Illini’s best head to Vegas

By Erin Foley

Eighty of the nation’s top male gymnasts will be on hand tomorrow through Thursday at the 2006 Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas, and four members of the Illinois gymnastics team will be among them.

Seniors Adam Pummer and Ted Brown, sophomore Tyler Yamauchi and freshman Chris Lung will compete for spots on the 14-man 2006 Senior National Team. Senior Justin Spring, the horizontal bar champion at the 2005 Visa Championships, and a current member of the Senior National team qualified for the two-day competition but due to a strained knee cap he suffered on vault at the meet last Saturday in Ohio State, he will be forced to sit out.

Brown, the defending Big Ten champion on pommel horse, and Yamauchi, will compete in an all-around qualification session today at 1 p.m., while Pummer and Lung will take part in the second session at 7 p.m. The top six in the all-around finals, which are to be held Saturday at 6:30 p.m., will qualify for the National team, along with six additional gymnasts chosen based on a points system and two chosen by the Men’s Program Committee. The 2006 Visa Championships will take place in St. Paul, Minn., on Aug. 16-19.

After a disappointing 213.250-206.900 loss to No. 1 Ohio State last weekend, Pummer said he wants people to look past Illinois’ defeat and instead focus on its potential.

“I think right now we’re just trying to go out there and put on a good show and represent our school and represent our team as much as we can, to show other schools that we’re still here,” said Pummer, who won a gold medal on floor exercise with a score of 8.950 at last year’s Winter Cup. “We’re not just getting bad scores; we’re just not competing well right now. But we have the talent and what it takes and I think people know that. I just want to go out to Vegas and re-enforce it.”

While the Illini have continued to struggle with consistency, Pummer was one of the bright spots over the weekend, as he took two event titles with season-highs on floor exercise and vault with scores of 9.350 and 9.250 respectively at the meet in Ohio State. Pummer, one of the team’s co-captains, had four top-three finishes for the No. 3 Illini on floor exercise, vault, parallel bars and high bar.

“I just go out there and compete and know how I can do it, I don’t let things get in my way,” Pummer said. “I’m being confident in knowing I can go out and hit a routine, but other people are like I might go and miss this one, I think that’s the difference.”

New Scoring System

The 80 gymnasts from 22 states competing at the 2006 Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas will, for the first time, use the new scoring system adopted by the International Gymnastics Federation last year. No longer will a gymnast be limited to maximum score of 10.0, since routines are credited for content and execution.