University of Minnesota head men's gymnastics coach Mike Burns filed this latest installment of the Burns Blog thursday morning, as his team prepares for the beginning of the NCAA Championships tonight.
The NCAA Championships Banquet was held last night at Eisenhower Hall at the U.S. Military Academy. There were more than 300 people in attendance in a hall with a beautiful view overlooking the Hudson River (which is pictured in the photo below). The Military Academy is an amazing complex of historical buildings, parade grounds, statues of former military greats and lots of signs saying "Beat Navy." If you have never been to West Point, N.Y. to see this place, I would recommend it to everyone.
The banquet we had last night is also the College Gymnastics Association's Coaches Awards banquet along with the Nissen-Emery Award announcement. As President of the CGA, I was thrilled to see so many past gymnastics legends on hand to either receive acknowledgment for their service to our sport over so many years.
Special Service Awards, Honorary Lifetime Members, Honor Coach Awards, Regional Coaches of the Year Awards and the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award were all presented last night.
Minnesota's own Aaron Fortunato (pictured to the right) was one of the finalists for the Nissen-Emery Award and the suspense throughout the night to find out the winner was intense. Luke Stannard from the University of Illinois was the eventual winner of the award that was originally created by gymnastics legend George Nissen, the inventor of the trampoline. George Nissen was actually planning to be in attendance at the banquet but he passed away on April 8 in San Diego from complications due to pneumonia, so we observed a moment of silence for the loss of a giant in the world of gymnastics.
Today is the first day of competition and we will be competing in the evening session of the qualifying round which begins at 6 p.m. Gopher time. We will have some very tough competition with Oklahoma, Michigan, Cal-Berkeley, Nebraska and Iowa in our session, all competing for a spot in the top three teams which will advance to the team Finals tomorrow night. Our guys are ready for battle and I am looking forward to an amazing display of gymnastics from our entire team tonight.
It's been a great season and we are now ready to take things to another level here at the NCAA's and perform at the highest level. As a coach, this is what we hope for - to have these guys do their best routines at the time of year where it counts the most. The excitement level here at the NCAA's is always incredible and this year is no exception.