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Apr. 15, 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Penn State men's gymnastics team earned its berth to the NCAA Championships with a 423.950 third-place finish in the session I qualifying round Friday, Apr. 15 at St. John Arena.
Oklahoma led the field with a 441.200 and three first-place finishes, while Minnesota placed second overall with a 426.400. Penn State edged out Nebraska, who scored a 423.550 to place fourth overall. Finally, Cal earned a 421.350 and Navy placed sixth with a 410.100.
"It started off early with some troubles, but the guys didn't give up and they came back," stated Head Coach Randy Jepson. "We got to pommel horse with one event left and we had to put in routines. We had not done that all year, but did it, and that was huge."
Senior Trevor Howard (Columbus, Ohio) continued to show resilience as he placed second in the all-around with only his third still rings performance of the season. The senior all-arounder earned four podium finishes, placing second in the all-around, fifth on vault, sixth on high bar and eighth on the still rings to propel the Blue and White to day two of the NCAA Championships. Competing in just his second all-around event of the season, Howard put up a season-best 85.650 to place second overall in the competitive field.
Captain Leroy Clarke, Jr. (Maplewood, N.J.) was huge in the final rotation of the day as he placed third overall on the still rings with a 15.050, which ties for the fifth-best score of the season for the Blue and White on the apparatus.
Juniors Dominic DiFulvio (Marietta, N.Y.) and Christian McSwain (Jamestown, N.C.) also had solid days for Penn State with DiFulvio placing sixth on the still rings with a 14.700 and McSwain finishing seventh on the floor with a 14.800.
Starting on one of its best events, Penn State earned a 71.150 on the vault to kick of the session one qualifier. The first rotation score put the Nittany Lions in second behind Oklahoma in the first rotation of the afternoon, paced by a team-best 15.100 from Howard. Howard's vault tied for fifth overall, while Wyatt Tyndall (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) placed 14th overall with a 14.750. Senior Alexis Torres (Cantano, Puerto Rico) round out the top three finishers for Penn State with a 14.700 and a 15th-place finish.
Behind a season-best score of 14.600 from Howard, the Blue and White remained in second through the second rotation. Howard earned his second top-10 finish of the day tying for sixth overall, while Torres came in eighth with a 14.550 for the Blue and White. Finally, Clarke tied for ninth overall in the event with a 14.500.
Penn State moved down to third overall in the third rotation, suffering a few tough breaks on the high bar. As a team, the Nittany Lions scored a 69.050 on the apparatus led by a 10th-place 14.350 from Clarke. Howard came in second overall for the Blue and White with a 14.100 and a 15th-place finish and Card rounded out the top 20 with a 14.000 and an 18th-place finish.
The floor caused hardships for Penn State as it scored a season-low 69.050 in the fourth rotation of the day but was able to maintain a third-place spot over halfway through the qualifying meet. McSwain led the Blue and White on the floor with a 14.800 which placed seventh overall while Howard and DiFulvio each earned top-20-finishes with a 14.250 and a 14.150, respectively.
The Blue and White came out strong on the pommel horse using a season-best 70.450. However, the score was not enough to keep the Nittany Lions in the top three as they fell to fourth over with one rotation left on the docket. The Blue and White took the 10th-12th place spots in the event with Colin Coates (Emmaus, Pa.) leading the Nittany Lions with a 14.250. Sophomore Quest Hayden (Harrisburg, Pa.) finished 11th overall with a 14.300 and McSwain capped off the Penn State top-three with a 14.250, tying for 12th.
Sitting in fourth with one rotation to go, the Nittany Lions proved they liked the pressure turning out a 72.650 team score to take the third and final spot in the qualifying meet. Clarke led a hungry Blue and White squad with a third-place finish, while DiFulvio placed sixth overall with a 14.700. Finally, Howard nabbed his fourth top-10 finish of the day placing eighth with a 14.600.
Penn State will compete for its 13th national championship and first since 2007 Saturday, Apr. 16 at 7 p.m. inside St. John Arena.