Mason gymnasts qualify for national meet

Sophomore Duncan Beckel practices on the parallel bars ahead of the national gymnastics championship meet in Mesa, Arizona from May 10-15th.

Isabelle Paley | The Chronicle

Only 258 gymnasts compete at the Men’s National Gymnastic Championship, and four of those athletes come from William Mason High School

Duncan Beckel, Conner Beckel, Owen Tong, and Kan Suzuki have all qualified for the men’s National Gymnastic Championship.  The meet is an annual competition combining the top male gymnasts in the country. In gymnastics there are different levels for different skill sets ranging one to ten with ten being the highest. Only gymnasts who are level eight, nine, or ten are eligible for nationals. Duncan Beckel, Tong, and Suzuki are competing as level ten gymnasts and Conner Beckel as a level nine. 

To ensure that the best of the best are represented at this competition, athletes need to obtain qualifying scores from state and regionals to compete at the national level. The qualifying scores are altered slightly from season to season depending on the level of competition that year. 

Within USA Gymnastics there are 9 different regions each with different state and regional championships before heading to nationals. Ohio is located in Region five, so all four boys competed with every single level ten athlete in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio for the chance to make it to the podium. This year a total of 50 boys from region five advanced to the national championship. 

At the Men’s Gymnastics National Championship, 258 level ten gymnasts will be competing for the first place medal as well as a chance to be placed on the national team. At a competition as large as this, it’s easy to allow the weight of the competition to become too much. Sophomore Duncan Beckel hopes that during a big meet like this, he can stay calm and have fun.

“I get in my head and [sometimes]  let the pressure get in the way,” Beckel said. “This meet I’m really hoping that I do really well and show up for my team.”

For some of these gymnasts, Nationals is much more than a big competition, it represents years of hardwork and dedication finally paying off. Sophomore Owen Tong has been dreaming of qualifying since he started gymnastics at age seven. 

“This is my first time going to nationals and it has always been one of my goals,” Tong said. “I really want to enjoy it.”

This year’s National meet will be the last of senior Kan Suzuki’s career. Suzuki said hopes to end his years of gymnastics with a bang, and he believes that there is no better way to do that than with Nationals. 

“This is my last meet I think before my body’s gonna break,” Suzuki said. “My goal is to not regret anything and do my best so that I can. But really I just want to enjoy it since it’s my last one.” 

To prepare for Nationals, these athletes are putting in the extra work. They spend five days in the gym and 18 hours a week working on their routines. Male Gymnastics consists of six events- floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bars. All six events are competed individually and the top three gymnasts from each team have their scores added up for the team awards as well. Tong enjoys gymnastics because of the opportunities to work as a team but also further himself individually. 

“It’s a lot different than any other sport,” Tong said. “It’s an individual sport because you compete for yourself but it’s also a team sport. So the collaboration aspect while still doing things for myself is nice.” 

A majority of the events require immense amounts of upper body and core strength so it’s not just flipping and tumbling all practice. 45 minutes to an hour of practice consist of just strength and conditioning training. 

Putting in over 18 hours a week to prepare for nationals, it can be difficult to stay motivated.  Suzuki enjoys coming to practice even on his toughest days because his teammates are his number one cheerleaders. 

“The coaches and my teammates just have a positive attitude everyday,” Suzuki said. “Their attitude and the compliments they give me are what keep me motivated and makes me want to succeed.” 

The USA Men’s Gymnastics National Championship is going to be held May 10th-15th in Mesa, Arizona. Extra practices and conditioning is going to be added to the athletes already 18 hour weeks to ensure that they each perform to the best of their ability. Through the grueling practices, Beckel says that at the end of the day what makes everything worth it is his teammates.

“I love our team and we have a blast because we spend so much time together we get to really bond,” Beckel said. “You get to see each other grow in the sport as well. So everyone gets better and then you keep pushing yourself and it’s just a great time.” 

Photo by Evelina Gaivoronskaia