Senior-freshman combo to compete in Winter Cup

DJ Repp and Ellis Mannon have the opportunity to make Team U.S.A.

Kinesiology senior DJ Repp will be competing in the U.S. National Team's Winter Cup in Las Vegas on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Repp will be competing with chemical engineering freshman Ellis Mannon and their performance will determine whether they make the U.S. National Olympic Team.

Marisa Wojcik

Kinesiology senior DJ Repp will be competing in the U.S. National Team’s Winter Cup in Las Vegas on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Repp will be competing with chemical engineering freshman Ellis Mannon and their performance will determine whether they make the U.S. National Olympic Team.

Megan Ryan

 

A pair of Gophers menâÄôs gymnasts has a unique opportunity this weekend: a chance to make the U.S. national team.

That, and they get to go to Vegas.

Senior DJ Repp and freshman Ellis Mannon will compete Thursday in the 2012 Winter Cup in Las Vegas for two of the eight open spots on the U.S. national menâÄôs gymnastics team.

âÄúMinnesota has a long tradition of guys being on the national team,âÄù head coach Mike Burns said. âÄúIt is what we strive for and what we hope for.

âÄúWe have bookends: a senior and a freshman. It will be fun to see how they interact as a two-person team,âÄù Burns added.

If Repp or Mannon were to make the national team, they would compete through the 2012 Visa Championships on June 7-10. The standings at the Visa Championships would then determine which gymnasts progress to the Olympic trials and, ultimately, the Olympic team.

Repp qualified for this Cup during his NCAA all-around performance last year. The experienced competitor said that the possibility of being a national team member is exciting.

âÄúI feel like it is always in the back of your mind. You never know what the judges are going to do. If I happen to make the national team, thatâÄôs a bonus,âÄù Repp said.

âÄúIâÄôve been to Visa [Championships] three times. This will be my third time at the Winter Cup so I have the experience. I just want to do my best for my last year and see where the cards fall.âÄù

This will be MannonâÄôs second time at the Winter Cup. The reigning junior division pommel horse Visa Champion said the apparatus will give him an advantage in qualifying for the national team.

âÄúPommel horse is an event where the U.S. isnâÄôt historically strong. A good, solid score will get you a long way in this kind of meet,âÄù Mannon said. âÄúI was fifth in the senior division [of the Visa Championships] if you group all of the scores together. That earns you National Team Points.âÄù

Repp and Mannon must score well enough to advance to SaturdayâÄôs final round. TheyâÄôll likely need to be near-perfect to survive the weekendâÄôs competition.

If they advance to Sunday, however, it will be their job to accumulate enough points on the National Team Points System or impress the national team committee to make the final roster.

Their fellow 91 competitors range from collegiate peers to Olympians like Paul Hamm and Jonathan Horton, Repp and Mannon said they are glad to be performing in the same rotation.

âÄúWe can at least keep somewhat of a team atmosphere going, rather than having him across the gym. It is really hard to cheer when in different rotations,âÄù Repp said.

Added Mannon: âÄúIt is really hard to compete individually, so it definitely helps to have someone to compete with.âÄù

As far as the dynamic between the two teammates, the age difference plays a traditional role.

âÄúWe are pretty close friends. We get along really well. But he is the experienced veteran, and IâÄôm kind of a newbie,âÄù Mannon said.

âÄúI think he is going to take the place of me or one of the older guys one day,âÄù Repp said. âÄúWe are bringing in the new and out with the old.âÄù

Even Burns said he has noticed the crossover. âÄúEllis is starting to step up and define himself as a leader on this team. DJ has been in that role for three years. It is almost like the changing of the guard, in a way.âÄù

Though the future may find these two gymnasts following career paths in physical therapy (Repp) and chemical engineering (Mannon), the present captures them as bookends to a talented Gophers gymnastics team.