Men's Gymnastics Opens 2003 Season at West Point
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., January 9, 2003 - The Penn State men's gymnastics team opens the 2003 slate on Friday, Jan. 10 at the West Point Open in West Point, N.Y. The two-day meet features five NCAA squads and a number of club teams and the Nittany Lions look to capture their sixth-straight West Point Open team title and seventh overall.
The Nittany Lions, who are ranked fourth in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, are coming off a disappointing season where they placed eighth at the NCAA Championships in Norman, Okla., after the Lions posted a strong regular season going 14-1 and recording a second-straight third-place showing at the Big Ten Championships.
More than any other year in recent memory, the Nittany Lions have the highest of expectations to win a national championship. Head coach Randy Jepson will look to five seniors to lead the way, including captain Jose Palacios (Gijon, Spain) who returns after a medical redshirt season. All-American senior Kevin Donohue (Saddle River, N.J.) is coming off his best season as a Nittany Lion where he became the first Lion in 17 years to earn All-America honors in the all-around. He also earned All-America honors on vault and floor and clinched Big Ten crowns on parallel bars and high bar. Also expected to make significant contributions are 2001 vault All-American Jay Kim (Burke, Va.), Duke Van Vleet (Safety Harbor, Fla.) and all-arounder Matt Abboud (Dayton, Maine). With the exception of Palacios, the seniors were freshmen on the 2000 team that won an NCAA-record 10th national crown. Palacios was a sophomore.
Junior Kevin Tan (Fremont, Calif.) will also figure heavily into the mix. He was the national runner-up on rings last year, earning an All-America certificate on the event for the second-consecutive year and was the Big Ten's rings champion. He also added All-America accolades on parallel bars.
Sophomore transfer Ed Seward (Aston, Pa.) joins the Lions after spending a year with Big Ten foe Illinois. He had a solid season with the Fighting Illini and looks to build on that collegiate experience while wearing the blue and white.
Five newcomers will have to adjust to the collegiate level and will look to challenge for spots and contribute to the team's success. All-arounder Luis Vargas (Rio Piedros, P.R.) has extensive experience with the Puerto Rican National team and in December placed second in the all-around at the Central American games in San Salvador, El Salvador. Raymond Alvarez (Miami, Fla.), Chad Buczek (Bridgewater, Mass.) and Justin Miklos (Fleminton, N.J.) are also looking to make their mark and help this squad win a national title.
Southern Connecticut State, Springfield, Temple and host Army are the other teams competing this weekend. Friday night's action will determine the team title. Gymnasts who qualify move on the Saturday's individual even finals. The meet begins at 7 p.m. on both nights.