Three members of the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team competed among the nation’s best at the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships held in Indianapolis from Aug. 13 – 16.
Junior Sean Melton finished 16th in the all-around, while freshmen Alec Yoder and Tristan Burke finished 20th and 28th, respectively.
All three athletes finished in the top 10 of at least one event. Melton tied for eighth on rings, Burke ranked ninth on the vault and Yoder finished fifth on the pommel horse and ninth on the high bar.
Melton, who finished 11th in the 2014 championships but dealt with a lower-back injury throughout the course of the 2015 season, said he was happy to be able to compete.
“It just felt good to compete again since I was out for a while. Any time you can compete and get the butterflies and nerves, it’s a fun experience,” Melton said.
For Yoder and Burke, competing in the senior competition was a new experience, with a key difference being the large crowd.
“It was a lot different with a bigger crowd. You just got to feed off their energy,” Burke said. “The nerves were definitely there, but it was fun just knowing that they all had your back.”
The competition offered up the opportunity to compete against longtime members of the gymnastics community.
“It’s not every day that you get to compete against guys who are some of the best in the world,” Yoder said. “Taking the gymnastics up to the next level to compete with guys you’ve looked up to for a long time was a fun-filled experience.”
Burke cited observing the veterans’ calm demeanors as a learning moment.
“It was a pretty important meet, and they were just real relaxed about it. They were able to just put something they messed up on behind them,” he said.
Next June, the 2016 P&G Championships will act as the trials for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The gymnasts said they view training for OSU as the best preparation.
“We push each other every day. Working toward success for Ohio State is going to pay off when we’re in 2016 going into championships and trials to fight for a spot on that Rio Olympic team and things going forward like World Championships and the 2020 Olympic games,” Yoder said.
Melton said training with other gymnasts who have similar ambitions is beneficial for both the individuals and the team.
“It definitely helps bringing in guys that are the same caliber gymnasts that want the same goals,” Melton said. “Training with guys like these, you can’t get much better than that in helping to push each other to become the best that we can be as a team and for USA.”
While the Olympics are a goal, the main focus when the gymnastics season begins in January is a national championship.
“We come here to win championships, and Ohio State is really good at that,” Melton said. “We just have to put in the work, put our head down and grind through it to make it happen.”
Yoder said he believes the team has the right ingredients to win it all.
“We got the spirit, we got the ability. We have everything I think that makes the perfect chemistry in the gym,” he said.
Until then, Melton, Yoder and Burke are trying to find balance in the busy routine of a student-athlete.
For Yoder and Burke, the transition has been “crazy” and “intense.” Like many freshmen, they said they are learning what it’s like to be on their own for the first time.
“It’s definitely been a 180-degree difference than anything else I’ve done,” Burke said. “But it’s fun knowing that you’re more independent.”
Melton, now in his third year with the program, is taking on the role of a mentor.
“I’ve been trying to take these guys under my arms and make them succeed immediately,” he said. “I know exactly what they’re going through now. I still struggle sometimes, but I feel like I have a better understanding of the program, the school and just how to be smart with it.”
While the lifestyle is difficult and full of sacrifices, ranging from a lack of sleep to turning down pizza, the athletes said they are thankful for the opportunity.
“At the end of the day it’s all completely worth it. It’s such an amazing university that we’re all blessed and grateful to be a part of,” Yoder said.
A few months stand between now and the start of the gymnastics season, but dedicated training has already started.
“The entire squad is in the gym taking care of their business right now, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that they’re all grinding really hard in there,” Burke said. “I’m just ready to start hitting those meets and putting Ohio State men’s gymnastics back on the map.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to kick their season off with an intrasquad meet on Dec. 19.