NORMAN, Okla. – Sometimes, life comes full circle.
For Navy’s Andrew Faulk, it did Friday night in Norman — the place where Navy assistant coach Craig Holt first saw the senior.
Life is funny like that.
The Men’s Gymnastics national championship was being hosted by Oklahoma that year, too. Also being hosted in Norman that weekend was the central regional for the Junior Olympics — a team that Faulk, a native of San Antonio, Texas, was part of three times before heading off to Annapolis.
That was the first time Holt saw Faulk compete in all six events. He knew right then what he had found.
“I thought he was a strong kid and looked like he had some potential,” Holt said. “I just hoped he had that potential and take advantage of it. The thing about Andrew — he’s not the most talented kid in the gym — but you want him in the gym. He works his butt off and is the best person in the gym with his work ethic and his competitiveness.”
Faulk wasn’t the best athlete in Lloyd Noble Center as he competed in the individual all-around. But you could see why he was the Midshipmen’s team captain in 2012.
High-five after high-five. Clapping others on as he tagged along with eventual national champion Illinois from event to event. Faulk was the only Navy athlete to compete on Friday night. But you wouldn’t know it if you had an isolated camera on him.
“I realized last year that the best thing to do was cheer on the team I was rotating with,” Faulk said. “So I did the same thing this year. Going to Navy, the team aspect is big for me so I had to latch on to that some how. I think we all feel it’s such a small-knit community, we all want everyone to do their best because maybe that will get us in the limelight. We all share the passion.”
“It’s incredible,” Holt said. “When you’re at that level — trying to be an NCAA finalist, All-American — it’s easy to get within yourself and think it’s all about me. But when he was with his own teammates, he was always there to pick them up when they needed it or to give them any advice. He’s been one of the best gymnasts to work with since I’ve been at Navy.”
Faulk finished 13th in the individual all around with a score of 84.75 — five spots better than a year ago at the national championships at Ohio State and higher than his season’s all around average of 84.156.
So if he’s not the best gymnast in the nation, how was he the first Navy gymnast to be named one of the finalists for the Nissen-Emery Award since 1973?
It’s the whole package.
“We knew he didn’t have the international experience,” Holt said, “but for him to be honored and looked at by his peers and by the coaches, we felt that everyone saw that he was that guy. The guy that everyone wants to emulate. He’s a leader and that’s important since that’s what he’ll be doing.”
Being nominated for his sport’s biggest award was something beyond special.
“I honestly couldn’t believe that I was up on the stage,” Faulk said. “Everyone that I admire was able to see me up there representing Navy. When I was nominated for the award I felt like I had to live up to it, with all those that have won in the past.”
Just don’t ask the 5-foot-8 Faulk what his favorite event is. He gets asked a lot and never really has an exact answer.
“I don’t really have a favorite,” Faulk said. “I’m truly an all-arounder. I feel like if I ever chose one, the other events would know and somehow it would come back and bite me.”
And that’s probably the best answer for someone competing in the all around.
Four years of the horse, vault, rings, floor, parallel bars and high bar can fly by. Training for not only his moments at the national championship, but for what happens after graduation for those in our nation’s service academies.
It was too early to reflect just moments after his collegiate career came to an end. But Faulk knew what was next.
“I’m going to go down to Pensacola [Fla.] to go to flight school,” Faulk said. “I don’t know doing what yet but hopefully something cool like the jets.”
Faulk still might get to fly through the air as he did throughout his brilliant college career. Instead of launching himself off the vault, he could be launching himself off an aircraft carrier if all goes according to plan.
Another full circle, perhaps, for Faulk.