April 13, 2014
By Ben Gotz, Athletic Communications Student Assistant
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Minnesota junior Ellis Mannon stood atop the podium as the 2014 NCAA pommel horse champion Saturday night after finishing as the national runner-up on the same event a year ago. With his title, Mannon became the Gophers' first NCAA champion in over a decade.
"You don't get those too often, so that was a very special moment," Gopher men's gymnastics coach Mike Burns said.
Mannon took home top honors on pommel horse with a score of 15.425, his second highest score of the season. Mannon earned a score of 14.900 as the runner-up last season.
The Indianapolis, Ind., native finished fifth on pommel horse in Friday's individual event preliminary round with a score of 15.150, but he improved his score Saturday when the stakes were highest.
"Tonight Ellis had his best routine of the year, and it couldn't have happened at a better moment," Burns said. "Ellis winning the national title is just phenomenal. It's a great accomplishment, and it certainly gives us something to build off next year."
Mannon is just the fourth gymnast in Gopher history to win an NCAA pommel horse title. He is Minnesota's first NCAA champion since Clay Strother won both the floor exercise and pommel horse titles in 2002.
"We coached him to a routine he was very comfortable with and able to execute at a high level, and he came out and did that in spades tonight," Burns said of Mannon's performance. "He went up and went smoothly through his routine."
Three other Gophers joined Mannon in competing in the NCAA individual event finals, a major accomplishment in itself. Mannon was the only Gopher representative in the event finals last year. The NCAA event finals are comprised of the top ten finishers on each event after the individual event preliminaries, which take place in conjunction with the team and all-around finals.
"It was really a tribute to their efforts," Burns said. "To get four guys in was a result of their hard work and execution."
Senior Matt Frey finished ninth on the parallel bars with a score of 14.900 after finishing ninth in the event on Friday as well. Junior captain Steve Jaciuk finished ninth on high bar with a score of 14.550, and senior Zack Chase finished ninth on vault with a score of 14.775.
"All three of them did a very nice job," Burns said. "They really stepped up and had a good competition."
With his pommel horse championship, Mannon earned All-American honors. Frey, Jaciuk and Chase all narrowly missed out on the honor, as the top eight gymnasts in each event earned the distinction.
The conclusion of the NCAA championships marks the end of the season and the final chapter for Minnesota's eight seniors.
"We had eight seniors this year, and this was their last competition," Burns said. "It's always kind of a sad moment, but at the same time it's thrilling because they're all moving on to bigger and better things. I couldn't be more proud of their contributions to the program."
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