A pair of Gophers men’s gymnasts has a unique opportunity this weekend: a chance to make the U.S. national team.
That, and they get to go to Vegas.
Senior DJ Repp and freshman Ellis Mannon will compete Thursday in the 2012 Winter Cup in Las Vegas for two of the eight open spots on the U.S. national men’s gymnastics team.
“Minnesota has a long tradition of guys being on the national team,” head coach Mike Burns said. “It is what we strive for and what we hope for.
“We have bookends: a senior and a freshman. It will be fun to see how they interact as a two-person team,” Burns added.
If Repp or Mannon were to make the national team, they would compete through the 2012 Visa Championships on June 7-10. The standings at the Visa Championships would then determine which gymnasts progress to the Olympic trials and, ultimately, the Olympic team.
Repp qualified for this Cup during his NCAA all-around performance last year. The experienced competitor said that the possibility of being a national team member is exciting.
“I feel like it is always in the back of your mind. You never know what the judges are going to do. If I happen to make the national team, that’s a bonus,” Repp said.
“I’ve been to Visa [Championships] three times. This will be my third time at the Winter Cup so I have the experience. I just want to do my best for my last year and see where the cards fall.”
This will be Mannon’s second time at the Winter Cup. The reigning junior division pommel horse Visa Champion said the apparatus will give him an advantage in qualifying for the national team.
“Pommel horse is an event where the U.S. isn’t historically strong. A good, solid score will get you a long way in this kind of meet,” Mannon said. “I was fifth in the senior division [of the Visa Championships] if you group all of the scores together. That earns you National Team Points.”
Repp and Mannon must score well enough to advance to Saturday’s final round. They’ll likely need to be near-perfect to survive the weekend’s competition.
If they advance to Sunday, however, it will be their job to accumulate enough points on the National Team Points System or impress the national team committee to make the final roster.
Their fellow 91 competitors range from collegiate peers to Olympians like Paul Hamm and Jonathan Horton, Repp and Mannon said they are glad to be performing in the same rotation.
“We can at least keep somewhat of a team atmosphere going, rather than having him across the gym. It is really hard to cheer when in different rotations,” Repp said.
Added Mannon: “It is really hard to compete individually, so it definitely helps to have someone to compete with.”
As far as the dynamic between the two teammates, the age difference plays a traditional role.
“We are pretty close friends. We get along really well. But he is the experienced veteran, and I’m kind of a newbie,” Mannon said.
“I think he is going to take the place of me or one of the older guys one day,” Repp said. “We are bringing in the new and out with the old.”
Even Burns said he has noticed the crossover. “Ellis is starting to step up and define himself as a leader on this team. DJ has been in that role for three years. It is almost like the changing of the guard, in a way.”
Though the future may find these two gymnasts following career paths in physical therapy (Repp) and chemical engineering (Mannon), the present captures them as bookends to a talented Gophers gymnastics team.
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