Gainesville gymnast hoping continued success leads to college, Olympics
Published: Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.
Ryan Orce was nearly 2,500 miles from home when he fell off the pommel horse.
It did not take him long to get back up on the next apparatus.
After qualifying for the Junior Olympic National Championships for a fourth time, Orce overcame an early miscue at this year's meet in Portland, Ore., held from April 30 through May 5, to earn medalist honors in two individual events.
The 15-year-old Gainesville gymnast, who trains at Sun Country Sports Center, finished second on the parallel bars and third on the rings in the Level 9 division, despite considering neither event as his top discipline.
“Those are my two second strongest,” Orce said. “My other two strongest (pommel horse and high bar) I had messed up on. ... I had never medaled at nationals before, so it was really exciting.”
Orce also had to shake off the disappointment of his low scores without his coach of nearly 10 years by his side. To keep the cross-country trip's expenses down, Mark Nelson, who has worked at Sun Country since 1992, was able to send Orce to the meet with a club team from Tampa.
Competing against more than 200 gymnasts in his age group, Orce advanced to the meet's second day, where he posted podium scores of 13.100 on the rings and 13.450 on parallel bars.
“He's a very hard worker,” Nelson said. “He's extremely smart, and he has from the day he came in here just loved the sport. He's here every practice, and that's what it takes.”
Following his success at nationals, Orce rose to a Level 10 gymnast but will have to wait until December to compete in his next meet. With the offseason beginning, Nelson said Orce is working to improve the difficulty of his routines during his roughly 16 hours of practice each week.
Along with getting a look from the U.S. men's national team, Orce is also trying to garner the attention of colleges. Last year, fellow Sun Country Sports gymnast David Spanier earned a 60 percent athletic scholarship to Iowa.
“My main goal is to make it to college for all six — to do all of the events,” Orce said. “Then after that it would be nice to go to the Olympics. … But if I just go to college and get a nice scholarship and get maybe a good education to work off that, I guess that's my main goal.”
Level 7 girls team
Led by state all-round champion Sarah Morey, the Sun Country Sports Level 7 girls team wrapped up a successful spring with high marks at its state and regional meets.
While competing at the Florida Level 7, 8 State Championships on April 5, the team qualified all six of its members for regionals with each gymnast finishing among the meet's top 86 competitors. Along with Morey's individual titles in the vault and beam, Sun Country Sports also found top-10 event finishes by Esther Cuevas, Jordan Hand, Emma Chiarelli, Amy Ziegenfelder and Joy Ziegenfelder.
Under the direction of coach Paul McAloon, the team added two more podium results after advancing to the Region 8 Championships in Atlanta from April 19-21. Morey took home second place in the floor exercise with a score of 9.700, while Cuevas finished as runner-up in the vault with a 9.550.