The bleachers in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex were rocking. Feet were stomping as green and gold painted faces chanted “U-A-A” over and over. The wave moved from one end of the crowd to the other. A certain electricity filled the air as the Seawolves staked a last-minute comeback.
A basketball game?
Try a gymnastics meet.
Such is the case with the new look UAA gymnastics team as it continues its transition into the Division I ranks.
“Beating that team once is huge. Twice is unbelievable,” UAA head coach Paul Stoklos, whose team was 0-5 against TWU entering the weekend.
After a convincing UAA win to open the series, the visiting Pioneers (1-5) staked themselves to an early lead in front of 359 boisterous Seawolf fans. Stoklos said he felt the confidence in the opposition from the start.
“They came in gunning for us,” he said.
Entering the final rotation, the Pioneers led the Seawolves by half a point on the scoreboard. But UAA was on the floor, an energy event, while Texas was faced with the beam, an event that as much mental as physical.
“The meet was on their shoulders,” Stoklos said.
The Pioneers crumbled on beam with falls from the their first three performers, while the Seawolves got high marks with Jamie Burton’s career-high 9.725, Tiffany Staton’s 9.75 and Amanda Kolosovsky’s 9.675 on the floor. Dominique Ingram closed it out with a high-flying 9.8 on the floor.
“We got the job done,” Stoklos said.
A loud UAA crowd that fueled the Seawolves finish on floor also magnified the Pioneers break down on the beam. Stoklos said that gymnastics crowds aren’t what they 25 years ago when fans were silent and hushed during events.
“The crowd plays a huge role, especially tonight” he said. “We want it all the time.”
Amy Jones, a redshirt senior, has seen fans come and go in her five years in Anchorage. But the support the Seawolves received against TWU confirmed for Jones fans are taking them seriously as gymnasts because of their success.
“I’m almost speechless,” Jones said. “It just shows how much we’re emerging.”
While the fans were making noise, Jones and the Seawolves made some of their own. Throughout the meet, the team used various call-and-response chants like “Whose house? Our house.” and “See what? Seawolves.” The team spirit combined with strong performances impressed the veteran Jones.
“This is the best we’ve ever pulled together,” she said.
UAA pulled together as a team behind some fine individual performances on the weekend. Ingram won three events in the opener and took home the vault title the next night. Freshman Jessica Portlock tied with Ingram for first on bars the first night. UAA clinched the opener by sweeping the top three spots on floor, with Ingram (9.8), Jones (9.675) and Staton (9.675) leading the way.
During the second win, numerous Seawolves placed with career-high scores. Sophomore Rachael Lehmkuhl used 9.725 on vault for third place and Portlock took second on bars with a 9.775. Staton placed second on beam and third on floor.
The hallway in front of the UAA locker room was filled with shrieks and screams of happiness from a team that is getting better and better each meet. The sweep of a national powerhouse let the Seawolves, young and old, know they belong in DI gymnastics.
“This was the biggest meet I’ve ever been in,” Jones said while wiping the remains of post-meet tears from her face. “I couldn’t ask for more.”