Sandy wins all-around in NCAA Championships qualifier

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Minneapolis — The Penn State men's gymnastics team posted a score of 352.150 to place fourth in the first qualifying session of the 2009 National Collegiate Championships on Thursday (April 16) afternoon in the Sports Pavilion on the host campus of the University of Minnesota. With the top three teams qualifying from the session, Penn State will not advance to vie for the national championship for the first time since 2002.

While it will not move on as team, there will be a strong Penn State presence at Friday night's competition. With the top three all-arounders and event finishers not on a team advancing to the team finals earning the right to continue on, seven Nittany Lions will compete for either the all-around title or a spot in the individual event finals.

Newly-crowned Nissen-Emery Award winner Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) refused to be hindered by a toe injury suffered two weekends ago at the Big Ten Championships, gutting out a win in the all-around with a score of 90.500 thereby earning the opportunity to defend his 2008 NCAA title during tomorrow night's team finals. The seven-time All-American placed third in the parallel bars (14.800), fourth in the pommel horse (15.000) and vault (15.850), sixth in the high bar (14.800), ninth (tie) in the floor exercise (15.050), and 10th in the still rings (15.000).

Junior Noam Shaham (Kfar Saba, Israel) will also advance to compete for the all-around title after a sixth place finish (84.800) in Thursday's qualifier. His best showing came in the vault, as he tied for eighth with a score of 15.700.

Five other Nittany Lions will also compete on Friday night, led by junior Allen Harris (Lancaster, Pa.), who will perform in three events (floor exercise, vault, and parallel bars). Joining Harris will be junior Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) (floor exercise, high bar), senior Josh Borromeo (Littlestown, Pa.) (still rings), junior Matt Greenfield (Villanova, Pa.) (high bar), and sophomore Warren Yang (Nepean, Ont.) (high bar).

The Nittany Lions gave a valiant effort in today's national qualifier, scoring above their season average in five of six events, including finishing just .05 shy of notching a season best score in the still rings.

"The guys fought very hard today," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We had it a little rough on pommel horse but that's the way it's been all year. We put in a good, solid performance but the other teams were just better."

"I am proud of our effort. I am really proud of guys like Matt Greenfield, who did some things he has never done before. Allen (Harris) did a great job. Josh Borromeo gave a great effort on rings. And then Casey, who hasn't basically done anything two weeks, came in and won the all-around. I am pleased that he will get the opportunity to defend his title. I am happy for the guys moving on and will hopefully have a good showing tomorrow."

Stanford finished first in the qualifier with a score of 361.100 followed by co-Big Ten champion Michigan (358.300) and Cal (357.550). Nebraska placed fifth (346.800) while Navy took sixth (327.000).

Penn State got off to a bit of a slow start in the first rotation, scoring a 57.450 in the high bar; a total just below its season average of 57.650. Casey Sandy led the team with a score of 14.800, followed by sophomore Warren Yang (14.350) and Matt Greenfield (14.200).

The Nittany Lions bounced back with a solid performance in the floor exercise, recording a team score of 60.200, their third highest total of the season. Junior Allen Harris, who owns the team's highest score in the event this season (15.450), came through with a 15.300. Nick Virbitsky (15.100) and Casey Sandy (15.050) also contributed key efforts.

After a bye, Penn State rotated to pommel horse, an event in which a lack of consistency has plagued the team all season. That trend continued, as only a score of 15.000 from Casey Sandy saved the team from a scoring below its season average.

The Lions strung together excellent efforts in the next two rotations. In the still rings, Josh Borromeo posted the team's top score, a 15.150, to tie for fifth place. In addition, Casey Sandy (15.000) and Noam Shaham (14.900) each established season highs. In the vault, Sandy (15.850) and Shaham (15.700) led Penn State.

In the final rotation, Penn State could not make up enough ground to crack the top three with its parallel bars performance, scoring a 56.850. Sandy (14.800) and Shaham (14.200) again posted the team's top scores.

The 2009 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships will continue on Fri., April 17 at 8 p.m. ET with the team and all-around finals. Performers that place in the top 10 in each event during the team finals competition advance to the individual event finals, set for Sat., April 19 at 8 p.m. ET.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010