It has been 30 years since the last time that head coach Steve Posner has been able to call one of his gymnasts a Division I All-American. After senior rings specialist Ryan Ponce’s third-place finish at the NCAA Championships at the University of Michigan this past weekend, Posner can do just that.
Ponce, a senior Sports Biology major at Springfield College, competed with athletes from Stanford, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, William and Mary, and Oklahoma while posting a 15.550 on the rings, demolishing his own previous school record of 15.400, which he set in 2012.
“It was a fantastic feeling. That was probably the best routine I have ever done in my life, so it was a great feeling to end my college career on that,” said Ponce. “My only goal going in was to make it to the finals; I didn’t want to worry about any placement. It turned out a lot better than I had hoped. It was perfect.”
In collegiate gymnastics, a top-10 finish garners Division I All-America accolades, and in the rich history of men’s gymnastics at Springfield College, there have only been three other athletes that can classify themselves as Division I All-Americans.
In 1961, Jeff Cardinali became the first ever to win a national championship and garner Division I All-American honors when he placed first on the parallel bars. In 1965, Bob Elsinger helped aid Springfield College to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division I Finals, where he collected a national championship on the pommel horse, which garnered a Division I All-American honor.
In 1984, Jeff Cohelho, now a professor and director of Instruction and Military Movement and officer representative of the gymnastics team at Army, collected a Division I All-America honor on the rings during his career at Springfield.
For the past three years, Ponce has made the coveted “second day” at the NCAA Championships, but has never been able to advance into contention for the All-American accolades.
In 2014, Ponce posted a 14.950, tying for seventh place with Matt Loochtan of Iowa and Alexis Torres of Penn State, advancing him into the championships, where he eventually finished in third.