UAA gymnastics team off to a strong start

The UAA gymnastics team started its first season in the Alaska Airlines Center with two strong victories against Winona State University. UAA beat Winona State 191.550-178.450 last Thursday and 192.250-185.275 last Saturday.

On Thursday night M’rcy Matsunami placed first in all events except the floor in which she scored second. Kallie Randolph won the floor with her 9.7 performance while teammates Simone Penker and Morgan Cook also contributed high scores on the bars and beam.

The meet on Saturday had strong performances from Penker, Matsunami, Cook and Marie-Sophie Boggasch.

Penker placed first on the floor, Cook won the beam and Matsunami performed the best on the vault. Even though she only competed on the bars, a very strong performance came from Nicole Larkin, who tied the fifth-highest score on the bars in program history with a score of 9.825.

Despite coming off an injury from last season, Matsunami’s first meet back at full health resulted in her winning the all-around Thursday night. During the 2014 season she had only competed on the bars because of an ankle injury.

“Coming back and getting to do all around again is a really exciting thing for me,” Matsunami said after her strong performance Thursday.

She placed first on the vault, bars and beam and got second on the floor. With a combined score of 38.850, she made the sixth-highest all-around score in the history of the UAA gymnastics program.

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After placing second in the all-around on Thursday night with a score of 38.475, Penker captured an all-around victory Saturday afternoon with a career-high score of 38.675. Penker also set another career high with her performance on the floor by scoring 9.725. Penker was very pleased with her performance overall but noted she has trouble on the beam during the meets.

Last October Penker represented her home country of Austria in the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Nanning, China. She said “the competition mood” from competing at the world championships has carried over into this season.

UAA Gymnastics Head Coach Paul Stoklos, who is entering his 31st season, was very pleased with the performance of the team both days. His goal for the team was to score a team total of 192 in the first meet, a goal that they only missed by 0.450. Stoklos called this first meet “probably the finest first meet of the season in the history of the program.” According to the coach the performances were perfect by the athletes up until the floor where there were two mistakes.

UAA Gymnastics leaves this Wednesday to compete in the Ozone Collegiate Classic in Knoxville, TN. The next home meets are against Centenary College on Friday, February 27 and Sunday, March 1 at the Alaska Airlines Center.