Since the start of the season, the only goal for the Springfield College women’s gymnastics team was to reach nationals as a team. While individual athletes have gone to nationals alone, it’s the first time under head coach, Jenn Najuch that the team will be traveling as a team and for the first time in the past seven seasons.
Rolling out of bed around 2a.m., members of the team slowly got ready for their bid day. They packed their bags, gathered the rest of the team, made a quick pit-stop at Denny’s, hopped on the team bus and went to the airport, headed for Wisconsin.
The DIII National Championships are held at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and will run from March 31 to April 1. After posting an overall team score of 188.825 and finishing third overall at the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA) East Regional Championships in Brockport, New York, the Pride will be looking to put on yet another great showing come Friday.
Many of the Pride have been on the national stage before, but for those who haven’t might be a little nervous. However, it’s more exciting than anything.
“We’ve made it this far and our team goal was to qualify for nationals. So we qualified and made our goal, so at this point, the only thing to do is to have fun,” junior Briana Kerr said. “It’s not stressful anymore, it’s not about having your best meet because you already made it. So just go out there and show everybody what you accomplished and how hard you’ve worked all season.”
Kerr competed individually at the 2016 National Championship on the uneven bars and knows how difficult the season is to make it this far. This time, though, she has her whole team behind her.
Najuch has been at the helm for only two seasons, and has guided multiple athletes to nationals last season and now the whole team this year. She’s been working them hard to improve her athletes, and it’s paid off.
“From the first day of classes they have nationals on their brains. Every day since September they’ve been thinking about it and our season starts mid-October and that’s when we really start drilling everything, getting the endurance back and getting the mindset back,” Najuch said.
However, Najuch doesn’t want her athletes to let off the steam with scoring. Although it’s exciting and an overall fun experience, Najuch is looking for her team to raise the bar.
“This was our main goal – making it to nationals. They’re in it to place, do really well and to beat themselves. We haven’t scored a 190 yet so that’s our new goal,” Najuch said. “So instead of them just relaxing and going to have fun, they’re really going there in the mindset showing all those teams that we can compete with them and that they’re just as good as them.”
Since this is the first time in seven seasons Springfield has made it to nationals on a team, they have a chip on their shoulder going into the meet. Under the leadership of Najuch and led by senior Marissa DeAngelo, the Pride have their eyes on new heights, bringing their game to the next level and will showcase it all on the national stage in Wisconsin.