By Carley Crain
While the men’s gymnastics team faced a very unique season with all of their meets being held virtually, this year’s class of first year athletes proved themselves as being a group of strong assets for the Pride. For all of the first-year’s, Alden street is over seven hours away from home, but despite being far from their families, Springfield has quickly become their home away from home.
The group of nine mostly already knew of each other before they got to Springfield, either through Junior Olympics, Nationals, similar competitions and more. Some were even good friends before they got to Springfield, and when they got on campus these relationships grew even closer. They were no longer former competitors from all over the country, they now all wear ‘THE jersey’.
With little preparation and gym time heading into this year’s season, the Pride was unsure of who would be able to step up this year. Due to different COVID state guidelines, some freshmen were able to get a lot of practice time back home, while others could not even get into the gym at all.
COVID scares were also an issue for some of the first-year’s, due to Gulick hall being shut down in late October. Being a first year college student is a large transitional period, even without a global pandemic, but for this year’s first-year class, many soon became regulars in the starting lineup.
“I would say the biggest thing I have noticed is that it does not seem virtual. The team is so much bigger than high school,” said first-year David Handron.
Charlie Kramer, Colton O’Brien, Juan Gomez, Dane Cramer and Handron quickly emerged as strong and competitive starters for the Pride. Most of this year’s first-year class are labeled as all-around specialists, but only focused on a few events this winter season. Kramer specifically focused on the floor exercise, vault, parallel bars and the high bar, where many times this year he led the Pride in scoring for those events.
This season O’Brien became one of the best gymnasts in the ECAC for the pommel horse, as he earned ECAC Specialist of the Week honors three weeks in a row. O’Brien will play a big role in the postseason, starting with ECAC’s next weekend. As of March 9, O’Brien was ranked first in the ECAC and 24th in the nation for the pommel horse.
Gomez has also been a consistent starter for the Pride. While he is labeled as an all-around specialist, he competed only in the pommel horse and still rings this virtual season. Gomez was able to close off the regular season with a season best of 12.900 on the pommel horse, earning him ECAC Rookie of the Week honors.
Handron has also become a familiar face in the lineup, where he competed in numerous events, including the floor exercise, rings, high bar and parallel bar. Handron emerged as one of the strongest ring and parallel bar specialists for the Pride.
Cramer was able to produce season-bests of 12.000 in both the high bar and pommel horse.
Ingraining oneself into the college atmosphere of being a full time student-athlete is difficult, but for this year’s first-year class, the transition was rather smooth due to the team’s positive and encouraging atmosphere.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most sports teams on campus, including the men’s gymnastics team, were forced to split into pods where the entire team is not able to practice together consistently. Most of the first-year’s were paired with seniors in these pods, which helped create a more welcoming and inclusive team environment.
“Once I got here at Springfield it was super inclusive,” said Handron. “The upperclassman really went out of their way to get the first-years involved with the team in a year where it is kind of hard to do that. It’s definitely a great group of guys.”
For many of the first-years, coming to Springfield was the first time they ever had a big team, which helped grow their love for the sport even more.
“In a handstand at the end of a routine and when you are ready to do a dismount all you hear is just endless screaming, ” said Handron. “I used to not like competing at all and then last year I kind of figured out how to not dislike it but this is the first time I have enjoyed competing.”
With the regular season concluded, the Pride will move on to the postseason, starting with ECAC’s this upcoming weekend in-person at Army. This meet will mark the first in person competition for the men’s gymnastics team in over a year. After ECAC’s, the NCAA championships will be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Photo: Jack Margaros/Springfield Athletics