An artist on and off the mats
Minnesota’s Mannon uses violin to improve gymnastics
Ellis Mannon is a Renaissance man.
At least that's how Minnesota coach Mike Burns describes this freshman from Indianapolis, Ind.
Mannon is an up-and-coming young gymnast, a classically-trained violinist and a student pursuing a chemical engineering degree at one of the nation's top schools in the field.
"It shows a characteristic trait of what Ellis is made of in terms of his attention to detail and ability to take something to a high level," Burns said. "He's one of those guys you run into about once every 20 years and you have to pick your jaw up off the table because you're wondering how he gets it all done."
As a gymnast, Mannon came to Minnesota as one of the nation's top competitors in the pommel horse. Last August before official becoming a Gopher, he claimed the United States championship in the event for the 16 to 18-year-old junior category at the USA Gymnastics Visa Championships.
So far this season, Mannon won the pommel horse at the Windy City Invitational and against Air Force and took first place on the high bar versus UIC. At the Winter Cup Challenge -- a USA Gymnastics-sponsored meet that selects gymnasts to the National Team -- in Las Vegas on Feb. 4, Mannon placed fifth in the pommel horse amongst a group of the best gymnasts in the country.
"That was a huge accomplishment especially with all of the top guys in the country at the competition," Burns said.
While Mannon's specialty is the pommel horse, he is also a solid all-around gymnast, who finished 25th in the Winter Cup standings.
"He's improving all the time and is also a valuable contributor on high bar and parallel bars," Burns said. "His rings are getting better, and his floor and vault are improving. I see nothing but improvement over the next four years. I'd like to think we can get him to a higher level not only on the pommel horse, but also as an all-around gymnast."
"I think it has been going really well, and I've seen my gymnastics improve dramatically since I got here," Mannon said. "The team is getting better, too. I'm pretty excited by what is going on here."
Burns is encouraged by the progress Mannon has made with just a few months of collegiate experience under his belt.
"You don't look at him as a freshman, while you're crossing your fingers," Burns said. "You look at him at a season veteran that you can count on -- he's displayed that already. That's a tough thing to get in a freshman -- to have the ability to be counted on at such a young age -- that's a nice thing to have."
But Mannon is not just a talented athlete -- he is also a gifted musician. His parents exposed him to classical music and orchestra concerts at a very young age, and Mannon enjoyed it and showed an interested in the violin. He began taking lessons in the second grade, eventually joining a youth orchestra three years later.
"I started as second violin, and moved up until I became concert master," Mannon said. "Then, I switched to a different orchestra for high school students, and moved up through that one as well and ended up as the assistant concert master as a junior and senior. Along the way, I participated in various concerto competitions with orchestras in Indianapolis. I made the finals of two competitions as a junior in high school -- I didn't win, but it was a great experience."
Mannon's favorite pieces to perform on the violin are by Felix Mendelssohn and Johann Sebastian Bach, yet you will usually find him listening to classic and alternative rock music in the gym or soul in his dorm room.
|MORE ABOUT ELLIS|
|Born||Jan. 20, 1993|
|Club||Indy School of Gymnastics|
|Major||Plans to major in chemical engineering|
With the demands of being a collegiate student-athlete, Mannon is not currently playing in an orchestra, however, he practices the violin whenever he finds a little free time.
"I just like playing music, not necessarily performing it because that can be stressful," Mannon said. "When I'm in my zone, I can just feel it flow and create something beautiful."
Mannon strives for excellence in both pursuits, and says they are very similar disciplines.
"You train for something or practice it for months, and then showcase it one performance," Mannon said. "You're practicing the same thing over and over to perfect it.
[The violin] has helped me deal with pressure situations. I actually think playing the violin in a performance is more stressful than being a gymnast. If I can play violin I can certainly do a couple of back flips."
In addition to excelling in gymnastics and music, Mannon also shines in the classroom, and earned a partial academic scholarship. His well-rounded list of accomplishments was just icing on the cake for school administrators.
"When he sent his application in, the university started drooling," Burns said. "These are the kind of guys they want as students."