Matt Greenfield (Villanova, Pa.) (high bar), and freshman Matt Chelberg (Athens, Ohio) (still rings).
Stanford finished first in the qualifier with a score of 357.850 followed by Big Ten champion Illinois (354.050) and Ohio State (346.800). Temple placed fifth (332.300) while Illinois-Chicago took sixth (331.250).
Penn State got off to a rough start, struggling on the event that has plagued it all season, the pommel horse. The Nittany Lions posted their lowest total since Feb. 20 versus Illinois, a 53.000. Aronovich highlighted PSU's efforts, scoring a 14.200, while Miguel Pineda (Galloway, Ohio) contributed a solid 13.700 to the team total.
Competing without one of its top still rings competitors, freshman Scott Rosenthal (Clearfield, Pa.), Penn State scored below its season average in the event, totaling a 57.750. Another freshman led the way for the Lions with Chelberg, recording a team-high score of 14.600. Routines from Shaham (14.500), Aronovich (14.400), and freshman Parker Raque (Louisville, Ky.) (14.250) also counted towards the team total.
Rotating to the vault, the Lions rebounded, scoring a 62.650; their third-highest total of the season in the event. Shaham gave Penn State's top effort, setting a season high with a score of 15.900. Nick Virbitsky (15.700) and Raque (15.650) were also key.
Solid parallel bar performances by Penn State's Israeli tandem of Shaham and Aronovich helped the Lions to a team total of 56.400. Shaham earned a 14.400 from the judges while Aronovich scored a 14.350.
Down to its final event, the floor exercise, Penn State mounted a valiant comeback effort, attempting to overtake Ohio State for the third and final bid to the finals. Competing last, knowing PSU needed a big score, Virbitsky came through with a 15.350. Shaham (14.950) and Nick Grant (14.950) also gave solid performances but it would not be enough and the Lions finished 1.250 points behind the Buckeyes.
The 2010 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships will continue on Fri., April 16 at 7 p.m. with the team and all-around finals. Performers that place in the top 10 in each event during the team finals competition advance to the individual event finals, set for Sat., April 17 at 7 p.m.
* qualified to compete on Friday