STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A year ago, Fred Hartville was a high school senior. Today, the Illinois freshman vaulter is an NCAA champion.
“I don’t think words can explain how this feels,” Hartville said. “It has been an up-and-down season for the whole team, but I’ve tried to be really consistent on vault, and the consistency paid off for me. I’ve never let anything be enough for me. My stuck landing in team finals wasn’t enough. I wanted more, so I came out even hungrier and went for it today.”
Hartville won the national title by matching the second-highest vault score of his career with a 15.425 and continued Illinois’ recent domination in the event. Former Illini Paul Ruggeri won the NCAA vault title in 2012.
It was Illinois’ fifth national title in the vault, but Hartville became the first freshman in school history to take the crown.
“This keeps Illinois on the map, showing that we’ve got some gamers on our team,” UI coach Justin Spring said Sunday. “I’ve never seen anyone step up and land a vault of that caliber as often as Fred has in the most urgent situations, but he has stepped up again and again. I’m very proud of him, and he really deserves it.”
Hartville was one of three Illini to earn All-America honors during event finals Sunday.
Fifth-year UI senior Austin Phillips placed second on high bar to earn his second consecutive All-America honor, posting a season-high 14.950 in the event and finishing as runner-up to 2012 U.S. Olympian Sam Mikulak (16.100).
“It was a great way for Austin to go out as a senior,” Spring said. “I know he wanted it badly, and he got it. He did a great job, and it was probably the best he’s done all year. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
UI sophomore Mike Wilner was fifth on rings with a 15.150 and also earned All-America laurels.
“It was a great job for Mike as well,” Spring said. “It was good to have Illinois guys bringing home some great honors. I think the team has got some ground to work on as we move into next year.”
The top eight gymnasts in each event received All-America honors.
Illinois had four All-Americans at the NCAA Championships, including freshman Joey Peters during Saturday’s all-around final.
UI senior Vince Smurro also competed in event finals, finishing 10th on floor with a 13.650.