By Michelle Eberhart (USMA West Point Public Affairs)January 25, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 25, 2015) -- After winning the 2015 ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Championships last year, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point Gymnastics team looks to shine at the West Point Open on Jan. 15-16.
After coaching the Army team for the past 26 years, gymnastics coach Van Everen has seen quite a few teams come and go. So to say this team is the best, is undoubtedly a bold statement.
Maintaining that winning attitude is the whole Army Gymnastics team consisting of 18 athletes and future officers. One star gymnast in particular is senior Cadet Jesse Glenn, a California native and Engineering Management major.
Everen is eager to begin the 2016 season. "It's actually possibly the best team that we've had. Ever. That I've ever had for sure," Everen said with a level of weathered certainty. "We've had, in the past, some events where we've had some holes," Everen said. "This year we seem to have a lot of those holes patched up pretty good."
Among the six different events: Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar, Everen believes his team to be about 8-10 points better than last year. "That's a big, big jump," he said.
After winning the 2015 ECAC Championships last year, the team has continued to work hard to keep their winning legacy alive. "There's a lot of energy," Everen said. "This year, we certainly think we're in position to win."
Glenn began his gymnastics career at age four, attributing his entry to being clumsy and ungraceful. "I was really uncoordinated when I was little. I would just run into walls or beat myself up," Glenn said. "So my parents put me in gymnastics, just temporarily to see if they could remedy that."
Although Glenn's parents told him he could quit at age 10, Glenn decided to pursue gymnastics and give up the other sports he played. Years later, Glenn's older brother entered West Point. While Glenn had no aspirations to join the Army, visiting his brother during R-Day began to change his mind.
"I talked to the colonel and the coach," Glenn said. "I thought this is pretty cool, maybe gymnastics isn't everything and I want to do something else on top of gymnastics and challenge myself." After verbally committing to another school, Glenn changed his mind and decided he would go through the process to become a Cadet at West Point.
While the balance of school, military requirements, gymnastics and a social life were hard for Glenn at first, he was able to adjust quickly. "Initially that was hard plebe year, I didn't get a lot of sleep," Glenn laughed. "But it depends on how disciplined you want to be, I guess."
Although he is modest about it, Glenn has been able to balance academics, military requirements and gymnastics. Not only did he win the all-around title and lead his team to victory at the 2015 ECAC Championships, he also branched his top choice, Armor, and will then go to Finance down the road. "He wants to be in the Army," Everen said. "The whole package, what we do here at West Point and what it leads to."
And socially, Glenn seems to be doing just fine. "We deal with all the highs and lows, with academics and military stuff," Glenn said of his teammates. "It's kind of like no matter what happens, in the end, we all went through the same experience and I think it brings everyone close."
"It's more than just gymnastics at that point," Glenn said. "Because we do not just live life, but we kind of learn a lot from life, just from all the challenges we deal with together … It's neat we have a team and they all kind of 'get it.'"
"It's a really tight group," Everen said. "They are working so hard, pushing each other, doing great."
The next challenge for the team is the West Point Open at Christl Arena. During Everen's second year coaching in 1990, he decided to begin the West Point Open, hoping to attract positive attention to the gymnastics program and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as a whole.
"It's a great experience and opportunity for the cadets, to participate in that kind of a format," Everen said. "Especially early in the year, it kind of gives them a chance to measure where they're at and how they're doing."
While Everen described the first few years of the Open as "Emergencies," he explained that since then, the meet has become a "well-oiled machine," with alumni coming back to volunteer and run through events smoothly. "All the old grads come back so that's really cool, we have a good time," Glenn said.
For the past three years, Glenn won the all-around award. This year, he hopes to come back with the same tenacity and clutch his fourth and final all-around victory at the Open. "The West Point Open is my favorite competition," Glenn said point-blank. "It's our home meet, we have to represent. Usually, we do pretty good as a team. I don't know if it's because we're at home or just really excited about the meet, but we've got to continue the trend this year, it's really exciting and it gets the season kicked off real well."
Everen said that registration for the event was full by July. Over 75 clubs and teams will bring about 700 athletes to compete. "It's a great, high level event," Van Everen said. "Every year, there are kids that are on the national-level team. We've had Olympians there, and so it's for sure a high-level event."