UAA Gymnastics team starts the 2011 season healthy

The UAA Gymnastics team’s season is off and running for the 2010-11 season and will look to for the Seawolves to return to championship form.

Two years removed from a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference title, the team ran into hard times last season when a number of gymnasts went down with injuries.

Unfortunately, this hindered the chances of a championship repeat but, ultimately, made way for other Seawolves to step up and gain crucial experience.

Last year’s growing pains may pay big dividends this year for the Seawolves as they are back healthy and poised to return to the top of their conference.

“Our main goal is to win conference of course, then of course get team members to regionals.” Stoklos said.

The 2011 season kicked off with the team travelling to California recently.

On Jan. 7, they were in Sacramento for a quadrangular meet which pitted them against Central Michigan, UW-La Crosse, and hosts Sacramento State.

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UAA would wind up taking 3rd place with 185.725 points, a mere 0.15 points behind runner-up Sacramento St. (185.875). Central Michigan won the meet with 193.575 points.

UAA was well represented in the all-around competition as Kathleen Mantell led the way with 36.375 to take 5th place overall. Right behind her was freshman Melissa Doucette in 6th (36.325) and junior Shakea Sanders in 7th (36.100).

Junior Kaelei Spoor lead the UAA women’s gymnastics team in Davis, California on Jan. 9 in a tri-meet against San Jose State and UC-Davis.

The UAA women ended the tournament with an overall score of 188.675, a three-point increase from the Sacramento meet.

“We started off Friday and didn’t have a perfect meet but there were no blowout performances,” said UAA Gymnastics Head Coach Paul Stoklos. “(Our) team is very motivated and very positive.”

Spoor, who was voted by teammates as the 2010 MVP, was able to receive a 9.775 on the beam exercise, to come in first ahead of UC-Davis’ Erika Van Dyke who scored a 9.725.

Winning the tournament was the host UC-Davis with 191.300 points. Second place finish honors went to San Jose State with 190.600.

“I was happy with the improvement, we did much better Sunday than we did on Saturday.” Stoklos said.

The early season meets was a great experience for the four new Seawolf gymnasts, according to Stoklos.

Doucette, a former Junior Olympian, seems to be quickly catching on at the collegiate level. Doucette scored a 9.625 on the floor exercise and a 9.4 on the vault in the Davis meet.

Also joining the team this season is freshman Emily Peterson, who received a 9.650 on the bars in Davis. High marks like this in the Bars event is something not lost upon her coach.

“Emily is a strong bar worker for us,” Stoklos said. “Bars is the toughest event.”

Peterson also has also competed in the Beam exercise in both meets thus far for the green and gold.

Junior Kelsey Fullerton received her season high score on the floor exercise scoring a 9.8, putting her in fifth place in the category.

Fullerton, named this year’s team captain, will be looked to not only help the team with points, but also help lead the newcomers this season.

“Kelsey is a really great motivator,” Stoklos said.

The team is off before competing again on Jan. 30 in Berkeley, CA when UAA will square off against the University of California Golden Bears.

This season for the Wolves’ will be a tough one, competing against almost all Division one schools, according to Stoklos.

Originally teams had been scheduled to compete here in Anchorage but bailed out last spring, according to Stoklos, who is considering an in house competition during the break, where the athletes will get to practice full routines.

“We have almost three weeks off, that can be very difficult.” Stoklos said.

Overall though, the team is healthy besides for a few aches and pains, and injury free and ready to compete and try for their second conference championship.