(Photo by Michael Kinney)
By Michael Kinney
Colin Van Wicklen has been before. In fact, the former Oklahoma Sooner has made five previous trips to the Winter Cup Challenge dating back to his prep years in Magnolia, Texas.
But this weekend’s competition should feel like home for Van Wicklen. Of the 36 juniors and 48 seniors expected to compete, 13 will be current, former and future Sooners.
“It’s going to be incredible because we have … I mean, at least 25% of the field is an Oklahoma Sooner, so it’s almost going to feel like a team competition,” Van Wicklen said. “We’re going to have guys in two different groups from OU cheering for each other. We’re going to have parents and family in the stand, so it’s going to almost be like an away meet for Oklahoma. It’s going to be a really cool experience just to show the talent that we have here in Norman.”
For Gage Dyer, he is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to Winter Cup experience. The Yukon native is making his debut at the event, but feels he is ready to be on the big stage.
“I’m excited to go out there and show off all my hard work. I think it’s about time for me to get out there and give it all I’ve got,” Dyer said. “What makes it special is I want to get the opportunity to see if I can make the national team. I think all the guys that are going to Winter Cup have that ability, so I think that’s a good motivation for us to do well.”
What makes the Winter Cup Challenge such a special event is the bearing it has on selecting the US Men’s National Team. Following the first-day of competition, the top six ranked all-around athletes will automatically qualify for the 2019 senior national team. It’s something Dyer believes he has a chance to make happen.
“I think that’d be definitely a dream come true, because I’ve always had my heart set to make the national team. I never really looked at making the Olympics like most people,” Dyer said. “My biggest goal is making the national team, and now that I have the opportunity to get a chance to do that, I’m going to go out there and do my best.”
Using scores from both days of competition, the Men’s Program Committee will select six more gymnasts from the participants at the Winter Cup Challenge.
With 13 Sooners competing at the meet, it sends a strong message to the type of program OU has.
“That’s just going to show everyone else that we got that Sooner magic,” Dyer said. “Well, it just shows how hard we work. Like I said before, it’s just routines, routines, routines. It’s just as easy as breathing for us.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider