By Carley Crain
Continuing the “tradition of excellence,” another record-breaking season is in sight for the Springfield College women’s gymnastics team.
The Pride are known as one of the best academic programs in the country, and have produced numerous national championship qualifiers and All-Americans every year.
Last season, the Pride produced the best average GPA across all Div. III institutions, and the fifth best across all divisions. Additionally, 16 individual athletes were recognized for their efforts in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, the Pride had six individual qualifiers for the Division III National Championships last season, two of them earning All-America honors.
“Academics is very important to us on the team. We make it a point that we are student athletes, which means that academics is always the priority,” Springfield gymnast Sara King said.
“Our team GPA last year was a 3.69 which was the highest amongst the division three schools and fifth in the nation. This is something we pride ourselves on very much and strive to maintain that throughout each semester.”
While individuals are striving to reach their own goals, the team is looking to continue their success from last season, where the Pride set three new program records with an overall team score of 190.725, 48.350 for the balance beam, and 48.600 for the floor exercise.
Despite losing two seniors, including All-American and NCAA Woman of the Year nominee, Jess Clemens, the Pride will look to a strong freshman class and experienced upperclassmen to lead the team.
The Pride hopes to have individuals qualify for the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NGCA) Championships, but their main goal is to return to the national stage as a full team again for the first time since 2017.
“Our biggest team goal is making it to nationals and breaking the uneven bar record. We have just been working really hard and all of us are very goal driven as well as working towards our common goal,” King said. “All of us are eager to start the season and to show everyone how well prepared we are. We have so much depth and talent on the team and we cannot wait to start showing it off.”
Players to Watch
In 2020, senior Tail Twomey is looking to bring another national title back to Alden Street. In the 2017-18 season, she became a national champion in the floor exercise with an almost perfect score of 9.900. Last year, Twomey placed sixth overall at the national championships in the floor exercise, earning her third All-America honor in the event.
Leaping into her final season for the Pride, Twomey has her eyes set on another national championship – and a ring.
“Apart from being our floor anchor and being super reliable as a competitor, that translates outside the gym too,” King said. “She is an amazing role model on the team. She is a great teammate and steps up whenever anyone needs any kind of help or advice.”
King, a junior, is another gymnast to watch for this upcoming season. A citizen of Maribor, Slovenia, King came to Springfield and made an immediate impact.
In her career to this point, she has qualified for the Division III National Championships on the beam. This past summer King competed in the World University Games, and won the Slovenian Championship in the all around competition. She also received a bronze medal on the uneven bars.
Bringing international talent to Alden Street, King will help lead the Pride to a run at qualifying for the NCGA national championships as a team.
Sophomore Physician Assistant major Ali Rushlow had a breakout freshman year, as she qualified for the NCGA National Championships in the all around competition last season. Only a sophomore, Rushlow’s versatility adds an element to the Pride that will be crucial during championship season.
Other gymnasts to keep an eye on this season include seniors Sarah Murphy and Taylor Jackson.
Murphy qualified for the NCGA championships on the beam for the second straight season last year. Jackson qualified for the NCGA Championships for the vault, and during the 2017-18 season she tied the school vault record of 9.725.
The roster for the Pride is deep and full of talent, and an exciting season is in store.
This upcoming winter season for the Springfield women’s gymnastics team will be the finale for Twomey, Jackson and Murphy, as it will be their final season wearing and representing THE jersey.
The seniors hope to lead the Pride to an overall team qualification for the NCGA Championship in March, and look to break the uneven bars school record.
The Pride has talent across all grade levels, and in order to be successful, team chemistry and culture must be intact. A strong, deep freshman class, as well as experience and leadership from the upperclassmen, will pave their path to victory. Chasing records and championships, the Pride are also striving to maintain their status as one of the nation’s leading programs in both gymnastics and academics.
“Our blanket goal is to be really motivated and goal-oriented everyday at practice, to keep making steps forward so that they do improve and continue to improve throughout the season,” head coach Jenn Najuch said. “I think another team goal is just to be good team members and being appreciative of each other, helping each other get better and improving on skills that may be troublesome for some people.”
The NCGA East Regional Championships will be held at Springfield College in late March, and there is no better way to accomplish their main goal of qualifying as an overall team then at the electric Blake Arena.
“There is just a huge energy involved with division three gymnastics, there are six teams there and it is just unlike any other sport, everyone is cheering so loud and Blake Arena is just going to be filled with energy which is really great,” Najuch said.
The Pride’s journey to another record-breaking season starts on January 12 at Blake Arena.
Featured photo courtesy Springfield Athletics