SPRINGFIELD — As the Springfield College men’s gymnastics season begins to wind down, the competition is picking up, as Alden Street is getting set to host the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Regional tournament this Saturday. Head coach Matt Davis is excited to get the opportunity of hosting such a prestigious event that also features competitors such as Army, Illinois-Chicago, Navy and William & Mary.
“It is a big honor to host any championships. This ones been a great one for many years. There’s something special about gymnastics being one of the oldest sports on campus. I look forward to it and I know our guys are looking forward to it.”
The Pride enter the ECAC’s strong after seeing four USAG Collegiate Championship All-Americans recognized in senior Jannik Haas, junior Stephen Lewis and sophomores John Murphy and Trevor Lamberton.
Murphy scored a 13.500 on the floor routine and finished tied for third while Haas finished fifth on the parallel bars with a 13.050. For Haas it was his third consecutive USAG All-American honor in the parallel bars while for Murphy it was his first USAG All-American honor.
Lewis placing third and Lamberton placing fourth in the all-around, respectively. For Lewis it was his second consecutive honor in the all-around and fourth overall while for Lamberton it was his first.
This season Springfield knew it wasn’t going to be easy as it was faced with the daunting task of replacing nearly two thirds of their competition lineup, or 19 of 30 total routines. For the Pride that has meant getting significant contributions from underclassmen like freshmen Christian Wilkey Jr., Kyle Lukaesko and Alex Fitzgerald. Despite the young team, the growth has been evident.
“Our team is definitely a younger team,” Davis said. “From last year we had to replace 19 of the 30 routines we competed, so it was a big class with big routines. We’re relying on the younger freshmen and sophomores and throughout this year you can see their confidence has built throughout the competitions and practice this year.”
Gymnasts to Watch
As the underclassmen have stepped into a large role this year Davis is happy with individuals progress and expects big things from them on Saturday.
“The first one is Trevor Lamberton. He stepped into an all-around role this year, so he’s competing in all six events which is a tough thing to do at the collegiate level. He just came back from USAG’s where he was an All American and placed fourth in the all-around.” he said.
“Christian Wilkey has really stepped up. We really relied on him this year as a base score on four of the six events so he’s been competing with a lot of confidence. Kyle Lukaesko is someone who’s come on strong in the high bar for us. He’s definitely a score we’re looking to rely on. Alex Fitzgerald who’s also freshmen who has helped on high bar and adds depth on both floor and p bars.”
While the underclassmen will play a huge role in the success of the team, there is still leadership characters in Haas to bolster both bar lineups and Lewis to bolster the all-around. Lewis who came less than .40 from qualifying for the all-around finals at NCAA’s last year should be hungry to get back as well as to defend his ECAC all-around title. Meanwhile for Haas he will look to make it a perfect four for four on trips to NCAA’s as he’ll compete for a spot on the p bars and the high bar.
Haas and Lewis are part of a veteran group that also includes junior captains Jeremy Vera and Nick Cramer who Davis believes will really set the example for the team this weekend.
“I see them as being the consistent and solid foundation for our meet. They’ve been there before so it’s nice to have that leadership so they can give the freshmen an idea on how it’s going to feel going into an ECAC championship.”
How the Pride will be Successful
On point of emphasis throughout the team is controlling what they can, which is their individual performances.. Davis has also stressed, “This year is it doesn’t matter what the other teams are doing or the scores it matters how we do as a team. We stress staying focused on ourselves and staying positive and pushing each other from event to event.”
If the Pride want to carry the momentum over from USAG’s and potentially improve on their score and move closer to their season high of 388.050, it’s all going to come down to the consistency. As the season has worn on, they have seen the underclassmen start gaining more confidence and it has in turn led to better results for both the team and the individual athletes. If guys like Lukaesko, Wilkey Jr. and Fitzgerald, as well as the rest of the contributing underclassmen can remain consistent and be combined with the type of performances expected by guys like Lewis and Haas the Pride could very well meet their goal of finishing on the podium; top three as a team.
The ECAC championships will take place this Saturday April 6 at 2 p.m. in Blake Arena.
Photo courtesy Springfield College Athletics