National berths at stake

By Kari Brackett

Saturday’s Mid-East Independent Championships at Illinois-Chicago is important for the men’s gymnastics team in two ways.

First of all, NIU is hoping to send three gymnasts to the NCAA Championship in Los Angeles. Freshman Carlos Fulcher is the sole Huskie trying to qualify as an all-around gymnast.

“He will have to hit all his routines this weekend to enhance his chances,” Coach Chuck Ehrlich said. “He should at least qualify for parallel bars.”

The other two gymnasts looking for a tournament bid are Gene Margiotta and Eric Solky. Margiotta is looking to qualify for floor exercise and possibly vault while Solky’s specialty is the horizontal bar.

To qualify for the championship tournament, the ten top teams are first given bids to the tournament followed by 24 individuals in each event. Twenty-four all-arounders are also chosen. No one will know who qualifies until the end of next week.

“The one problem is a gymnast who is on a team which qualifies for the tournament can also be considered for a bid as an individual,” Ehrlich said. “To even be considered, a gymnast has to be in the top 24.”

Not only is this weekend important for certain NIU gymnasts, but it is also important for the team. Even though the team will not have a chance to qualify for the national meet, the Huskies will be looking to boost their ranking.

“We have to raise our average as a team to finish with a 270 average,” Ehrlich said. “Our goal is to finish in the top 20, but hopefully we will finish closer to 15.”

Last week the NIU team was ranked 19th in the nation.

The other teams competing in Saturday’s meet include Houston-Baptist, Southern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Kent State and Western Michigan.

NIU has competed against three of the five teams. Early in the season NIU lost to Western Michigan and SIU but defeated Illinois-Chicago.

Ehrlich said he thought his team should do fairly well this weekend. He said Fulcher should do what he is capable of doing. At last weekend’s meet against U of I, Fulcher only had one miss which was on the high bar.

“We have improved our consistency, but we are not at the level I consider as being very consistent,” Ehrlich said. “This is our time to put everything together.”