Strech, Baker on top in junior men


By Jo-Ann Barnas

PITTSBURGH – The way the rotation order went for Bobby Baker, the event came at just the right time.

Here he was, a solid routine away from clinching the first-day lead of the junior men’s 17-18 division at the P&G Gymnastics Championships, and the gymnast was grateful to be closing on floor exercise.

“It’s one of my most confident events,” Baker said. “It is an event that you can take slow.”

Baker, who’s two classes into his freshman year at the University of Illinois, pulled off a solid routine on floor – scoring a 14.200 – and maintained his position atop the leader board with 84.450 points.

University of Oklahoma freshman Hunter Justus, who won the 15-16 title last year, is in second place behind Baker with 83.400 points. Kiwan Watts, of Chesterfield, Va., is third with 82.600.

In the 15-16 men’s junior division, incoming University of Michigan freshman Marty Strech had the best individual event scores on floor exercise (14.500), pommel horse (13.300), still rings (14.400) and high bar (14.300) to come out on top with a total score of 83.950.

“My plan coming in here was to hit six of six,” Strech said. “I went five of six because of a mistake on vault when I landed short on my Kasamatsu 1 1/2. It’s a new vault for me.’’

Because of his age – he turned 17 in April 18 – Strech still has two years of juniors remaining. And yet on Monday, Strech will be leaving for Ann Arbor, Mich., from Pittsburgh to start college.

Anthony McCallum, who trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., is in second place in the 15-16s with 83.900. Tristan Burke of WOGA in Frisco, Texas, is in third with 82.000 points. The junior men’s competition concludes on Sunday night at Consol Energy Center.