ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Yul Moldauer raced out to an early lead at the 2017 U.S. Gymnastics championships, putting together six steady routines Thursday night to open up a sizable gap over reigning NCAA all-around champion Akash Modi and give him some serious momentum in his attempt to lock down a spot on the world championship team this fall.

Moldauer, who won the 2016 NCAA all-around title at Oklahoma and the American Cup earlier this year, posted a score of 86.650, nearly two points clear of Modi at 84.700.

Allan Bower, a teammate of Moldauer's at Oklahoma, is third. Donnell Whittenburg, an Olympic alternate last summer searching to regain the form that made him an all-around finalist at the 2015 world championships, struggled on pommel horse but finished with a flourish. His 15.000 on still rings moved him into fourth. The final round is Saturday night.

Moldauer tied for the highest score on parallel bars (14.7) and finished in the top five on each of the other five events to create some breathing room between himself and the rest of a wide-open field.

The men's program is in the midst of a generational shift as most of the group that served as the core of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams has moved on into retirement. Moldauer, Modi and Bower are in the group leading the next wave, though the veterans still hanging around are hardly done.

Alex Naddour, a bronze medalist on pommel horse at the 2016 Olympics, returned from an arm injury to post a 15.3 on his signature event, the best score of the night on any apparatus.

Four-time national champion Sam Mikulak, limited to competing on pommel horse and high bar as he works his way back from a torn Achilles, pumped his fist after putting together a solid set on pommels, fueling his hope that he'll be able to contribute at worlds in Montreal in October.

There is no team competition at worlds, giving the selection committee plenty of options as it tries to put together the six-man group that will be announced by the end of the weekend.