Feb. 8, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Navy gymnastics team put together its best performance of the young season on Saturday at Macdonough Hall versus Army. With the annual star on the line, the Mids avenged their 2013 defeat with an impressive 422.3 - 420.1 victory over the Black Knights.
From the beginning the Mids had a plan to defeat their bitter rivals, "we knew that we would need outstanding performances on the pommel horse and rings if we were to have a chance at the win because Army has very strong high bar, p-bar and vaulting teams," said Navy head coach Dr. Sho Fukushima. "If they were going to win those three, it was important that we jump out to a lead early."
The Mids did just that on the strength of a 5.45-point victory in the pommel horse, 71.75 to 66.30. Sophomore Connor Westrick (Waterford, Wis.) led the way with a 15.0 score and the event win, though he was closely followed by a trio of teammates to give Navy a sweep of the top four positions. Eric Morrision (So., Broomfield, Colo.), Andrew Potts (So., Ellicott City, Md.) and Chris Junghans (Sr., Dunkirk, Md.) finished with scores of 14.5, 14.3 and 14.3, respectively.
Junior Eric Viscardi (Marietta, Ga.) led the Mids in the floor exercise portion of the meet with a 14.2 score and third place finish, but Navy dropped the event by two points, 71.40 to 69.40.
Fukushima's plan of winning the rings came to fruition when the Mids finished second, third and fourth on their way to scoring a 70.90 to 69.60 victory. Junior Joshua Steves (Houston, Texas) highlighted Navy's effort on the rings with a 14.45-point routine. Thomas Goodell (Jr., Hopkinton, Mass.) and Viscardi followed Steves with scores of 14.4 and 14.2, respectively.
"I felt that when we had a five-point lead after the first three events we had succeeded in giving ourselves a lead that we could hold on to for the victory," said Fukushima. "Kudos, to our pommel horse squad, we haven't seen that team perform like that before. That was one of our best."
With a 4.75-point lead going into the second half of the event, the Mids continued performing at a high level with a team win on the parallel bars and a 0.1-point loss on the vault.
First place scores by Mitchell Larios (So., Frisco, Texas) and Junghans led Navy in the parallel bar portion of the meet. The duo tied with Army's Chris Short with identical scores of 14.5. As a team, Navy outscored Army 70.75 to 70.50.
In the vault, three Mids finished amongst the top five as they posted a 71.25 team score versus a 71.35 for the Black Knights. Larios was the top finishing vaulter for Navy with a 14.5 score, good for second place. Freshman Jonny Tang (Malvern, Pa.) and Steves rounded out the top-five scorers for Navy with 14.3 and 14.25-point efforts, respectively.
Up 4.9 points, Navy would hold on for the win as Army could only cut 2.7 points off of the deficit in high bar action to give the host Midshipmen an exciting 422.30 to 420.10 victory and recognition as the 2014 Star Match winner.
Tang and Junghans were the top finishers for Navy in the high bar with scores of 14.0 and 13.95, good for third and fifth, respectively.
As a team, Navy scored a 69.40 in the floor exercise, 71.75 on the pommel horse, 70.90 on the rings, 71.25 on the vault, 70.75 on the parallel bars and 68.25 on the high bar.
In the all-around, Junghans finished second with 84.3 points courtesy of a 13.70 score in the floor exercise, a 14.30 on the pommel horse, a 13.85 on the rings, a 14.0 on the vault, a 14.5 on the parallel bars and a 13.95 on the highl bar. Tang finished third with 83.6 combined points.
"Over the last two weeks, I really pushed the team. They probably hated my guts the whole time, but that was the only way that I knew that we would be able to come close to Army or beat them," said Fukushima. "We were the underdogs coming into this meet and to overcome that we needed to change something up and push harder. I'm glad we did that and even happier that we got the win."
For the fourth straight week, Navy improved its team score, as they had a previous season-high of 410.15 at the All-Academy Championships last weekend.
The Mids will be back in head-to-head action next Sunday, Feb. 16 when they host William & Mary. The event at Macdonough Hall is slated to begin at 3 p.m.