© John Cheng

By Lynn Rutherford

The Region 3 team, comprised of six junior elite gymnasts from Oklahoma and Texas, won the 2017 Elite Team Cup held at Newark, N.J.’s Prudential Center on Saturday night, earning 327.70 points to edge the Region 5 squad by 4.25 points.

“Most of our routines were hit,” said Alexei Vernyi of Cypress Academy of Gymnastics in Texas. “I don’t know if we counted any misses, maybe horse, but we hit a lot.”

Vernyi, an 18-year-old senior at Cy-Fair High School, will attend University of Oklahoma on a full-ride scholarship. He was especially impressed with the atmosphere at Prudential Center.

“It’s so open compared to other competitions,” he said. “The lighting is good and very even everywhere. Some meets are very dim.”

Much as the Nastia Liukin Cup does for female gymnasts, this event seeks to give male gymnasts between 13-18 years of age (as of May 31, 2017) high-level exposure and podium performance experience.

The unique format has nine senior elite male gymnasts compete alongside nine junior elite men’s regional teams. Each team consists of six junior elite gymnasts. Team scores are based on five athletes competing on each event; the top four scores count.

Besides Vernyi, other Region 3 team members included: Gage Dyer, Yukon, Okla./Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy; Evan Davis, Houston, Texas/Cypress Academy of Gymnastics; Ian Gunther, Houston, Texas/Cypress Academy of Gymnastics; Griffin Kehler of Frisco, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics; David Pochinka, Plano, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics; and Josh Williams, Cypress, Texas/Cypress Academy of Gymnastics.

Brandon Briones, a 15-year-old sophomore at Gilbert High School in Arizona, competed for the Region 1 team and won the senior all-around event, claiming a $2,000 prize.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had with Region 1, and I got to include a couple of new upgrades I’ve been working towards, and I set them in the set,” he said. “Both parallel bars and high bar, I included new skills.”

Briones leaves for an international assignment in Berlin on April 7th.

“Including the new skills here, was mainly in preparation for Berlin,” he said.