By Kevin Saxe
SPRINGFIELD — Tradition of Excellence.
A motto that has been ingrained in the minds of every Springfield College gymnast to come through the program. A part of that tradition was celebrated in front of an electric crowd that included members of the men’s gymnastics program wearing body paint that spelled out Pride, at Blake Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Members of the 1969 Women’s Collegiate National Championship were honored after the Pride’s meet against Division-II foe Southern Connecticut State and Division-III counterpart Ithaca College. Head coach Jenn Najuch talked about the excitement in welcoming back such an accomplished group of alumni back for the meet.
“It was really special having them there and having the girls see alumni come back from such an important team. I think it was a huge inspiration for all of us to really fight and compete like champions.”
Fight is what the Pride did. Ranked fifth in the NCGA, it finished third with a team score of 188.1, just one tenth of a point off their season-high score of 188.2. Southern Connecticut won the meet with a score of 192.075 while Ithaca — ranked third in the NCGA — finished with a team score of 189.950.
Springfield broke their team balance beam record by scoring a 48.075, which topped the previous record of 47.925 set at last year’s NCGA East Regionals. Despite a lighter practice week coming off the meet at Air Force, Najuch was happy with the teams overall performance in the meet
“It went really well. The whole team has been a little tired after our great trip at Air Force. They really needed to trust their skills and have confidence in their training. We saw that on three events which was huge. Although we didn’t have the best bar day, that being the second event, coming back on beam and breaking the school record is a pretty good day.”
Throughout the day the Pride were led by a number of impressive performances spread throughout the four classes. Senior Jess Clemens led the team in the all-around with a 36.750, highlighted by 9.7 on both the floor routine and the balance beam. Fellow senior Heather Gomes delivered a 9.55 on both the vault and the beam.
In the junior class, defending floor routine champion Tali Twomey scored a 9.825 while also adding a 9.475 on the vault. The most impressive performance all around may have come from Ali Rushlow. The sophomore competed in the all-around for the first time this season and delivered a score of 36.425, highlighted by a 9.525 on the beam and a 9.650 on the vault. Najuch was impressed in the sophomore’s performance.
“We had Ali [Rushlow] step up and have a bar routine this week. We were a little slim on the bars and we needed a routine and she got up there and competed all-around for the first time this season.”
Despite a record breaking performance on the beam, the Pride fell a bit short on the bars with a 44.125. Despite the score on the bars Najuch feels confidence in her team headed into the final month of the season.
“We were two points away from our goal of 190 and we had a pretty rough event so I think if we can get all four events on the same page we’ll be right where we need to be by the end of the season.”
Springfield looks to continue to build off their success when they head to Cortland to take on SUNY Cortland for an 11 a.m. meet on Sunday February 24th.
Photo courtesy Springfield College Athletics