By Kevin Saxe
The 15,500 seat State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois is the home to this year’s NCAA men’s gymnastics championships. It is the site where at least four men’s gymnasts will represent Springfield College on the sports’ biggest stage.
A Look at the Qualifiers
Jannik Haas– The senior captain qualified for NCAA’s for his fourth consecutive year for the Pride. Haas had a standout showing for the Pride at ECAC’s, where he placed fifth on the parallel bar and sixth on the high bar. Haas qualified for the parallel bars with an average score of 13.325 and on the high bar with an average score of 12.988.
“He’s so steady and consistent and he proved that all year and easily qualified on those two events. If he really does hit p-bars he really does have a chance at the second day and that’s a goal of his,” said Springfield head coach Matt Davis
Stephen Lewis– The junior might be the Pride’s most notable athlete, competing for his third straight year at NCAA’s competing in the all-around. Lewis has won the last two ECAC all-around titles, becoming the first in school history to accomplish the feat. He was the top qualifier for gymnasts not on the top twelve teams with an average score of 79.000 in the all-around.
“He’s had a little bit of an up and down season for what he usually does. He’s had minor injuries with his legs so we’ve navigated him through the season and I’m very proud of the way he handled it throughout the year as well as the way he put it together at ECAC’s,” said Davis.
Trevor Lamberton– The sophomore will be competing in his first NCAA championships this weekend. Lamberton has had a very successful sophomore campaign where in his first season competing in the all-around he took home a USAG All-American honor. Lamberton qualified with a score of 73.713.
“Trevor has really come on strong this year. You can see his confidence grow from last year, and he was in every meet as an all-arounder so we’re excited for what he can do and I think it’ll be a great learning experience for him to build off of for his next two years,” said Davis.
Noah Candocia– The freshmen will also get his first taste of the NCAA Championships as he prepares to compete on the vault. Candocia had a big showing on the vault in the ECAC Championship scoring a 14.050 good for a tie for fifth place. Candocia qualified for NCAA’s with an average score of 14.025.
“He’s a great freshmen who we knew was very talented and definitely needed to learn how to compete at the college level this year. He really figured it out midway through and really started hitting towards the middle and end of the season and that’s what got him there.”
Jack Vollo & Kyle Lukaesko– Vollo (First Alternate) on the vault and Lukaesko (Second Alternate) on the high bar will be alternates for the Pride. If participants in their respective events are unable to compete, then Vollo and Lukaesko will get a chance to compete.
For the Pride all season the focus has been on controlling what you can control and not focusing on what the other teams do. Davis said that focus continues to be the same as the gymnasts prepare for the biggest stage.
“It’s no different from our season. We’re just going to focus on ourselves and rely on our can do, in competition like you do in practice, that’s what we look for.”
Representing the School
As the only Div. III school to sponsor men’s gymnastics at the NCAA level, Springfield takes pride in being the only school at this level as they look forward to the completion.
“We always wear the S on our chest. To be the only D3 program we have to go out there and show them what D3 is all about and that we can compete with the big guys,” said Lamberton.
Davis echoed those sentiments saying, “We are the only Div. III institution with gymnastics and as far as anything we see we don’t see ourselves as that we see ourselves being competitive and we’ve shown it throughout these last couple of years.”
How to Watch the Pride
The gymnasts will compete on Friday April 19 and compete as individuals in the first session alongside gymnasts from Stanford, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Navy, California and Air Force at 2 p.m. EST, (1 p.m. local time) in Illinois in the first session.
There will be a stream available on NCAA.com. For the Pride if members make it to the individual event finals, those will take place Saturday April 20 at 7 p.m. EST and (6 p.m. local time) in Illinois. The individual event finals will be available to watch on the Big Ten Network.
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics