UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State University and Rec Hall will play host to the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships from Friday through Sunday.
The university was host for the same event in 2007, and Associate Athletic Director Jenn James said recent improvements to Rec Hall were a big reason why Penn State was able to get it again.
“With the new high-definition video boards we can do some more from a showmanship event-type standpoint,” James said. “We have the new media room; we’ve upgraded the hospitality room and have done some tweaking to our locker rooms as well.”
Penn State enters the event as the No. 1 overall seed and is seeking its 13th national crown.
Friday will feature two qualifying sessions. The first at 1 p.m. has No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Michigan, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 Illinois, No. 10 Nebraska and No. 11 Air Force competing.
Penn State is in the second session beginning at 7 p.m. with No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Iowa, No. 9 California and No. 12 Temple.
While Penn State is officially the host, the NCAA sends in a contractor to go over rules and regulations. Men’s gymnastics has a committee of former coaches and administrators to make sure the school abides by all of the standards for the event.
These include everything from meeting with coaches to go over the schedule, to meeting with the judges, to making sure security and the staff of 60 to 70 volunteers are in place.
Since it is Blue-White Weekend, big crowds are expected on campus and in the area.
“We’re hoping for a packed house in Rec Hall,” said James, who is the tournament manager. “We have around 700 to 800 tickets sold in advance. We’re hoping to take advantage of the timing of the day on Saturday. With the football game being at noon, we think there is plenty of time to go to the game and come to gymnastics after.”
The team and all-around finals will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, while the individual event finals are at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Following the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, security for the spectators and teams are of utmost concern. According to James, the gymnastics event will follow the same no-bags policy implemented for Saturday’s football game.
“We have signage already up and have sent specific e-mails out to ticket holders and to our booster club,” James said. “We’re also going to take care of the teams and make sure when they bring in their bags that we’ll search them as well.”
One interesting aspect of the event is that all the equipment used in the championships does not belong to Penn State. American Athletic Inc. is the official equipment provider for the NCAA championships, and has brought in new equipment specifically for the championships. Set-up started Monday, and on Tuesday the benches, tables, award stands and signage were put in place. The transformation of Rec Hall took three to four days, according to James, but the planning has been going on since last summer.
For the championships, the top three teams and the top three all-around competitors not on a qualifying team will advance to the finals, along with the top three individuals in each event who are not qualified on a team or as an all-around competitor.
“It’s going to be absolute fabulous competition,” James said. “It literally is the top of the line of amateur gymnastics next to the Olympics. A lot of athletes you see competing here could very well make the national team in the next couple of years.”
All-session tickets are $28 for adults and $16 for youths under 12 and Penn State students. Single-session and group tickets also are available.
Tom Zulewski is a Penn State journalism student.