Navy gymnasts dominate podium at USAG finals

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A day after winning the team title at the 2022 USAG Collegiate Championship, the Navy gymnastics team responded with another outstanding performance in Saturday’s event finals. With 10 individual gymnasts competing on the six apparatus at the Halsey Field House Gymnastics Facility, the Mids achieved nine medal performances, including five outright victories.

Syam Burada Gunta (So., Westborough, Mass.), Dan Clark (Sr., Avon, Mass.), Josh Williams (Sr., Cypress, Texas), Dhiren Lutchman (Sr., Beltsville, Md.) and Giovanni Gambatese (Jr., Pewaukee, Wisc.) all took first place on Saturday for their individual efforts.

Buradagunta was the first gold medalist of the day as he performed a sharp routine on the floor exercise which earned him 13.65 points. That total beat the Air Force’s Jacob Sampier by 0.175 points. Isaiah Drake (Fr., Los Angeles, Calif.) was also a finalist in the floor exercise but missed the podium scoring 12.625 points to place seventh overall.

In the next two events, pommel horse and rings, the Mids swept the top two spots. First, the duo of Clark and Ronan McQuillan (So., Katy, Texas) were the pommel horse finals class with scores of 13.675 and 13.475, respectively. Finishing second behind Clark, McQuillan was 0.45 points ahead of his next closest competitor, Clayton Cunningham of Arizona Gymnastics Club.

On the next apparatus, the senior duo of Williams and Alexander Brown (Lafayette, La.) finished one-two. A day after Brown beat Williams, 13.8–13.7 in the team competition, Williams clinched gold with a score of 13.95. Brown recorded a silver of 13.3.

Lutchman won the Navy’s fourth gold in five rotations as he edged the Air Force’s Oliver Zavel 13.95 to 13.925 on the parallel bars. Caleb Hickey (So., Carthage, NC) also suited up for the Mids in the parallel bars portion of the event on Saturday and placed seventh overall with a score of 11.9.

The final gold medal was won by Gambatese on high bar with a commanding margin of victory of 0.78 points. The junior smoothly recorded a score of 13.6 for his routine, while second-placed Zavel posted a 12.82. Drake fought his way to the podium and finished tied at three for sixth place alongside Sam Lee of William & Mary and Kyle Lukaesko of Springfield, who all scored 11.175 points.

The last Navy medalist on Saturday was Nehemiah Baker (Sr., Oak Ridge, NC) on the vault. Seeded fifth heading into the event final, Baker found herself tied with Andrae Butler of Springfield for fourth with a score of 14.125. Drake nearly made two Mids on the podium for the jump when he was just 0.025 points behind Washington’s Andrew Layman, who clinched sixth and final spot at 14.075.

“We finally hit our stride this weekend as we graced our senior class in their last home competition,” the head coach said. Kip Simons. “As we continue through the playoffs, this team is positioned to peak at exactly the right time. The commitment these guys have made is paying off as we prepare for the ECAC Championship next weekend. Winning five of six events is proof that the plan is working.

“We remain humble as we return to work on Monday to end the season with strong showings at the ECACs and NCAAs.”

Navy will be back in action on Saturday April 2 at the CEAC Championship. The conference event is scheduled for a first touchdown at 2 p.m. at William & Mary’s Kaplan Arena.

Joseph K. Bennett