While the majority of the Springfield College student body was off enjoying the early signs of spring this past weekend, the gymnastics teams hit the mats for a pair of meets.
The women’s team was on the road on Sunday, Mar. 6 in Ithaca, New York for the NCGA East Regional Championships. The Pride finished fourth – but ended with a season-high score of 187.525.
“They really did a great job,” women’s coach Jen Najuch said. “With gymnastics, this East qualifier is really the most important meet of the season. We kind of have a couple of meets to get us together for this meet, and this meet we really did awesome on every event.”
The highlight of the weekend came courtesy of junior Marissa DeAngelo, who took home the title of NCGA East Gymnast of the Year. The first Springfield College student-athlete to take home that honor, DeAngelo finished second in the all-around on Sunday, with a score of 37.65.
“[East Gymnast of the Year] means so much to me,” DeAngelo said. “I’m very blessed and happy to receive this award. It makes me feel that people believe in me, and see all the dedication, hours and perseverance I put into this sport.”
Added Najuch, “Not many people do all four events. [DeAngelo] has competed all-around in every meet this season, which is really awesome. She should be really proud of herself. You know, she’s just been consistent for this team.”
DeAngelo wasn’t the only one to leave the weekend one a good note: freshman Heather Gomes and sophomore Brianna Kerr both qualified for the NCGA Championship, held in Brockport on Mar. 18-19.
“It’s great to see Bri qualify again, she went last year,” Najuch said. “It’ll be good for her to re-visit the national stage. Her bar-work is very consistent. She takes several turns in practice, and she really goes above and beyond to make sure everything in her routine is perfect.
“It’s really good to see a freshman break away from the pack,” Najuch said in regards to Gomes. “It’ll be nice to see her go up there, she has a lot of potential.”
The men’s squad held home gym advantage this weekend, as they hosted Army for a regular season meet on Sunday. While the Pride dropped the match 423.150-410.00, they recorded a season-high team score.
“Yeah we had a good meet,” men’s coach Steve Posner said. “We had the best meet of our season, so we’re pleased.”
Standout senior Jon Zirna continued to do what he does best against Army. His all-around score of 84.600 was a career-best, and it placed him second in the meet behind Army’s Jesse Glenn (87.100).
“He had a great meet,” Posner said. “He won pommel horse, just missing his record of 15.250. I think he scored a 15.200. Anything above a 14.000 is really good.”
Zirna’s performance earned him a second-straight ECAC Gymnast of the Week award, and it seems as if the senior is only continuing to get better.
“He’s a physician’s assistant major,” Posner explained. “And a lot of PA majors can’t compete all four years, because it gets too busy. So I asked him at the beginning of the season, ‘Jon, what do you think? If you want to compete, we’ll make an exception and get you out of the gym early,’ and he said ‘no no, I want to compete, I want to be here every day.’”
While the team has seen plenty of contribution from the senior Zirna, the level of which some of the underclassmen have been performing has brought optimism to the team as well. In the meet against Army, sophomore Chris Graff recorded a career-high in the vault, parallel bars and rings. Classmates Mike Grimaldi (career-high 14.400 on parallel bars) and Joshua Dieker (season best 14.300 on rings) performed above expectations as well.
“[Performance from the younger gymnasts] is great,” Posner explained. “Mike Grimaldi won the parallel bars. He beat all the guys from Army, and he did the same in Georgia at the Peachtree Invitational. So it is encouraging, because we only have one junior the way it works out. So we’re going to need the sophomores to step up, so I’m not only counting on their gymnastics, but their leadership.”
The men’s team will be back in action against Navy on Mar. 13, in Blake Arena. The women’s team gets a few weeks off until DeAngelo, Kerr and Gomes travel to the NCGA Championship on Mar. 18-19.