By Carley Crain
Heading into the winter season, due to several changes within the program, it was up in the air how the Springfield College women’s gymnastics team would perform. After losing head coach Jenn Najuch somewhat unexpectedly – opening a nationwide search for a replacement – and losing key seniors, the team’s immediate future was unknown.
However, after naming former assistant coach Emily Bellin as interim head coach for this season, the team’s spirit was restored. Springfield knew this year could be special, and keeping the head coaching position to someone they know very well added a helpful element.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment, as it is for any team, to switch head coaches,” senior Devon Rosier said. “But as a team, we have had a consistently good ‘adapt and overcome’ mindset, and approaching this situation in that same way has allowed for a really great transition.”
It didn’t take long for the Pride to make noise instantly. In the first meet of the season against its Division III rivals Rhode Island College and Bridgeport, Springfield won with its highest-scoring season-opening total in program history – kicking off the year with 186.875 points.
“We are super excited and have such great team energy so the start of our season has already been so fun,” Rosier said. “We are really focused on our confidence and using each success to build on that throughout the season.”
The bars seem to be the Pride’s strongest event so far, with reigning national champion on bars Winter Osborne coming back to finish off her NCAA eligibility, alongside senior Tori Sipes, who has been a key athlete for the Pride on the bars during her time on Alden Street.
On vault, Springfield has incredible depth. Graduate student MacKenzie MacLeod, who originally contemplated coming back for a fifth year, has been consistently strong in the event throughout her time at Springfield. Sophomore Annie Kiley placed third in the region last year. Fellow sophomore Delaney LaViolette also is a strong contender on the vault. LaViolette scored a 9.550 at regionals a year ago.
The beam is another event that Springfield has a long history of success in. The Pride have arguably the most depth in the region on the beam heading into the 2023 season. Springfield is returning all of its big names on the beam – MacLeod, Sipes and Rosier. MacLeod broke the school record on the balance beam last year and was the regional champion as well. Sipes and Rosier followed right behind her, as they swept the podium at regionals in 2022.
Each time a Springfield gymnast hops up on the beam, it’s always an event to look out for.
The floor exercise is known for its high energy and entertaining qualities. Although it is typically competed in last during meets, it’s certainly not on the bottom of Springfield’s list. MacLeod, once again, was the regional champion in the event last year and has a career-high score of 9.800. Rosier and junior Rae Anna Schutz also scored at regionals on the floor in 2022, and will both be names to keep an eye on this season.
Springfield is ready to maintain its status as one of the strongest teams in the region, and is set to fight for back-to-back national championship appearances.
Photo: Springfield Athletics