Gymnasts make history in Las Vegas

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Online Poster

By Mike Czapar

What happens in Las Vegas does not always stay in Las Vegas. Illinois junior gymnasts Adam Pummer and Justin Spring hit the jackpot, both taking home national championships in individual events at the USA Gymnastics 2005 Winter Cup Friday and Saturday.

Pummer’s score of 8.950 was good enough for the gold medal on the floor routine, and Spring’s 9.250 earned him not only a gold on the high bar, but also a spot on the U.S. National team.

The pair made Illinois history, marking the first time two gymnasts have taken home individual national titles.

In addition to two gold medals, the Illini also placed in other events as Pummer took fourth on the parallel bars, and freshman Wes Haagensen took sixth in the all-around and third on the pommel horse.

“As a team, we had one of the best representations at the Winter Cup,” said Illinois head coach Yoshi Hayasaki. “Our team really displayed a high level of gymnastics this weekend, including Wes (Haagensen), whose finish in the all-around is remarkable for a freshman. I am very proud of our team and our two national champions, who represented the University of Illinois in such a high fashion.”

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    Nine members of the Illini squad, including intern coach and alum Bob Rogers, competed in the Winter Cup. The meet is by invitation only and features top athletes from around the country, including NCAA champions, past Olympians and national team members.

    Pummer said that despite being in a field of established competitors, the Illini were well represented.

    “We had more people in event finals than a lot of the other teams, and I think that’s a huge confidence builder for us,” Pummer said. “We got a lot of compliments, and I think we impressed a lot of people. It really makes you feel good that not only can you compete with great competitors, but you also have to keep up with our schoolwork in the meantime. I think we showed that college athletes can do both – go to school and still compete at a really high level.”

    Spring said the Illini were excited to finally hit really strong routines at the meet that featured so many established gymnasts.

    “We’ve been to winter cups and national meets before, and I was really glad we finally put it out there that Illinois is really a dominant competitor,” Spring said. “It was really amazing to finally get some respect for Illinois gymnasts.”

    Hayasaki said the meet was a huge step for Illinois gymnastics, and sees great things in the future for the Illini and its individuals.

    “This certainly sets the standard for Illini gymnastics for the rest of the season and for seasons to come,” Hayasaki said. “We have such a young team and I believe we can only get better.”