As the gymnasts jog out onto the mats at Rec Hall on April 19, 2013, the host team will be competing to add another national championship banner to the Nittany Lions’ collection.
Even though Penn State has been a serious contender for the NCAA title for the past several years, this season is shaping up to be the one the team and coach Randy Jepson have all been waiting for.
“For the last four years, since [Jepson]’s known about Penn State getting the bid for NCAAs, he’s been basing everything from recruiting to training plans and even developing the senior class especially for this event,” senior Nihir Kothari said.
Jepson said that he has high hopes for this postseason as the No.1 Nittany Lions are undefeated thus far. The school will host the NCAA Championships in late April.
The team, which consists of seven seniors, harbors the perfect balance between experience and young talent. The seniors, who have taken on the role of mentoring the younger gymnasts, have built a rapport that “doesn’t need vocalization,” said senior Mackenzie Dow.
“We know what we need to do to get to the top, we don’t need to tell each other,” said Dow.
Even with talented gymnasts such as Trevor Howard and Felix Aronovich leading the charge, the team maintains its “one team” identity, and each member motivates the others to make the team as prepared as possible.
Howard, the reigning three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and last week’s Gymnast of the Week, said he feels at ease with the seniors supporting him before his routines.
“They’ve been there before and can tell you what to and not to do,” said Howard.
Aronovich, who competed for Israel in the 2012 London Olympics, provides reassurance for Howard, specifically in the pommel horse event.
“Felix is out there, telling me to relax on pommel horse,” he said. “Having him out there has been really helpful.”
Winning their last national championship in 2007, the team has been building up to become the third Big Ten school to win the championship in four years. Jepson recognized that although the seniors have had a successful run at Penn State, they aren’t satisfied.
“They got a taste of success last year (third place), but it wasn’t all that we wanted,” Jepson said. “Now they want to walk out with no regrets.”
Six Nittany Lions head to Vegas
The Winter Cup, which consists of two days of competition amongst the best gymnasts across the country, determines who will be selected for the United State’s national team. Dow, Parker Raque, Howard, Matthew Felleman, Craig Hernandez, and Adrian Evans will represent Penn State in Las Vegas.
Unlike other meets, the Winter Cup is an individual competition.
“Making the national team is a big goal of mine,” said Dow. “I have this one shot for myself.”