New gymnast rises in collegiate ranks, competing all-around

Freshman Lauren Agostino won’t talk about the other schools she considered before signing with UAA’s Division I gymnastics team.

“I don’t want to think about other schools,” Agostino said. “I want to do well for the school that I’m at.”

And she has. To date, Agostino’s rising scores have tied or surpassed those of veteran gymnasts on the team since the Green and Gold Intrasquad meet, a pre-season scrimmage between UAA’s gymnasts. Competing all-around _” on all four events – Agostino took third place at the Intrasquad and has taken first place in the all-around in three of UAA’s four meets this season.

“I think she’s seen she can be competitive,” coach Paul Stoklos said. “She really wants to break 39 (points) in the all-around score.”

A perfect score for an all-around gymnast is 40 points, 10.0 scores in vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

“When you have an athlete that makes that goal, they go on auto-pilot, they self-motivate,” Stoklos said.

Three gymnasts compete all-around for UAA _” Agostino, sophomore Jessica Portlock and junior Dominique Ingram, all three of which have broken school records and garnered national honors, such as top-ten finishes at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championships and Junior Olympics National Championships.

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“She had a good all-around, a decent bar set and a great vault,” assistant coach Tami Monette, who recruited Agostino at the Junior Olympics, said. “It was a match made in Heaven.”

Agostino, who was raised in Virginia, came to Alaska during the 2005 summer with Texas recruit Karli Franz, meeting several of the team members in-person and corresponding with the rest via e-mail or telephone. After connecting well with the team and coaches, Agostino and Franz, the only two remaining freshmen of the four recruited in 2005, signed their recruitment paperwork together over the phone. Now they are roommates on campus and take classes together.

“She’s hilarious. She’s seriously sarcastic, but in a good way,” Franz said.

During the team’s long, pre-season training period that began in September, Agostino refined her moves into the high-scoring routines she’s competed with this season.

“When I was in Club Gymnastics I wasn’t as consistent,” Agostino said. “Here, they make you do it over and over in practice, so at meets I try not to change it.”

Agostino continued to work in all the events, and the UAA athletic trainers started her on a rehabilitative program for a slipped disk in her back, letting her train more hours each day.

“I don’t let it get in my way,” Agostino said. “If I keep my back strong, it’s okay.”

Strength is what coach Stoklos said Agostino worked to build during the preseason, and the work has paid off with Agostino’s three first-place finishes in the all-around competitions and scores fitting easily in the 38.0-point range.

“We knew she was capable of those scores, we didn’t know we’d see them,” Stoklos said. He said he attributes Agostino’s success to her internal drive, her challenging workouts and the encouraging team atmosphere of collegiate gymnastics.

“Here you’ve got a whole bunch of people supporting you,” Stoklos said. “You’re a part of the team.”

UAA’s ten-member team regularly competes with other collegiate teams with 18-20 girls.

Though UAA gymnasts regularly score in the top-ten lists on individual events, the team’s combined scores are lower than those teams with enough members to let gymnasts specialize. UAA can’t afford to let gymnasts compete in only one event.

“Everybody here counts, everybody on the floor is important on some way, shape or form,” assistant coach Monette said. “We’re small and strong.”