Spring Wins National Vault Title

<b>Nashville, TN -</b> Illinois junior-to-be Justin Spring (Burke, Va.) became Illinois' first ever U.S. National Champion when he took home the gold medal on vault at the 2004 U.S. Gymnastics Championships Wednesday evening in Nashville, Tenn. Spring stuck the landing and scored a 9.700 on his Kasamatsu 1 ½ vault to outdistance second place finishers Raj Bahavsar and Graham Ackerman by a full tenth. <br><br> Read more in this update from IlliniBoard.com.

"The best of the best compete at the U.S Championships," said UI Head Coach Yoshi Hayasaki, "so for Justin to become a national champion at such a young age is outstanding."

Despite outstanding performances on vault and high bar, Spring struggled to an all-around score of 53.800 and currently sits in 19th place heading into Friday's all-around finals. The 2004 NCAA high bar champion and four-time All-American tied for fifth on the high bar with a 9.600, but suffered falls on both the parallel bars (9.000) and floor exercise (8.375), normally two of his stronger events. He performed a clean rings routine to score an 8.900, and earned a score of 8.225 on the pommel horse, which is his weakest event.

"Justin had a great high bar set and was solid on rings, but the two mistakes on p-bars and floor really hurt him in the all-around," said Hayasaki. "We're still hoping he can climb back into the top ten and make the Olympic Trials with a strong performance on Friday."

Wednesday night was the event finals and the first of two all-around sessions at the Championships. Friday night's all-around finals, which begin at 7 p.m., will decide who advances to the Olympic Trials and who makes the U.S. National Team. Wednesday's all-around scores will be combined with Friday's scores to determine the order of finish. The top eight finishers will automatically make the Olympic Trials and, in addition, six other "wild card" athletes will be selected based on a complex formula. Spring still has an outside chance to advance to the trials with good showing in Friday's finals.

More information on the 2004 U.S. Gymnastics Championships can be found online at www.usa-gymnastics.org.
Story courtesy the University of Illinois.

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