The news didn't come as a surprise to Kiwan Watts.
With Bobby Baker and Hunter Justus in first and second place, respectively, after day one in the junior men's competition at the P&G Gymnastics Championships, he knew it was almost certain the two would compete with the seniors Sunday.
He also knew their absence would hoist him to first place, placing him six rotations away from a national championship that may have been out of reach otherwise.
And with the opportunity knocking, he answered.
With a combined two-day score of 166.2, Watts finished first in the all-around of the 17-18 year-old division of the junior men Sunday at Consol Energy Center.
"I just went out there and did what I could do best," Watts, 18, said.
Watts' victory marked the first time since 2011 he finished first in the all-around of a national competition. Most recently, he placed fourth in the all-around at the men's junior Olympic national championships in May.
With Baker and Justus out of the competition, the Virginia native entered the day with a lead of 0.45, an advantage of which he never lost control.
He saw what had been a one-point cushion over eventual second-place finisher Yul Moldauer shrink to 0.3 heading into the floor exercise, the final event of the day for both competitors.
With his closest competitor set to do the routine right after him, Watts shined, posting a score of 14.2. After walking by Watts on his way to the floor, and slapping hands with him, Moldauer followed that with a 13.95, effectively sealing their respective places on the podium. "I knew Yul was right there, but I couldn't give him that edge," Watts said with a smile. "I had to go out there and perform the best I could."
Just as it was for Watts, Tristan Burke was presented with some good fortune Sunday. The two participants ahead of him in the 15-16-year-old division of the competition -- Marty Strech and Anthony McCallum -- opted to compete with the seniors after their first-day showings. And like Watts, Burke was able to take full advantage, building off his strong first-day performance to post combined score of 164.55, giving him a comfortable first-place finish ahead of Grant Breckenridge (163.3)
Unlike the 17-18 age group, where there was no sizable gap between first and second place entering the final event of the day, Burke gradually ran away from the competition. He went into the night with three gymnasts within two points of him, one of whom was only behind by 0.35. By the conclusion of the fourth rotation, however, Burke's lead had grown to 2.15.
"I was actually focused on not focusing too much," Burke said. "It's weird. I think too much a lot and I'll end up messing myself up real bad. I was just trying to stay calm and saying to myself that if I hit my routines, I'll fall where I want to be."
And as the four-day event came to a close, he had.
The combined attendance for the four days of the P&G Gymnastics Championships was 28,756, a 16 percent increase from the 24,778 for last year's event in Hartford, Conn.
USA Gymnastics officials believe that this year produced the championships' largest audience for artistic gymnastics since 2000.
Attendance peaked with a crowd of 12,424 for the junior and senior women Saturday. The two days of women's competition were responsible for 19,953 spectators (69.4 percent of the overall turnout).
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.
First Published August 24, 2014 9:47 PM