April 11, 2009
2009 National Collegiate Championships Notes
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The eighth-ranked Penn State men's gymnastics team will look to add to its NCAA record by capturing the program's 13th national title when it travels to Minneapolis, Minn. and the host campus of the University of Minnesota to compete at the 2009 National Collegiate Championships. The 67th annual event will be held at the home of the Golden Gophers, the U-M Sports Pavilion.
Competition at the 2009 championships begins on Wed., April 16 with two qualifying sessions, scheduled for 2 and 8 p.m. ET. Penn State, along with Cal, Michigan, Navy, Nebraska, Michigan, and Stanford will compete in Session I while Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Oklahoma will comprise the Session II field.
The top three teams from each qualifier will then advance to contend for the national championship at 8 p.m. ET on Fri., April 17. The individual all-around champion will also be crowned that evening. The following night, on Sat., April 18, the individual event finals will be held at 8 p.m. ET, with six national titles and All-American honors at stake.
After a relatively healthy year, the injury bug has hit Penn State hard in recent weeks with devastating effects. During training for the Big Ten Championships, standout freshman Miguel Pineda, one of the Nittany Lions' top pommel horse and still rings performers, broke his wrist and was lost for the remainder of the season. At the Big Ten Championships, the biggest and costly blow came, as seven-time All-American and reigning NCAA All-Around champion Casey Sandy suffered a foot injury. His status for the national collegiate championships will be determined some time prior to Thursday's competition.
PREVIEWING PENN STATE
Penn State's fortunes at the 2009 National Collegiate Championships rely largely on the health of senior Casey Sandy, the most dominant gymnast in the nation this season. If he is able to compete, the Nittany Lions' chances of qualifying for the team finals increase exponentially.
Individually, Penn State has competitors that could challenge for All-America honors in every event. In the floor exercise, junior Allen Harris
owns a team season-high score of 15.450 but sophomore Warren Yang
, senior Shaun Antonio
, and junior Nick Virbitsky
, an All-American in the event in 2007, could also be factors. Sandy, who set the program record with a score of 15.650 versus Cal, represents Penn State's best hope in the pommel horse. Senior Josh Borromeo
, who posted the team's top score (15.250) in 2009, headlines the Nittany Lions on the still rings. Casey Sandy
, Noam Shaham
, and Nick Virbitsky
will provide Penn State with a triple threat in the vault. Sandy is PSU's top performer in the parallel bars and high bar. He recorded a career and team season-high score in the high bar this season (15.450). Shaham, with six top three finishes in the high bar in 2009, is also a threat.
PREVIEWING THE 2009 CHAMPIONSHIPS
The nation's elite men's gymnasts will converge upon the Sports Pavilion on the host campus of the University of Minnesota to vie for team and individual glory from April 16-18 at the 2009 National Collegiate Championships. Penn State will strive to put together its best effort of the season to make a push for the program's 13th national championship but will face stiff competition in that quest. Stanford, the No. 1 seed, is loaded with talent, led by Nissen-Emery Award contender Sho Nakamori and Josh Dixon and Bryant Hadden, the nation's top ranked performers in the floor exercise and still rings, respectively. Though seeded second, Oklahoma, winners of five of the previous seven national championships, has to be considered the prohibitive favorite. The Sooners are headlined by two of collegiate gymnastics top all-arounders in Chris Brooks and Steven Legendre.
Co-Big Ten champions Illinois and Michigan, Cal, and Ohio State will also challenge for the 2009 crown. Illinois' line-up features two standout sophomores in Daniel Ribeiro, the nation's No. 1 pommel horse competitor, and Paul Ruggeri, the 2009 Big Ten floor exercise and parallel bars champion. Michigan will be a factor thanks in part to 2009 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Thomas Kelley and Chris Cameron. Cal is fronted by two-time All-American Kyson Bunthuwong and Glen Ishino, one of the nation's top freshman. Ohio State's blend of experience lent by seniors Jake Bateman and Pejman Ebrahimi combined with the youth of 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Philip Onorato places the Buckeyes in the thick of the race. Penn State will counter with seven-time All-American and reigning NCAA All-Around champion Casey Sandy, seasoned veterans Shaun Antonio and Josh Borromeo, juniors Noam Shaham, Nick Virbitsky, Allen Harris, and Matt Greenfield, and up-and-comer Warren Yang.
CHAMPIONSHIP TV COVERAGE
The team and all-around finals of the 2009 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships will be broadcast tape delayed on ESPN2 on Thurs., April 23 at 3 p.m. ET.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Fans can follow all of the action of every day of competition at the 2009 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships on the Internet with live scoring updates. Find a link on the official website of Nittany Lion athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com.
Penn State men's gymnastics backers can also follow along on Twitter as assistant director of athletic communications John Regenfuss "tweets" live updates from the championships. Visit www.twitter.com/psusportsjr to get instant news, notes, and scores.
PENN STATE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Penn State owns an NCAA record 12 national championships, beginning with its first title in 1948. The Nittany Lions have captured the title 11 additional times since: 1953, 1954, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1965, 1976, 2000, 2004, and 2007.
An NCAA record 51 individual titles have been won by Nittany Lions. Second on the all-time list is Illinois with 47.
PENN STATE AT THE 2008 CHAMPIONSHIPS
Penn State put up a valiant defense of its 2007 NCAA title but fell short of a repeat, placing fourth with a score of 357.650. Casey Sandy captured the NCAA all-around title with a total score of 91.350, becoming Penn State's NCAA record 15th all-around champion, its first since Luis Vargas in 2005, and the first ever Nittany Lion to win both the Big Ten and NCAA all-around crowns in the same year.
In the individual event finals, Sandy added five more All-America honors with top eight finishes on the floor exercise (2nd), pommel horse (2nd), still rings (8th), vault (6th), and parallel bars (2nd). His six All-American honors were the most by any Penn State gymnast at one national championship in the program's storied history. Tommy Ramos placed third in the still rings with a score of 15.725, gaining All-America status for the sixth time in his career. He set and then reset personal best scores in the rings, helping the Nittany Lions establish new team season highs in consecutive nights.
PENN STATE VS. THE CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD IN 2009
Penn State had mixed results against national championship qualifying teams in the regular season, compiling a 4-4 record. At home in Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions topped Michigan (348.900-348.350) in their Big Ten opener and got by Ohio State (347.600-346.500) just over one month later. They also defeated Navy twice on the road, downing the Midshipmen, 345.200-329.150, at the West Point Open and, 347.850-336.450 in a tri-meet at William & Mary. Three of the Penn State's losses came away from Rec Hall, as Minnesota edged the Lions (345.850-344.500) on Jan. 31, Illinois triumphed, 345.500-339.800, in their lowest scoring performance of the season on Feb. 14, and Oklahoma posted an NCAA record score versus PSU in the regular season finale (366.850-356.300). The Lions' lone home defeat came against Cal on March 14, a narrow 355.150-353.800 setback. Penn State did not meet Stanford, Nebraska, Illinois-Chicago, and Iowa in the regular season.
2009 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS REVIEW
Competing with an injury-hobbled Casey Sandy and without the services of top freshman Miguel Pineda, a beleaguered Penn State squad placed fifth at the 2009 Big Ten Championships. Sandy gutted his way through five events, including an aborted effort in the vault, but the pain became too great, preventing him from performing in the high bar and denying him the opportunity to defend his 2008 Big Ten all-around title. Junior Nick Virbitsky was superb in leading the Nittany Lions, placing third in the floor exercise (tie, 15.250), fifth in the vault (tie, 15.550), and seventh in the high bar (tie, 14.500).
In the individual event finals, Virbitsky contributed Penn State's top showing by placing third in the vault with a score of 15.900; a mark that tied his season and career high established two weeks ago at Oklahoma. Senior Shaun Antonio and junior Allen Harris gave solid efforts, earning fifth place finishes in the high bar and floor exercise, respectively.
BORROMEO HONORED WITH BIG TEN SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD
SIX NITTANY LIONS NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-BIG TEN
Senior captain Josh Borromeo was named Penn State's recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award following competition at the 2009 Big Ten Championships. The honor is given to the one gymnast from each team in the conference who best reflects the principles of sportsmanship and fair play established by the Big Ten.
The Big Ten Conference office recently announced its Academic All-Big Ten teams for the Winter term and six Penn State men's gymnasts were recognized for their achievements in the classroom. Seniors Josh Borromeo
, juniors Matt Greenfield
, Allen Harris
, and Noam Shaham
, sophomore Warren Yang
, and redshirt freshman Logan Wyman
earned the honor. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letter winners in at least their second academic year and carry a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher.
SANDY, NISSEN-EMERY FINALIST
Senior Casey Sandy is one of nine finalists for the prestigious 2009 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.
In addition to providing outstanding leadership in the gym, representing his team and university with class and honor in all endeavors, and fulfilling the role of a dedicated and diligent student, Sandy has had an excellent and historic competitive senior season. The defending NCAA all-around champion has captured 28 titles in 2009, including seven first place finishes in the pommel horse. Sandy tied the single season conference record by earning five Big Ten Gymnast of the Week awards and shattered the career mark for winning a total of 11 league honors. The reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Year has also been named CGA National Gymnast of the Week three times.
Sandy owns the team's top score in four events and has set career-highs in the pommel horse (15.650) and high bar (15.450) this season.
Penn State has won five Nissen-Emery Awards in the storied history of the program, one shy of Oklahoma for the most by one program. In 2007, Matt Cohen became Penn State's latest honoree after a brilliant career. The 2009 recipient will be announced at the CGA Annual Awards Presentation banquet at Minnesota on Wed., April 15.
SANDY CLAIMS CONFERENCE AND NATIONAL HONORS
In 2009, senior Casey Sandy tied the conference record for garnering the most Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors in a season, earning five. He was recognized following standout performances versus Michigan (Jan. 26), Minnesota (Feb. 2), Illinois (Feb. 16), Ohio State (March 2), and Cal (March 16), equaling the total claimed by Justin Spring of Illinois in 2004. As a result of his achievement, Sandy shattered the league mark of seven Big Ten Gymnast of the Week awards in a career by winning 11. His accomplishments and exploits also gained attention at the national level, as Sandy was named the College Gymnastics Association Gymnast of the Week three times in 2009.
SANDY HONORED WITH HOMETOWN AWARD
Casey Sandy's impressive accomplishments have also garnered him attention outside of the gymnastics world. In February, he was selected as the 2008 Ken Giles Award winner, an honor presented annually to the amateur athlete of the year by The Brampton Guardian newspaper in his hometown of Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Sandy was the eighth winner of the award, which is named in honor of legendary Brampton Guardian sports editor Ken Giles, who covered the area for 50 years before his retirement in 2000. A committee of five selected Sandy from a field of 18 nominees. Sandy is the second Nittany Lion to receive the Ken Giles Award after golfer Mark Leon was recognized in 2006.
SANDY RECOGNIZED BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Casey Sandy continued to gain notice and accolades for his brilliant career and stellar 2009 season when he earned praise from one of the foremost and popular publications in the world, Sports Illustrated. The seven-time All-American was featured in SI's Faces in the Crowd, a section that highlights standout performances by amateur athletes, in the Feb. 23 edition.
Sandy was the second Nittany Lion in the last three years to be recognized in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd, after Matt Cohen made an appearance in 2007 in his senior season during his run to the Nissen-Emery Award.
The reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, Sandy gained acclaim from Sports Illustrated for capturing a single meet career five individual events titles and the all-around versus Minnesota on Jan. 31. For his efforts, he was honored as the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for a conference record eighth time in his career.
SANDY CROWNED CANADIAN NATIONAL ALL-AROUND CHAMPION
Casey Sandy added another accomplishment to his impressive gymnastics resume by capturing the all-around title at the Elite Canada 2009 in late February. His winning performance secures him a spot on the Canadian National Team. The two-day event was held at the Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, British Columbia.
Sandy never relinquished his grip on first place throughout the competition, scoring 87.150 on day one and 88.150 on day two. He also won the still rings (14.450/14.500) and the high bar (14.850/14.150) and placed second in the floor exercise (14.300/14.750), pommel horse (14.450/15.100), and vault (15.900/15.900).
Less than 48 hours later and following a grueling cross-continent flight from British Columbia to University Park, Sandy was superb in leading Penn State to a 347.600-346.500 victory over Ohio State.
Inserted into the line-up for just three events due to his rigorous travel and competitive schedule, Sandy proceeded to win all three, placing first in the pommel horse (14.800), parallel bars (15.050), and high bar (14.500). The seven-time All-American was particularly dominant in the pommel horse, scoring .7 of a point higher than the second place finisher. Sandy's parallel bars score was also a personal season high and team best for 2009.
SANDY: BY THE NUMBERS
The list of Casey Sandy's career accomplishments and awards is as extensive as it is impressive. But to view his career by the numbers is staggering. In 43 career meets, Sandy has earned 143 top three finishes and won 82 titles, including 24 in the pommel horse and 17 in the all-around. Those remarkable totals would be even greater had Sandy not missed most of his freshman year with a serious arm injury, been limited by an ankle injury at the 2007 National Collegiate Championships, or suffered a foot injury at the 2009 Big Ten Championships.
SHAHAM STEPPING UP
Junior Noam Shaham has emerged over the course of the season as one of Penn State's most consistent and clutch performers. The Kfar Saba, Israel native has recorded top three finishes in four different events (floor exercise, rings, vault, high bar) and has placed second and third in the all-around two times.
In total, he has earned 20 top three finishes, won one title in the high bar, and set career highs in four events plus the all-around in 2009. Shaham is tied with Casey Sandy for the team season high score in the vault (15.950) and owns Penn State's second best score in the high bar this year, a 15.050.
Noam Shaham has a high bar release move that is named in his honor and has been officially recognized by the FIG. Dubbed "The Shaham," it involves performing a double back with one and a half twists then catching the bar with a mixed grip. He has yet to attempt the release in a collegiate meet.
BORROMEO CAPTAINS THE LIONS
ANTONIO ON THE RISE
Senior Josh Borromeo is Penn State's team captain for the 2009 season. The Nittany Lions' top still rings competitor and a potential All-American in the event, Borromeo was forced to lead from the sidelines through the season's first three weeks while recuperating from a biceps strain. The preseason All-Big Ten selection has since returned to full strength and has steadily improved his performances over the course of the season. That progress culminated in the Nittany Lions' road meet versus Oklahoma in which Borromeo posted the team's season high still rings score, a 15.250.
Senior Shaun Antonio
has made huge strides in the second half of the season, developing into a key member of the Penn State line-up in four events. In the final five weeks of the regular season, the Rio Rancho, N.M. native established new career highs in the floor exercise (15.350), parallel bars (14.750), and high bar (15.050). Antonio also won his first career title, placing first in the high bar versus Temple on March 6. At the Big Ten Championships, Antonio qualified for the individual event finals in the high bar, placing fifth (14.250). In the pommel horse line-up for every meet this season, Antonio's contribution will be crucial to Penn State fortunes in the event at the national championships.
YANG STRENGTHENS LINE-UP
After seeing limited duty for the season's first five weeks, sophomore Warren Yang burst onto the scene in a home win over Ohio on Feb. 28 and hasn't looked back. Against the Buckeyes, Yang had the best meet of his young career, registering season high scores in the floor exercise (15.400), vault (15.550), and parallel bars (14.000). He placed first in the floor exercise, the first title win of his career, and third in the high bar (14.050) en route to winning the Gene Wettstone Award, an honor presented to the most outstanding gymnast at every home meet. Since then, Yang has been a mainstay in the line-up, earning three more top three finishes, including two in a home loss to No. 3 Cal on March 14. At the Big Ten Championships, Yang qualified for the individual event finals of the vault, finishing in 10th place (15.275).
FRESHMEN MAKING AN IMPACT
Freshmen Miguel Pineda, Matt Albrecht, and Greg Bruns proved they were ready for the collegiate ranks by making significant contributions throughout the season. Pineda emerged as a force for Penn State on the still rings, capturing six titles in his rookie year before his season ended with a broken wrist while training for the Big Ten Championships. He also recorded top three finishes in the pommel horse and the parallel bars. The Galloway, Ohio product earned the first Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honor of his career for securing seven top three finishes, including his first all-around win, in weekend dual meet doubleheader victories over Temple and William & Mary.
Albrecht, one of three Canadians on the team, has earned five top three finishes in three different events (floor exercise, vault, parallel bars). His vault score of 15.900 recorded on Jan. 16 at the West Point Open ranks second on the team this season.
Bruns, one of seven Pennsylvania natives on the Penn State roster, competed in the pommel horse in every meet and in the still rings five times, showing steady improvement throughout the season.
WINTER CUP WRAP UP
Freshman Miguel Pineda and volunteer assistant coach Vladi Klurman traveled to Las Vegas, Nev. to compete as individuals at the prestigious 2009 Winter Cup Challenge. Klurman qualified for the finals, placing 37th overall with 30 points. The Odessa, Ukraine-born North Miami Beach, Fla. native performed well in the pommel horse, placing third in Session II and eighth overall with a score of 14.200. He also had a solid showing in the still rings, finishing in 10th place in the evening qualifier (14.050). However, a shoulder injury suffered during his parallel bars routine prevented the 2007 All-American from competing in the finals.
Pineda earned a 19th place, Session II preliminary finish in the all-around with a six-event total of 77.150. His top performance came in the still rings, as he tied for seventh with a score of 14.200.
Three-time defending Winter Cup rings champion and Penn State assistant coach Kevin Tan is recovering from shoulder surgery and did not compete at this year's event. Nevertheless, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist was named to the U.S. Men's Senior National Team for the third consecutive year.