Competing on the national stage proved to be no deterrent for the Springfield College men’s gymnastics team. With the bright lights shining, the Pride’s Chris Jost finished 11th in the nation on the vault and Ryan Ponce brought home 18th in the nation on the rings. Also making the National Championships at Penn State University were senior Kevin Miner on the parallel bars, sophomore Pat Ryther on the pommel horse and freshman Jon Zirna also on the pommel horse. Of the five competing at Penn State, Jost and Ponce were the only two to advance to the quarterfinal rounds.
“Competing on the national stage was an amazing experience,” remarked Jost. “It was incredible to be able to share the stage with my teammates while we competed against some of the best gymnasts in the world.”
As the Pride went up against the best competition in the country, they also faced off against performers from the 2012 Olympic Games.
“Being able to share the competition floor with these athletes was an unbelievable experience,” said Jost.
Jost, a senior, grabbed the 11th spot on the vault with a score of 14.850, missing a chance to make the final eight by a mere .05 points. Even though Jost missed out on an opportunity to compete for the national crown, he was still optimistic about his final performance.
“I could not be happier about how I performed at the championships,” said Jost. “I missed the qualifying mark for event finals by .05, and the competitor that beat me by that .05 was Sam Mikulak, who represented the United States in the 2012 Olympic Games and placed 5th on vault in the event finals at the games.”
Through the qualifying sessions, Jost qualified second for the second round of competition. On day two, Jost was given the high-pressure task of going first to begin the day, and still managed a solid score.
For Jost, the nationals represented his last opportunity to compete on the collegiate level.
“Throughout my high school career I had never made nationals…so when I qualified for collegiate nationals my junior year on both floor and vault, I was very excited. However, to qualify my senior year again on both floor and vault was absolutely amazing, and it was the best ending to an 18-year long career I could have asked for.”
In Ponce’s trip to the National Championships, he reeled in 18th in the nation with a score of 14.850. Ponce, a two-time ECAC Champion, was pleased with his performance but felt that there is still room for improvement.
“I was happy with my performance overall. I thought I could have done a little better but I was still happy with it. It didn’t take away from me having a good time.”
And even though Ponce has tasted the fruits on the national stage, in no way is he settling for what he has done. He is using his final year of competition as a motivation to continue to push himself.
“Knowing I only have one year left really motivates me to push myself as hard as I can for next year,” said Ponce. “I’ll be working really hard every day so I can hopefully make it to the finals at next year’s championships.”