Yaroslav Pochinka is soaring in his second year with the Gophers.
The sophomore is the top-ranked gymnast in the country on vault for the second consecutive week, and his average score in the event is 15.383 this year.
“As proven by his record now, we can always count [on] that he’ll land his vault. And when he lands his vault, he’s going to score well,” sophomore Jack Kramer said. “That’s a big thing to have. Especially if the meet [is] going rough, you can always count on him to get up there and turn things around.”
The Plano, Texas, native also earned a career-high score of 15.550 against Air Force on Feb. 6, which is the best score in the country this year.
“[Pochinka] gives us the opportunity on vault to have a big score every week,” head coach Mike Burns said. “He’s been
really consistent, [and] he’s well-prepared every week. He’s got that vault figured out.”
Pochinka is thriving as a sophomore after he fractured his hand a month before the Gophers’ first meet last year, and he underwent surgery in December 2014.
He was told the injury would keep him out for the season, but Pochinka made his Minnesota debut on Feb. 28, 2015. He scored 15.150 on the vault at Stanford, and none of his teammates earned more than a 14.450.
“It was my first and, so far, only major injury like that. Coming back was a little daunting,” Pochinka said. “But once the process started going and [I] started going to rehabilitation and physical therapy every single day, it went by really quickly.”
The vault Pochinka performs in competitions is known as the “Roche,” and it involves a front handspring double front tuck, or what looks like two somersaults through the air.
He said the next step for his routine is to keep the two spins through the air but do it with his legs straight, not bent.
“It works to his strengths. It’s just a good fit,” Burns said. “That’s the whole key to success in our sport. You find skills, sequences and routines that are a good fit and a part of your strengths.”
Pochinka has stayed consistent this season despite performing a routine with a high level of difficulty. He’s scored more than 15 points on vault in all but one meet this season. He’s also won the event twice this year at Penn State on Jan. 23 and at Air Force.
“I know that now people are watching me, and people are watching the entire team just to see if we can keep with up [with] how well we’re doing,”Pochinka said.