WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – A week after breaking the 400-point barrier for the first time in 2022, the Navy Gymnastics Team continued their ultra-successful playoff streak with a dominating performance at the CEAC Championship. Facing a No. 11 Army Champ, No. 12 Springfield and No. 13 William & Mary, the eighth-ranked Mids picked up a 14.8-point, 401.85 total score win at Kaplan Arena over the campus of William & Mary Saturday. The win was the Navy’s fourth straight conference championship win.
The final scorecard had Navy first with 401.85 points and Springfield College second with 387.05. Host team William & Mary finished third with 385.25 points, while Army placed fourth with a score of 384.85.
The Navy received contributions from across its roster as aspiring gymnasts won individual titles in five of six events. Isaiah Drake (Fr., Los Angeles, Calif.) led the contender delegation to the top of the podium on Saturday finishing first on parallel bars, high bar and all-around. Seniors Dan Clark (Avon, Massachusetts) and Josh Williams (Cypress, Texas) and junior Connor Van Loo (Freeland, Mich.) also won gold medals as Clark placed first on pommel horse, while Williams was the top scorer on floor exercise. Van Loo’s jump won his first career ECAC title.
As a team, Navy scored 69.05 on floor exercise, 61.2 on pommel horse, 67.95 on rings, 70.4 on vault, 66.3 on parallel bars and 66.95 on horizontal bar.
“Naval Gymnastics was on a mission today,” exclaimed the head coach Kip Simons. “We struggled early, but this team refused to quit with the conference title on the line. I know we’re capable of a perfect, 30/30 meet. We haven’t reached the top yet, so I think we’re set for a strong performance at the NCAA Championship in two weeks.This senior class has its eye on a historic performance to close out its career.
The Mids’ day started on the pommel horse and the team had a top-down performance through their five-man lineup. After an effort for the USAG Collegiate Championship last weekend, Clark kicked into high gear again on Saturday with an event-best 13.65. He cleared Springfield’s Colton O’Brien, who finished second, by 0.55 points. Ronan McQuillan (So., Katy, Texas) tied for fifth with a score of 12.5. Drake gave Navy three gymnasts in the top seven as he tied for seventh at 12.35.
The Mids responded with a sharp turn on the rings as their five competitors scored in the top 10. Williams was the Navy’s top scorer as he posted a 14.1 which was good for second place. Alexander Brown (Sr., Lafayette, La.) was 0.35 points behind his fourth-place teammate with a score of 13.75. The duo of Dhiren Lutchman (Sr., Beltsville, Md.) and Cash Buske (Sr., Madison, Wis.) finished sixth and seventh consecutively with scores of 13.45 and 13.4, respectively. Drake finished the event with the best scores for Navy with 13.25 points. He placed tenth in the field of 20 gymnasts.
The vault rotation was also lucrative for the Mids as four gymnasts finished in the top nine. Van Loo was the star of the event as he hit his 4.8 jump with an execution score of 9.65 for a 14.55 that was 0.2 points higher. Drake was the second contender on the podium with 14.15 points to place fourth. Williams and Syam Burada Gunta (So., Westborough, Mass.) finished consecutively eighth and ninth with 14.0 and 13.95 efforts, respectively.
Building on their previous success, Drake and Clark led Navy’s performance on parallel bars. Drake took the event crown with a career-high score of 14.25. Clark also posted a career-best score on parallel bars with a result of 14.2. Clark’s previous best on the p-bars was a 13.05. Caleb Hickey (So., Carthage, NC) made three Mids in the top four as he tied Army’s Mathew Davis with a score of 13.8 on Saturday.
Finding themselves in a close battle atop the team standings, Navy added nearly four points to their lead with a high bar effort. The Mids swept the top four spots and finished with five of the top seven scores. Drake and Buske led the way with a double with scores of 13.65 and 13.55. The sophomore class provided Navy’s next two scores as Buradagunta and Hickey went back to back in third and fourth. Buradagunta scored 13.4 points, while Hickey posted 13.35. Giovanni Gambatese (Jr., Pewaukee, Wis.) completed the five-scorer lineup with 13.0 points to rank seventh overall.
The Mids closed out the competition and took the win with another meaningful points swing as the team added more than four points to their lead with a dominant ground drill. Navy had its second straight sweep of the top four and all five scorers finished in the top seven. Williams was class in the field as he tallied a season-high 14.45 points. Drake was next in the standings with 14.0 points. Hickey and Van Loo tied for third with matching scores of 13.7. Buradagunta was Navy’s fifth-highest scorer with a seventh-place score of 13.2.
In the all-around, Drake came in first with a cumulative total of 81.65 points. He finished 2.9 points ahead of Christian Marsh of William & Mary, who posted a 78.75.
After the encounter, Drake was recognized as the ECAC’s Rookie of the Year.
The Navy will continue its streak of playoff action at the NCAA Championship in Norman, Oklahoma, April 15-16.