Jake Dalton
Men's Artistic Gymnastics

By Daniel Gibson
Action photo by John Cheng

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Growing up Jake Dalton had a difficult decision to make.

"I had to decide to either keep competing (in gymnastics) or stop gymnastics and continue in baseball, so I decided to stop baseball," said Dalton.

It's no surprise that he was interested in two sports coming from a family that was always athletically active.

"Mom did softball and volleyball in high school and my father did football and basketball in high school," said Dalton. "My sister did gymnastics up to Level 9."

Dalton may have struggled making that decision because he was a fan of both sports but he has never looked back.

"I competed on the elite level for the first time at the 2007 Visa Championships," said Dalton. "I made it to the elite session and I was so excited to compete with the elite guys. The adrenaline rush in competition is something I love along with hitting a great routine and hearing the crowd or my team scream because you hit an awesome set."

Dalton is currently competing for the University of Oklahoma and just won the 2011 NCAA vault and floor titles, as well as helped his team to second place in the team competition. Earlier this year, he won the all-around at the Winter Cup, and he was a member of the 2009 World Championships Team.

The success that Dalton has earned comes from the time he devotes to training. He practices Sunday through Friday approximately two hours each day. Two or three days a week he does strength work in addition to practice. He has noticed an improvement as a result of working hard.

"I feel like I have grown to be more as a consistent gymnast," said Dalton. "I do not like falling even in the gym so I have worked hard to become consistent and to clean up my gymnastics. Mentally I feel like I have grown because of the hard work I have been putting in the gym. It has made me more confident in competition. Knowing I will hit a set and trying to hit it the best I can makes me feel confident."

Dalton has grown since 2009 when he competed in the World Championships. He counted the competition and being in London as one of his best experiences even though he was sick and didn't do as well as he would have liked. He has used that experience as motivation to get back to the World Championships.

He also was pleased to compete in the 2011 AT&T American Cup. He originally was an alternate but replaced a competitor who withdrew the morning of the competition. Not only did Dalton compete, but he also took advantage of the opportunity by winning the bronze medal.

"Never take anything for granted. If you get something, it is because you earned it," said Dalton. "If you get something, take everything you can out of it. Every experience you can learn something. Even outside of the gym, appreciate everything you have."

Dalton is a sophomore at Oklahoma and enjoys BBQs with teammates, two of whom - Steven Legendre and Alex Naddour - are also fellow members of the men's senior national team,and spending time with his girlfriend, a fellow gymnast and member of the Sooners' women's team. He likes to listen to music before competitions and his favorite on the iPod right now is Eminem's Recovery album.

His favorite food is either chicken alfredo or chicken fried steak. Dalton also enjoys relaxing by watching movies.

"I like anything funny or with action," said Dalton. "My top five favorites are 'Yes Man,' 'I Love You, Man', 'Fast and Furious,' 'Shooter,' and 'Boondock Saints.'"

Dalton also takes time out with his teammates to volunteer at Cleveland Elementary School.

The team plays with the young kids during recess and assists them with school work during class. They also share motivating words with the children, encouraging them to work hard in school.

Dalton's future goals include making the 2011 World Championships Team, helping that team medal, and making the U.S. Team for the 2012 Olympic Games.

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