William and Mary Head Coach Cliff Gauthier simply hoped his team would build this weekend on its recent strong performance in a narrow loss to Temple last Sunday. The College did a little more than that.
The Tribe finished second at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championship in Colorado Springs, Colo. Saturday, earning nine individual All-American honors and an individual USAG National all-around title at the meet.
With a standout performance now behind them, Gauthier hopes the College can ride can ride that momentum into this weekend’s ECAC Championship at Kaplan Arena, where his team will compete for an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship.
“The guys just rocked the house in the [USAG] finals; we were in good shape and prepared for it,” Gauthier said. “I was psyched by that meet because it put us in real good position for the ECAC Championship, meaning that we are ready to go and that we can put out our best performance. And who knows, we might steal an automatic bid to the [NCAA] Championship.”
Senior Derek Gygax helped the Tribe maintain its 16-year streak of top-three finishes at the USAGs, as Gygax earned his second-straight USAG all-around title with a total score of 85.450. In addition to his all-around championship, Gygax won the pommel horse competition, finished second in the floor exercise and third on both the rings and the parallel bars.
The performance qualified him as a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award, given annually to the nation’s top gymnast.
“He just had a super meet,” Gauthier said. “He is now an All-American on five of the six events, which is amazing.”
The College’s young talent also shone as sophomore Stephen Deutsch earned his first championship on the rings with a score of 14.15.
“It was spectacular because he was a complete dark horse on that event,” Gauthier said. “He went in the finals and just totally nailed everything, and the other higher ranked guys just didn’t hit. So he just waltzed right in and took the gold medal.”
In addition to spectacular performances by both Gygax and Deutsch, several other Tribe athletes achieved All-American status in Saturday’s individual finals. Junior Andy Hunter earned a third-place finish on the floor exercise, while freshman Vince Smurro claimed his first career All-American honor with a fourth-place finish on the high bar.
“It was a good meet for everybody,” Gygax said. “It seemed like we finally came together, everyone was excited and everyone was really into the meet. We started on the high bar, which isn’t usually our strongest, but we got through it and just kept on building. All in all, our team really came together like it hadn’t yet. It was really good to see, especially with the ECAC Championship coming up.”
The Tribe will now attempt to continue to qualify for the NCAA Championship, a feat that cannot be accomplished without a strong run in this weekend’s ECAC Championship.
“I feel good about it; the team is finally pulling it together and everybody is really excited,” Gygax said. “It should be a great time; there are going to be a lot of great teams. I’m really excited and its going to be a lot of fun, and I’m glad that its going to be on our home turf too.”