After a season that saw three NCGA All Americans, a national champion, two individual records broken or tied, as well as a new record for overall team score and individual events, the Springfield College women’s gymnastics team is poised for even more success this season.
The Pride return All-Americans Jess Clemens and Ali Rushlow, as well as Tali Twomey — who earned All-American honors as well as being the National Champion in the floor routine to help lead the team on the mat. However, losing four seniors, there are some holes to fill in the lineup. According to Clemens, who boasts All-American honors the last two years on the bar as well as an honor on the beam last year, Springfield should have no problems filling those holes.
“We definitely lost a very diverse group of seniors,” Clemens said. “They were kind of spread out over different events, so it did leave holes in the lineup. However, we have such a deep group of freshmen and underclassmen, so we should have no problems filling those roles because we have so many options.”
As with any collegiate sport, graduation is one thing that affects every team.. Fourth year head coach Jenn Najuch points to the shear amount of depth as a key for the Pride to replace the senior class.
“We do have a lot of depth this year which is great,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that were on the team last year that were injured that are coming back and getting strong. We also have a very big, strong freshmen class so there’s a lot of people that could step in and fill those roles. Every day someone else is stepping up so it’s pretty exciting to see in the gym.”
Not only will depth be key to this team but when there is so much success carried on from last season, it is easy to just assume that it will be is guaranteed..
“We know we can be that team with a national champion that has all of these All Americans, but just because we did it once doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed that we do it again,” Clemens said.“I think coming off that success it pushes us in the right direction.”
Gymnasts to Watch
Winning a national championship and recieving back-to-back All-American honors garners a large amount of attention, especially when you do it as a sophomore. That’s exactly what Twomey did as she took home the floor exercise championship with a score of 9.9 to become the Pride’s first national champion since Abby Clark won the title on the beam in 2015.
“Tali [Twomey] is back as a national champion on floor and she still has that really good floor routine so that’s huge for our floor lineup,” Najeuh said. “She’s twisting her vault which is exciting because it’s a higher difficulty so the score potential is higher.”
Another gymnast to watch is going to be Rushlow, who earned an All-American honor in the all-around as a freshman. Najuch is excited to see what Rushlow can do as an encore to her impressive freshman season.
“She got All American in her freshman year which was huge and she’s back with upgraded routines and a lot more focus this year on her gymnastics and the team. I’m excited to see the potential in her.”
Not to be outdone by Rushlow and Twomey, Clemens has enjoyed success at Springfield earning multiple All-American honors including two last year. She has been a consistent presence for the Pride and Najuch expects the same this year.
“Jess [Clemens] is a solid all arounder and she sets the pace in the gym and has been getting those full sets in so we’re really excited to continue to see what she can do this year.”
Seeing that there are several elite gymnasts returning for Springfield this seaosn, the outlook is expectedly bright. Najuch believes with the combination of returning talent and depth of underclassmen they could potentially reach a goal they came so close to last year.
“Our goal from last year, that we didn’t achieve so it’s kind of our number one goal this year, is to get that 190 score. We missed it by less than half a point last season so it’s something we really want to do throughout the season.”
The goal of a 190 score seems to be within reach as Najuch mentioned how close they came to it. They reached a total of 189.525, a mere .475 points away from that elusive 190 at the East Regional last year.
“This might be the most excited I’ve been for a season with this team,” Najuch said. “The potential we see in the gym every day, sometimes we look around and see all the great skills and sequences and we get a little quiet because we want it to continue… The excitement is there, the dedication is there so this team could go really far and no matter how far they go I know they’re going to have a lot of fun, they’re going to try their best and that’s going to lead them to be as successful as they can be.”
With big name returners, combined with the strong group of underclassmen and the projected depth, this has a chance to be one of the most successful Pride teams in recent memory. If Najuch’s vision is true, there could be more than three All-Americans for the Pride and potentially multiple National Champions. The Pride will kick off their season on January 12 when they travel to Providence to take on Rhode Island College.
Photo courtesy of Springfield Athletics