Two-time all-American Nyika White received one of the top scores at the West Point Open last Saturday on rings, but the honor didn’t come without controversy. White placed first among collegiate competitors, but did not finish first overall. Penn State alumnus Kevin Tan received the first place title.
“I, as well as everyone else, felt it shouldn’t have happened,” White said. “I had a better routine. Kevin has been a thorn in my side for a long time. I can’t wait to see him at the Winter Cup Challenge.”
Last Saturday, the Owls placed fifth out of 12 teams.
“I was kind of disappointed in our performance, but it’s not a big surprise,” sophomore Sean Bryan said. “We knew we could beat the teams that we did beat, but we were aiming to beat at least a couple of the teams that beat us. That just shows that we have a lot to improve upon.”
White will have a chance to compete against Tan again today. He and Bryan will head to Las Vegas to compete in the Winter Cup Challenge, an individual invitation-only competition.
“It’s different since it’s not an NCAA competition,” White said. “The competitors are Olympians and some of the most elite gymnasts in the country.”
This is White’s second trip to the Challenge. At last year’s competition, White was still recovering from an elbow injury. This time White, who was selected to compete on rings, said he expects to perform much better.
Bryan will be an all-around competitor in his first appearance at the Challenge.
“I really wasn’t expecting to be selected, so when I first found out that I was, it was a great feeling,” Bryan said.
“There will be about 80 all-around gymnasts and 20 or so specialists,” he added. “I think I’ll do pretty well. No one has any high expectations of me, so that makes things easier.”
Bryan said he is looking forward to this competition.
“First of all, getting to compete against the best of the best is an amazing experience,” he said. “Also, the mental focus that is required at such a big meet will help ease my mind at smaller meets. Not that I get nervous, it’s just an immense ‘mental toughness’ exercise that I believe will benefit me a great deal.”
Six gymnasts will be named to the 2005 U.S. National Team based on performances in both Friday’s and Saturday’s events. The meet will be broadcast on the USA Gymnastics’ Web site, heightening the meet’s importance.
After the Winter Cup Challenge, the Owls will compete at MIT on Feb. 19th. The team’s next home match is against the Illinois and Japan Collegiate All-Stars on Feb. 26th at McGonigle Hall.
Melissa Dipento can be reached at email@example.com.