Huskers Make History, Advance to Finals at NCAAs
West Point, N.Y. --- The No. 7 Nebraska men's gymnastics team made history Friday afternoon, advancing to the team finals at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1999. The Huskers scored 413.050 to finish third in their session behind Stanford (420.450) and Ohio State (414.650). NU came ahead of Penn State (410.500), Michigan (406.950) and Air Force (403.800).
"This is unbelievable. It's been just so many years of downers and hard work and downers and being so close, like last year," Head Coach Chuck Chmelka said. "Now doing it (advancing to finals) - it's fantastic."
Nebraska got off to a strong start on vault - one of it's best events this season. The trend continued on Friday as the team scored 71.10. Connor Adamsick got the team started with 13.95. Chris Stephenson followed with 13.85. Daniel Leal posted 14.10. Kyle King tied his season-high score of 14.85 after sticking his landing. All-American Anton Stephenson anchored the event and notched 14.35. Nebraska led the qualifying session after one rotation.
On parallel bars, the Huskers had one of their best performances of the season. Led by three scores of 14.0 or more, NU scored 69.30 - its third-highest team score of the season on the event. Anton Stephenson led the way with a season-best score of 14.50, while Leal added 14.30. All-American Austin Epperson stuck his landing and posted 14.35. Chris Stephenson earned 13.40, while Evan Hymanson pitched in 12.75. The Huskers remained in first place after the second rotation.
The Big Red moved to high bar where Jake Bonnay kicked things off with a solid score of 13.00. Jordan King and Antonio Castro had back-to-back sticks for the Huskers, earning 13.30 and 13.25, respectively. Anton Stephenson scored 13.25, while Leal added 12.50. Chris Stephenson, competing in the all-around earned 13.75. As a team, NU earned 65.30 on the event and was in third place with 205.700, trailing Stanford (210.300) and Ohio State (205.750).
On floor, Nebraska had an impressive performance, scoring 71.15. Chris and Anton Stephenson led the way with 14.70 and 14.50, respectively. Kyle King notched 14.15, while Epperson earned 14.05 and Adamsick scored 13.75. Nebraska slid up to second place after the fourth rotation, trailing only Stanford.
Travis Gollott began a vital rotation for the Huskers, as they needed to keep the momentum going heading into the last two events. The junior earned a score of 13.65 to help the Huskers get started on pommel horse. Kyle King tied his season-best score of 13.75. Jordan King added 13.70, while Anton Stephenson scored 13.75. Castro, the anchor on the event, recorded a huge score of 14.25. All-around competitor Chris Stephenson notched 13.10. The team scored 69.10 - its third highest score of the season on the apparatus.
With one rotation left, Nebraska remained in second place, behind Stanford.
The pressure was on Nebraska on still rings - the final rotation. Stanford had pulled away as the top team, but Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska were all fighting for second and third place.
Sanjaya Roy began with an impressive routine that earned him 13.10. Jordan King followed with 13.45, while Chris Stephenson pitched in 13.20. Heath Anderson performed a stellar routine that scored 13.90. Epperson was the final competitor for NU. The All-American came through for the team with a score of 13.45, which was enough to secure third place for Nebraska.
"Being last rings, I knew I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but I just relied on my five years of college experience and it really pulled through," Epperson said. "I've been waiting five years for this moment to happen and for it to finally come along, it's just so worthwhile."
Anton and Chris Stephenson scored 82.70 and 82.00 in the all-around competition, respectively.
Nebraska competes tomorrow at the team finals, along with Stanford and Ohio State from the first session. In the second session, Oklahoma, Illinois and Minnesota advanced over Iowa, California and Navy.
Tomorrow's finals begin at 5 p.m. (CT). For stats, live streams and more information regarding the NCAA Championships, visit http://admin.goarmywestpoint.com/sports/2017/4/12/2017-ncaa-mens-gymnastics-championship-central.aspx.