Navy leads wire to wire to clinch USAG collegiate championship

ANNAPOLIS, Md. –The Navy gymnastics team defended their USAG Collegiate Championship title on Friday with a season-high score of 400.45 points at Halsey Fieldhouse Gymnastics Facility. Facing a field of No. 11 Air Force, No. 12 Springfield and No. 13 William & Mary, the eighth-ranked Mids started strong on the pommel horse and never looked back as they beat their opponents in five of six events to lead wire to wire.

The final scorecard showed the Navy leading with 400.45 points, 6.40 ahead of second-place Air Force, which scored 394.05 points. William & Mary finished in third place with 381.05 points, while Springfield College finished fourth with 375.95 points.

This USAG collegiate championship title is the second consecutive for the Navy and the fourth for the program in the competition’s history dating back to 1983. The competition is open to Division I, II or III, four-year institutions with gymnastics as a varsity sport providing two or fewer full scholarships, as well as military academies. Additionally, GymACT club division gymnasts were in action Friday representing GymACT East and GymACT West. The top eight scorers on each apparatus, with a maximum of two gymnasts per team or rotation group of GymACT competitors, qualified for Saturday’s individual finals.

The senior trio of Dan Clark (Avon, Mass.) Alexander Brown (Lafayette, Louisiana) and Dhiren Lutchman (Beltsville, Md.) led the Mids on Friday as all three finished in first place; Clark on pommel horse, Brown on rings and Lutchman on parallel bars. Isaiah Drake (Fr., Los Angeles, California) and Josh Williams (Sr., Cypress, Texas) was also a big part of Navy’s success as Drake placed second in the floor exercise, while Williams did the same on the rings. Competing in the all-around, Drake came in second place with just 0.30 points.

As a team, Navy scored 68.35 on floor exercise, 64.9 on pommel horse, 66.85 on rings, 71.15 on vault, 67.25 on parallel bars and 61.95 on horizontal bar.

The Mids’ day began on pommel horse and the team roster was ready to go as the Navy gymnasts took three of the top five positions among a field of 31. Clark stood out on Friday by posting a 13.75 that was first by 0.15 points over Garrett Braunton of the Air Force. Ronan McQuillan (So., Katy, Texas) just behind Braunton as he posted a 13.5 score. Drake rounded out the top five by scoring 13.35 points for his routine.

Navy improved on her fast start with three gymnasts in the top four on her next apparatus, the rings. Brown and fellow senior Williams scored twice on the rings with scores of 13.8 and 13.7 respectively. Drake bolstered the Mids’ effort with 13.4 points, which ranked him fourth overall. Lutchman made four Navy competitors in the top 10 as he tied for tenth place with Oliver Zavel of the Air Force with a score of 13.0.

Solid from top to bottom, the Mids’ arching range achieved five scores between 14.4 and 13.95. Nehemiah Baker (Sr., Oak Ridge, NC) was the top contender in the standings as he tied for fifth with Springfield’s Andrae Butler and Air Force’s Erich Upton with a 14.4 effort. Williams and Drake were 0.1 points behind in a tie for eighth place thanks to scores of 14.3. Connor Van Loo (Jr., Freeland, Michigan) placed 13th with a 14.2, while Syam Burada Gunta (So., Westborough, Mass.) tied for 19th with a 13.95 to give Navy a grand total of 71.15 points on vault, its second best score of the season.

The Mids’ streak of high performances continued on parallel bars as all five members of its roster finished in the top nine. Lutchman was class of the pack as he knocked out all of his opponents by 0.45 points with a final score of 14.15. Caleb Hickey (So., Carthage, NC) was the next Navy gymnast in the standings as he placed fourth with a 13.6. Giovanni Gambatese (Jr., Pewaukee, Wisc.) was third in the top five as he tied Springfield’s Dominic Ramalho for fifth at 13.4. Freshman duo of Drake and Vishal Mandava (Cypress, Texas) were separated by 0.1 points and placed eighth and ninth respectively with scores of 13.3 and 13.2. The team’s combined score of 67.25 was more than two points above its high from the previous season.

Although not leading the individual standings, Navy performed well on high bar and placed four gymnasts between fifth and tenth place. Drake was the top scorer in the apparatus with 12.7 points, which was good for fifth place overall. The Wisconsin pair of Gambatese and Buske were next for the Mids in sixth and eighth places. Gamabatese clocked a routine 12.65, while Buske was within a tenth of a point with a 12.55. Buradagunta finished tied at three for tenth place at 12:45 p.m.

Navy sealed its victory with a quartet of top-eight results on floor exercise. All four classes were represented in this top performance as Drake and Buradagunta fielded the first and second year classes and finished 0.05 points apart with scores of 14.1 and 14.05. The subclasses placed second and third respectively. The Mids’ top class came next as Van Loo posted the fifth-best score on Friday at 13.8 ahead of Williams, who placed eighth at 13.6.

In the all-around, Drake recorded scores of 14.1 points on floor exercise, 13.35 on pommel horse, 13.4 on rings, 14.3 on vault, 13.3 on parallel bars and 12 .7 at high bar. He placed in the top 10 in all six individual standings in each event. He was edged out by the Air Force’s Garrett Braunton for the all-around crown by 0.30 points, 81.45 to 81.15.

Navy is expected to have two gymnasts in the six apparatus finals on Saturday. The march for the event finals is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. at Halsey Fieldhouse.

Event Finalists
FX – Drake, Buradagunta
PH–Clark, McQuillan
R-Brown, Williams
VT–Baker, Williams
PB – Lutchman, Hickey
HB – Drake, gambatais

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