Gymnastics season opener brings new energy

With the past two record-breaking seasons, the Seawolves gymnastics team has a lot to live up to. Last year, the team set records for the overall average of 192.303 and a record for the regional qualifying score for 192.725.

The scores prove the strength the team has accumulated over the years, but almost cleaning the slate, the Seawolves lost seven graduates, including standout M’rcy Matsunami. To account for the loss, head coach Paul Stoklos added six freshmen to the remaining eight gymnasts.

Remaining on the team is the trio of seniors Nicole Larkin, Brice Mizell and Kallie Randolph who are all pertinent to the season’s success and helping the freshmen with the transition into college competition. In addition, junior Morgan Ross remains a top athletic and academic performer on the team.

For the new freshmen, college gymnastics is a completely new experience, an experience that Larkin had once gone through years ago.

“As upperclassmen, we definitely tried to convey the differences between college gymnastics and club gymnastics, but nothing you say can quite describe the feeling you get when you’re out on the floor for the first time,” Larkin said.

Randolph believes that having so many young teammates brings a new energy to the team.

“This week has been so much fun and with having half of our team as freshmen it was a good start,” Randolph said.

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As a season opener, the Seawolves traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia on Wednesday, Jan. 11 to compete against William & Mary College for the first time in twenty years. UAA has only once previously competed against William & Mary, but not since January of 1997.

Ending up short by less than 3 points, the Seawolves suffered the first loss of the season at 191.325 to 188.950. Of the four scores, vault, beam, bars and floor, UAA only surpassed Willam & Mary in one event: floor. Although they lost as an overall team, individuals used this meet to prove their pre-season training is paying off.

The opening competition of any sport is always used as a guideline and often not a make or break it deal. Pre-season training is utilized and then modified after the season.

“We needed to be tested to see how to grow. We have been practicing for so long and after a while, with no meet, it starts to get to you, so it was well needed,” Randolph said.

Team captain Ross, a previous standout, delivered career-best performances. With a score of 9.775 on floor exercise, she secured the highest score of the night. Ross additionally finished with 9.675 on the first beam routine of her career.

Larkin also proved to be a strength on the Seawolves side. Six of her scores all combined at a 9.45 or higher, securing a 9.625 on bars and 9.575 on beam.

As a freshmen season debut, Tere Alonson finished runner-up in beam, with a score of 9.700, just barely passing Ross.

Seawolves gymnastics returns home to the Alaska Airlines Center versus Wisconsin Stout on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.