For over a century now, the Springfield College men’s and women’s gymnastics teams have joined together to put on a dazzling show for Homecoming Weekend.
The teams had the opportunity to display their excellence this past weekend, in the 104th annual Gymnastics Exhibition Home Show, with the theme, “We’ve got talent.”
Students, faculty and alumni filed into a packed Blake Arena on Friday, Oct. 25, and Saturday, Oct. 26 to watch as the Springfield gymnasts flew through the air and showed off their skills.
The show featured 15 acts, each with its own theme or idea behind it.
“The students come up with most of the ideas,” said men’s gymnastics coach Stephen Posner. “We have an end of the year meeting before the kids go home where we decide the acts.”
Some of the different acts featured were the Mario Brother’s and the evolution of dance.
However, as many of the gymnasts will tell you, their favorite part of the show is not necessarily one particular act.
“My favorite part of Home Show is working with the men’s team and being part of the family,” said senior gymnast Keelin O’Connell. “Although during the season we work out with the men and we are always very close-knit with them, home show is the only opportunity we have to actually work with them and produce co-ed numbers.”
Women’s head coach Cheryl Raymond, in her 33rd season, had similar thoughts about the two teams working together.
“They enjoy it, they really do and they find that they have a lot of similarities,” said Raymond.
Getting ready to perform in front of so many people can be daunting, but also exciting.
“The day of the shows are like a normal day, however, when you start getting to the gym, warming up, getting ready, it is like no other feeling I have felt before,” said O’Connell. “It’s a one time feeling most people aren’t given. It’s like an emotional roller coaster, a combination of excited and nervous all in one. When you look from behind the curtain and see the 1,000-plus people out there, it just gets you pumped.”
Men’s senior gymnast Pat Hurley agrees with O’Connell, but adds that once you get through that first routine, the nerves disappear.
“Even as a senior I got a little nervous before my first number, mostly because you never know just how many people are in the arena until you run out to the floor and you’re like, ‘Woah, that’s a ton of people,’” said Hurley. “The nerves kind of disappear as the show goes on and you end up just having a great time.”
Hurley also spoke about the different events at the Home Show, saying how each one has a different element that makes it challenging.
“Each has its own difficulties for sure,” said Hurley. “I believe rings to be a little more physically taxing, while pommels is so easy to fall on and requires extreme focus. But if I had to pick one, it would be rings due to the amount of training that is necessary, especially for the strength skills.”
In order to make this show the success that it was, the gymnasts have to be ready to go from day one.
Hurley spoke about just how much preparation is involved in making the Home Show the best it can be.
“If you think about it, Cirque du Soleil takes months to perfect, and we’re doing the same thing in six weeks,” saidHurley.
“We are our biggest critics, so we always think we aren’t ready yet,” O’Connell said. “However, we always are.”
One of the special guests at the show was Dan Clark, a former Marine and police sergeant.
Clark opened the show by singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and then continued to serve as the show’s host.
Hurley could not find an exact word that he thought described just how much and how important Home Show is to the gymnasts selected to perform.
“Every year, alumni come to see the show that they were part of years ago,” said Hurley. “It is up to us to show that we have upheld the high standard that Springfield College gymnastics has, and that’s a big deal. Unlike the competitive season, it’s not a tangible trophy or medal we are working so hard for, but a tradition of excellence that needs to be kept alive each year, showing that the sport of gymnastics is here to stay at Springfield for years to come.”
O’Connell had a lot of similar things to say, mentioning just how much the team means to one another.
“As a senior, I have had four years to experience what will be one of the best experiences of my life,” said O’Connell. “Being selected for Home Show isn’t just about being selected to participate, it’s about being selected to be part of a family. Being selected to be part of this talented, fun-loving family means the world to me and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
“Each man and woman selected for the team is selected for a reason,” continued O’Connell. “That is to put on the best possible show for thousands of people. The show takes us out of our element a little bit and gives us a chance to become actors and actresses with our gymnastics. As a senior, we are expected to set an example for the classes under us and help the coaches lead.”
The Home Show tradition is one that has been strong now for 104 years.
Everyone involved understands and recognizes the tradition, and are always honored to be a part of it. It brings the team even closer, just like a family.
Judging from reactions from the crowd, both the men, women and even the Pride dance team put on a magnificent show.
Clark may have summarized it the best: “The artistry and athleticism you have witnessed here tonight is nothing short of world class.”