Area athletes compete in Junior Olympic event
Fifteen gymnasts representing five central Ohio clubs qualified for the USA Gymnastics Men's Junior Olympic National Championships.
Hoping to boost the reputations of their respective clubs and catch the attention of college coaches, they competed May 2-5 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland against hundreds of other upper-level competitors ages 11-18.
"It was really eye-opening to see how skilled some of these guys are," said Dennis Minton of Gahanna, a level 10 competitor from DeRon McIntyre Elite Gymnastics in Columbus. "I wasn't really sure how well I would stack up against them."
Minton competed along with six of his teammates: Chris Munneke (level 10, Delaware), Blake Martin (level 10, Upper Arlington), Kirk Williams (level 10, Upper Arlington), Dominic Sciulli, (level 9, Powell), Alexander Kasubinski (level 9, Gahanna) and Jonathan Suarez (level 8, Columbus).
Minton finished second among 16-year-olds on the rings, with his score of 28.15 only exceeded by a 28.6 from Alex Magasm of North Valley Gymnastics in Phoenix. In the all-around, Munneke finished 14th among 16-year-olds with an overall score of 154.3, with his best score in an individual event coming on the parallel bars (13.2).
Among 15-year-olds, Martin was 15th in the all-around (153.0) with his best score a 13.65 on the pommel horse.
Sciulli placed 23rd among 14-year-olds (145.15) with his highest score of 13.25 coming on floor exercise, and Kasubinski tied for 18th on the parallel bars (25.95).
Hocking Valley Gymnastics (Lancaster), Integrity Gymnastics (Plain City), Cyclone Gymnastics (Blacklick) and Midwest Gymnastics (Dublin) sent a combined five level 10 competitors and three level 9 competitors to the meet.
Leo Genders (level 10, Lancaster), Andrew Rickly (level 10, Lewis Center), Michael Burns (level 10, Baltimore), Trevor North (level 9, Johnstown) and Matthew Martin (level 9, Pickerington) competed for Hocking Valley.
In the seniors group, Rickly finished 11th after three sessions with an overall score of 82.45, which included taking third on the rings (14.9).
North finished 32nd among Junior Elite 13- and 14-year-olds with an overall score of 126.05, which included a high of 9.05 on pommel horse.
Martin finished 127th among level 9 13- and 14-year-olds with a combined score of 68.25. His highest score was a 12.55 on floor.
From Integrity Gymnastics, level 10 competitor Joseph Smith of Columbus placed 22nd in pommel horse (23.95) and 25th (24.8) in rings among 15-year-olds.
Cyclone Gymnastics' Demond Mosley, a level 10 competitor from Columbus, competed on floor, rings and pommel horse. His floor score of 13.25 tied him for 61st among 17- to 18-year-olds.
Midwest Gymnastics' Connor Welch, a level 9 competitor from Dublin, made the trip to Oregon but was unable to compete.
Martin, a senior at Columbus Academy, made his third appearance in the national meet.
"It all comes down to this one week," he said. "(After a year of training) you get to let loose and have fun."
Munneke, a senior at Olentangy, admitted he still gets nervous while competing even though he has been a gymnast for nine years.
"A lot of it is telling yourself not to be nervous, but being nervous anyway," he said.
Gymnasts like Martin, Minton and Munneke, who work with coach DeRon McIntyre, often have three-hour training sessions six days per week.
Despite fatigue and injuries -- Minton, a Gahanna senior, underwent thumb surgery last year -- McIntyre applauded the dedication of his athletes.
"It's all in their work ethic," he said. "All seven boys (who competed at nationals) have (dedicated) major time to the sport of gymnastics and it paid off."
McIntyre's workout regimen is not solely intended to improve the physical condition of his athletes, but also to prepare them for their future at the collegiate level and beyond.
"I don't just like to create gymnasts, I like to (instill) character and responsibility," he said.
With constant training, Minton said he and his teammates rely on one another.
"It was nice to have my friends and teammates to hang out with in between competition days," he said.
Martin, Minton and Munneke all hope to compete on the collegiate level, and they'll be working closely with the Ohio State gymnastics program as McIntyre Elite Gymnastics comes on board next year to form a junior-level club team.
Martin is excited to see what his future holds in the sport.
"It's just so much fun," he said. "It's that simple."