Derek Helsby Named a Finalist for the 2008 Nissen-Emery Award
March 19, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) has been named one of seven finalists for the prestigious 2008 Nissen-Emery Award, as announced by the Collegiate Gymnastics Association (CGA). Bestowed in recognition of outstanding athletic achievement, academic excellence, and sportsmanship, the Nissen-Emery Award is the highest individual honor presented in collegiate gymnastics.
A four-time All-American, Helsby has emerged as one of country's top all-around performers in his senior season, currently ranking fifth in the nation. In 2007, he was instrumental in helping the Nittany Lions capture their NCAA record 12th national title, earning 16 top-three finishes throughout the year, including a third place showing on the pommel horse at the team finals of the national collegiate championships. Helsby is the only Nittany Lion to earn All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two seasons.
Helsby made his mark on the international stage last summer, winning a bronze medal in the pommel horse at the 2007 World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand. In the team portion of the competition, he led the United States with top scores in the pommel horse and parallel bars, helping Team USA to a seventh-place finish.
With the honor, Helsby adds another chapter to the storied history of Penn State's association with the Nissen-Emery Award. A total of 22 Nittany Lions have been named finalists for the award, including 11-time All-American Luis Vargas, two-time rings national champion and Olympic hopeful Kevin Tan, three-time pommel horse national champion Mark Sohn, and current head coach Randy Jepson. Penn State has won five Nissen-Emery Awards, tying Oklahoma for the most by one program. In 2007, Matt Cohen became Penn State's latest honoree after a brilliant career in which he excelled the gym and in the classroom.
Often described as collegiate gymnastics equivalent to football's Heisman Trophy, the award was originally named solely in honor of George Nissen, a former NCAA champion, for his contributions to the sport. In 1997, it was renamed the Nissen-Emery Award in honor of former Penn State gymnast, Dr. Bob Emery, for his support of collegiate gymnastics. Emery won the award in 1969. Other Penn State winners include Steve Cohen (1967), Gene Whelan (1976), and Michael "Spider" Maxwell (1987).
The other six finalists for the 2008 award include DJ Bucher of Ohio State, Illinois' Wes Haagensen, Jonathan Horton of Oklahoma, Cal's Tim McNeill, David Sender of Stanford, and Temple's Luke Vexler.
The winner of the Nissen-Emery Award, along with several other awards - including national and regional Coach of the Year and national Assistant Coach of the Year, will be announced on Wed., April 16 at the annual College Gymnastics Association banquet. The event is held the day prior to the start of the national collegiate championships and kicks off the weekend's festivities.
The 2008 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships, to be hosted by Stanford University, gets underway at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif. on Thurs., April 17 at 4 p.m. ET with the first of two qualifying sessions. The team and all-around finals will take place on Fri., April 18 (10 p.m. ET) with the individual event finals scheduled for Sat., April 19 (10 p.m. ET).