Everything that has happened in the previous weeks has been all but ordinary, and as the pandemic continues on, college gymnastics digs into more uncharted territory.
All-American honors are not typically awarded based on regular season performances, instead given out to the top eight finishers in each event and in the all-around at the NCAA Championships. But given the circumstances, the College Gymnastics Association had to take other actions.
So for the first time ever, the awards were given based on the top eight finishers in each event and in the all-around as of March 9. While the awards were normally saved for standout performances on the sport's brightest stage, this gives recognition to gymnasts who performed consistently throughout the season.
Four Gophers fell into the top eight and received All-American honors.
Among them were two underclassmen: sophomores David Pochinka and Mike Moran. Both first-time honorees, the sophomores' season had a rather better ending than others.
Pochinka joined his older brother and former Gopher Yaroslav Pochinka as an All-American. Now, he wants to surpass him.
“Well now that we both have one, I’m hoping to get more than him now cause now he doesn’t have that over me. So now if I can get another one, I can hold that over him,” David Pochinka said.
This year, he finished the season ranked No. 8 on the bars with a national qualifying average of 13.967. He held the second-highest score for the Gophers in 2020 with a career-high score of 14.600. On his way to having the fourth-best score in the Big Ten, he earned two event titles and two second-place finishes.
“It feels good. It feels like a lot of my hard work paid off in the end. It sucks cause it’s not like an official NCAA All-American, but it’s still something with the season cut short so I’m still happy about it,” he said.
Pochinka was especially happy able to share this All-American honor with fellow teammate Shane Wiskus, who was chosen as an All-American on the parallel bars.
“I think it’s great, I feel like we always push each other. We always talk about what we’re gonna score whether it’s at a meet or at practice so it’s always fun to compete with him and be on the same stage as him,” Pochinka said.
Moran was able to use this award for closure to a very successful season. He finished as the No. 6-ranked gymnast on the floor exercise with a national qualifying average score of 14.300. His season high was a 14.500, which went along with two event titles and a top-seven finish at the Winter Cup.
“I think it had an extra impact this year just because of everything stopping. This year was sort of a turnaround season. I felt like for me I started to do more of the personal goals that I was pushing for. The All-American had a greater impact. I felt like I got closure in an unfinished year of hard work,” Moran said.
Moran is hoping to be a role model as he continues his time with the Gophers and new gymnasts start coming in after.
“I think a lot of it comes down to lead by example type. You show everyone else that if you’re the one that had the accolade from the season, you’re the one putting up numbers, you go into the gym and show people how you’re doing that,” Moran said. “A large part of our team depends on our class so I think it’s pretty crucial that our class has that mentality of stepping up.”