Wittenberg sticks in two events

The sophomore set career-highs in two events Saturday against Penn St.

by Thomas Jaakola

A stuck dismount right out of the gate got the crowd of nearly 700 on its feet last Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.
Sophomore Alex Wittenberg, whose perfect landing capped off a career-best performance on the floor exercise, let out a roar and thrust his arms into the air. He earned a score of 15.500 to finish second in the event behind junior Zach Liebler.
“His floor is great,” sophomore Jordan Poganski said. “That is definitely his strong point.”
Wittenberg stuck another dismount later in the afternoon on the vault, earning roars from the crowd. He received a 14.800 and took third in only his second time competing in the event.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native has only competed in those two events for the Gophers this year, but after the meet Saturday, he was presented with the Louis J. Cook award, along with Liebler. The honor is given to an exceptional gymnast at every home meet.
“[He has a] real fire-in-the-belly attitude. He is a kid who was not the most talented kid coming through the ranks in the juniors,” head coach Mike Burns said. “You can see his enthusiasm. He’s an awesome team player.”
With Wittenberg’s help, the Gophers defeated Penn State 432.750-418.500, and the sophomore had plenty to be happy about after the competition was finished.
“I thought my performance specifically was the best of my college career to date,” Wittenberg said. “I stuck both of my landings — something that I struggled with last season.”
Wittenberg started the season slow, scoring a 13.650 on floor and a 14.100 on the vault at the Windy City Invitational. It only took him a week to bounce back.
“The most important part of a routine is dealing with adversity,” Wittenberg said. “This is a common theme discussed by our coaches during practice and for good reason.”
The Gophers were faced with adversity at the end of Wittenberg’s freshman season, coming 0.2 points shy of a trip to NCAA team finals. This year he’s set on getting his team over the hump.
“I think it is my job, and the mission of all of the rest of my teammates as well, to make sure we collectively understand the magnitude of our potential,” Wittenberg said. “I believe by holding myself to a higher standard than I have in the past I can help contribute to that realization so that every member of the team wholly understands their
potential and that of our team.”
Even if he only competes in two events, Wittenberg said he’ll continue to hit his routines to the best of his ability and maybe throw in a few more sticks on his landings.
“He’s a guy with a lot of integrity and a great work ethic,” Burns said. “How could you not like someone who’s wired like that?”