The P&G Championships is the country's premiere gymnastics meet this year where top performers will book their tickets to the World Championships held Oct. 3-12 in Nanning China.
Six returning OU gymnasts in Dylan Akers, Danny Berardini, Allan Bower, Kanji Oyama, Colin Van Wicklen and Joshua Yee are set to join former Sooner greats Jake Dalton and Steven Legendre in the senior competition. Incoming freshman and reigning junior champion Hunter Justus will also participate at the junior level.
Head coach Mark Williams believes that a number of the former and current OU gymnasts have a chance to shine at this weekend’s championships.
“I think we have a chance of putting some guys from the OU team on the senior national team,” said Williams. “Hunter Justus has a good chance of making the junior national team again. Hopefully Steve [Legendre] and Jake [Dalton] will be in a position to make the world championship team.
“Having the opportunity to compete internationally and represent your country is part of the goals these guys come in with and this is part of the process of these guys having the chance to step into the international arena and see how you do against the rest of the world.”
Dalton, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team that competed in London, has his goal set on qualifying for the U.S. World Championship team, which will compete later this fall in China.
“The top priority is to get on the world team,” said Dalton. “That will be the top six guys, the top two in the all-around and then they select the next four, so that will be the ultimate goal. I would like to be in the top two for the all-around and automatically get on the world team.”
The former OU great also acknowledged how exciting it is to see the number of guys who are on the 2015 Oklahoma roster competing on the national stage.
I think it’s great that we have so many guys going to the championships, especially on the college team,” said Dalton. “It shows that the hard work in the gym that the OU guys have been doing is paying off. It just shows that once again we have a strong program and these guys went to the qualifiers, represented and made it to USAs and now they are just going to have fun at this competition.”
One of the OU gymnasts Dalton refers to is Allan Bower, who stood out at the U.S. qualifiers in July by posting a score of 86.35 in the all-around and 65 points based on the National Points Ranking System for a fourth place finish in the all-around competition. The sophomore-to-be is proud of how many OU gymnasts will be competing in Pittsburgh this weekend.
“It’s awesome,” said Bower. “OU has the most people going to the championships from any college so I mean that looks really good for us and is preparing us for this next year.”
The Chandler, Ariz. Native believes the P&G Championships will serve as a great way for the Sooners to gear up and prepare for the 2015 season.
“It’s always good to get a bunch of competitions under our belt because it gives us confidence,” said Bower. “I’m really looking forward to this next year. I think we have a really good chance of winning the NCAAs, especially because it is at home.”
As a coach, Williams is also glad to have so many of the program’s athletes competing at the national competition and thinks it will help the team in the upcoming year.
“We are going to have the most athletes represented from any program at the championships,” said Williams. “Our college team will have these guys be the leaders toward our 2015 season.
“I think it’s been good for them to have this training during the summer and kind of give them a leg up on the competition in preparation for what I think is one of the better teams that we have had in a while that we will put out on the floor in January and hopefully have a very good finish in April.”
The championships will be used to select the U.S. National Team, with 15 members to be selected. The top two finishers in the all-around competition will receive an automatic berth for the U.S. squad to compete at the World Championships in October and the remaining four members will be selected by the U.S. Gymnastics selection committee.
/// SoonerSports PR