Navy Gymnastics Set for 2018 Season
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The 2018 season will get kicked off for the Navy gymnastics program this Friday evening with action at the annual West Point Open. The two-day event at Army’s Christl Arena will be the first of nine regular season meets for Navy. Following postseason championship competitions for the USAG and ECAC, the Mids will aim to qualify for its third straight NCAA Championship berth in April.
“I see 22 guys that are ready to get the season going,” remarked head coach Kip Simons. “We’ve been at this since day one of classes and at some point you have got to get out there and go. They’re ready. It’s been a long preseason, a great preseason and the buy-in has been phenomenal. There’s an interesting dynamic to the team with 16 of 22 guys being plebes or youngsters so they’re very green so to speak, but the only way to get seasoned is to go out there, raise your hand and represent Navy Gymnastics!”
While adding eight freshmen newcomers to the program, the 2018 team will lean heavily on returning veterans to help with the learning curve of collegiate gymnastics. Of those 14 returners, Navy’s team this season consists of three seniors, three juniors and eight sophomores.
Prior to the start of the preseason, senior Noah Beeman was selected by his teammates to serve as the captain. An all-around competitor, who appeared in all 13 of Navy’s matches and finished on the podium of the all-around events of both the USAG and ECAC Championships in 2017, Beeman will be assisted in his leadership by fellow seniors Vadim Ivanov and Andy Jones. In 2017, Ivanov stepped into the Mids’ starting lineup as a regular on the parallel bars and closed his junior campaign with strong performances in both postseason championship events, including a fifth-place finish at the USAG Championships. After breaking through with a promising sophomore season in 2016, Jones’ junior effort was cut short due to injury after just three meets. Jones has the potential to post scores for Navy in floor, vault and high bar events.
The Mids’ junior class will be led in 2018 by a returning Christian Correale. Sidelined for the majority of his sophomore season after suffering an injury, Correale will look to get back to putting together high quality results on the rings and parallel bars. As a freshman in 2016, Correale qualified for and competed in the event finals of both apparatuses at the ECAC Championship. Mark Pickar and Mitchell Fornek make up the rest of Navy’s junior class. After two years of working alongside the team as a student manager, Pickar looks to make his collegiate debut in 2018, while Fornek was injured in the preseason and is slated to miss his junior season.
“Our juniors and seniors are the type of guys that are going to go out and get the job done,” remarked Simons. “We don’t have a ton of upperclassmen, as we have just six and one is out with an injury. Out of those two classes, we’re looking at eight or nine routines out of 36, but those are the type of routines that when they raise their hand you can pretty much pencil in a hit. They’re going to do whatever it takes to get the job done and hit those routines. They understand what it means to compete as a team and do it for their brothers standing alongside of them.”
Navy’s eight-man sophomore class will be counted on heavily to continue their growth in collegiate action. Thrown into the proverbial fire as freshmen in 2017, the Mids received strong efforts meet-in and meet-out from numerous first-year gymnasts, in fact, six of the eight Mids qualified for event finals and/or earned top-six results in the two postseason championships. The duo of Lucas Beltran and Tanner West lead the talented group of sophomores as Beltran won the 2017 ECAC Championship in the vault and qualified for the NCAA Championship meet in both the floor exercise and vault, while West won the 2017 ECAC Championship on the parallel bars and finished second on the rings.
Frank Bradley, Trevor North, Ryan Orce and Ben Provost round out the group of Mids, who either attained championship hardware or were in event finals last spring. Bradley, a four-event performer, made the event finals at the USAGs on the floor and rings before finishing in sixth place on the vault at the ECACs. North spent the majority of his time in 2017 focusing on the pommel horse and that paid off with a sixth-place result at the USAGs. Orce, a pommel horse and parallel bars specialist, made the event finals of the USAGs on the pommel horse before netting a second-place finish on the same apparatus at the ECAC Championship. After a quiet start to the regular season, Provost picked up his level of performance down the stretch and won the USAG Championship on the high bar.
Will Longwe and Cian McConnell also were contributors for the Mids in 2017. Longwe specialized in the high bar for Navy and competed in nine of the team’s 13 meets. The Massachusetts native registered a season-high 13.5 score in his homecoming meet at Springfield in March. McConnell appeared in one meet for Navy last season and turned in a 13.25-point vault at Air Force.
Continuing to re-build the program’s depth, the coaching staff brought in eight talented freshmen gymnasts, who will look to debut on the collegiate scene this season. This year’s class of plebes come from Massachusetts with Jake Carlson and Taylor Gigandet, Virginia with Travis Keller and Collin DiPietro, California with Ryan McVay, New York with Max Gerber, Ohio with David Toussaint and Pennsylvania with Jason Kushy.
As the team breaks from its preseason workouts, Simons envisions half of that eight-man class competing in the starting lineup in the opening meet this Friday. McVay is set for all-around action, while Toussaint will ply his craft on the floor, pommel horse and parallel bars. Carlson and Keller are slightly more specialized with Carlson readying himself to compete on the pommel horse and rings and Keller on the vault.
The Mids are set to test themselves with an action-packed and difficult regular season slate. During the regular season, the team will compete in meets on every weekend from January 12 through March 4, minus a bye for the invite-only national Winter Cup competition during February 16-18. Three important dual meets highlight Navy’s schedule with the 2018 Star Meet versus Army coming at home on February 3. Three weeks after the Star Meet, Navy travels to the reigning three-time NCAA champion, the University of Oklahoma on February 24. A Senior Day showdown with Michigan on March 17 closes the Mids’ regular season schedule.
A trio of postseason championship meets will culminate the 2018 schedule for Navy with the USAG Collegiate Championship at Air Force on March 30-31, the ECAC Championship at home in Annapolis on April 7 and the NCAA Championship in Chicago on April 20-21.
“Strength of schedule is a big deal this year,” said Simons. “We have really upped our game there. If we want to take our program into a top-10 level you’ve got to see the top programs out there and so we have the University of Michigan at home and we’ll also be going to the number one team in the country, the University of Oklahoma. Of course, the Army Star Meet at home on February 3 is circled. For us that’s going to be the pinnacle of the early season and we have to come away with a victory.”
This weekend’s schedule for the West Point Open will consist of the team and all-around competition on Friday night starting at 7:00 p.m. The following day on Saturday night, the top scoring individuals will compete in the event finals. The first routines on Saturday are set for 7:00 p.m. Navy will be going up against ECAC opposition in Army, Springfield and William & Mary, as well as national power Penn State. Temple University rounds out the group of six teams.
“They’re ready,” remarked Simons. “The buy-in has been there since day one. I think there are some nerves that go along with the start of the season. We had an intrasquad recently and we saw some of that and some freshmen nerves. We’ll pay the price and there will be some bumps in the road that we’ll work through, but with Army right around the corner on February 3 we have to get those things worked out. We’ll play with the lineup throughout the month of January to make sure we have the right lineup set for that Star Meet. Depth is going to be a huge positive for us this year. With 22 guys this year versus 16 or 18 as we have had in the past, we have a variety of talent and skilled gymnasts available, we just have to make sure that we have the right 15 out there every weekend.”