NORMAN, Okla. – Seven members of the Oklahoma men's gymnastics team kickoff a summer full of competition for the Sooners as they travel to compete at the 2014 Men’s National Qualifier on July 19 and 20 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The seven Sooners making the trek to Colorado Springs are Dylan Akers, Danny Berardini, Allan Bower, Kanji Oyama, Jacoby Rubin, Colin Van Wicklen and Joshua Yee. These seven athletes will compete to earn a berth to the P&G Gymnastics Championships on August 21-24 in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Three of the seven Sooners will be competing in the all-around competition this weekend, including Bower, Oyama and Van Wicklen. The other four members of the OU team are each competing in multiple events.
Van Wicklen will be competing in the junior division but can also qualify as a senior due to his age.
Along with the aforementioned seven Sooners attempting to qualify for the championships, incoming freshman Hunter Justus is expected to have a petition approved this weekend to compete at the junior level at the P&G Gymnastics Championships. Also, OU alums Steven Legendre and Jake Dalton have each qualified for the championships at the senior level by virtue of having been on the 2013 World Championships team.
A minimum of 14 athletes will qualify from the competition to P&G Gymnastics Championships in Pittsburgh.
“The guys have been working hard this summer,” said head coach Mark Williams. “For some of these guys it’s another opportunity to get meet experience and be in another competition and for other guys its part of the process of trying to get more difficulty in their gymnastics during the summer and then compete before we come back for our team training in the fall.”
“I have chosen to have more guys do it this year because we have guys who have the potential to be on the national team in the next couple of years that need to be used to doing this process in order for that to happen.”
Soon to be senior Berardini is looking forward the upcoming challenge this weekend both for himself and for his Sooner teammates.
“I’m very excited,” said Berardini. “We have a great group of guys going out there. It’s going to be a fun time for us to get back into a competition. I’m looking forward to that. I think training in the summer for these competitions is huge because it is easy in the summer time if you are not training for one of these competitions to go a little easier in your workouts and get out of shape and out of routine shape. The routines in the summer are huge to prepare us for the fall.”
“This weekend I am going out there and really working on putting together a really good parallel bars and high bar set. I’m hoping I can do what I did at the NCAA National Championships, getting All-America on both of those events, so if I can go and do that this weekend I can see myself qualifying for the USA’s.
Both Williams and Berardini realize the significant effect that competing at the highest level with U.S. Gymnastics has on the Sooner program.
“I think this is one of the things that we have always done pretty well,” said Williams. “It’s not just about the college experience; it is also about taking these guys to the highest level. Our summer training program is stringent; it’s what we do during the school year in a lot of ways. I think that is what makes us so successful.”
“With seven of us going into the qualifier this weekend, it is huge for the program,” said Berardini. “We are competing at the NCAA level and for U.S. Gymnastics as well. We are trying to get as many guys qualified for the USA’s as we can. If we can do that it would look great for our program.”
All event information for the U.S. Qualifier can be found here.