Seawolf gymnasts debut 2018 season

In the midst of the spring academic semester beginning and 2018 taking off, the UAA gymnastics team will see their competition season heating up as well. With a short season ahead of them, spanning three months long, the gymnasts debuted their first regular season meets on Jan. 12 and 14.

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Kendra Daniels balances during her beam routine. Daniels scored a 9.275 in the event on Jan. 12, and a 9.625 on Jan. 14 at the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

The gymnasts have spent the last four weeks of winter break training.

“Since we don’t currently have school to focus on, it has been much easier to just focus on practice and have a lot more time to go to the trainers if we need to or to get in extra training,” Isabelle Fox, freshman gymnast, said.

The Seawolves head into the 2018 season with a brand new head coach, following Paul Stoklos’ retirement, and four new freshmen. This is a significant addition to the team, which now totals 15 athletes.

As Tanya Ho took over as head coach, she has seen many beneficial outcomes in the past couple of months.

“I’ve seen them definitely clean up their form and higher their standards with their gymnastics,” Ho said. “They have realized that there is always work, so even when they are done with their assignments, I always see them doing extra work, even stuff that I am not telling them to do.”

Of the 15 athletes that Ho has coached this year, Isabella Scalapino, Hope Nelson, Michaela Phillips and Fox took the title of the newcomers.

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Scalapino comes from Cedar Park, Texas after competing for four years at level 10. She has ample experience in vault and floor, qualifying and competing in Texas State Championships.

The remaining three freshmen all come to UAA as previous all-arounders.

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Kaylin Mancari shares a high five with teammate during a meet at the Alaska Airlines Center. Mancari competed in vault, beam and floor events for the Seawolves. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

Phillips scored a 36.500 her senior year of high school in Junior Olympic Nationals, also having competed the previous year. The Idaho local comes to UAA having won all-around and bars at the 2017 Idaho State Championships.

Nelson comes from Newport News, Virginia, having also competed for four years at level 10 and qualified for Junior Olympic Nationals in 2016. Nelson brings skill in beam and bars to UAA. At the level 10 region 7 championships, she scored a 9.725 and 9.525, respectively.

The final newcomer, Fox, also comes from Texas. Similar to Nelson and Phillips, Fox qualified for Junior Olympic Nationals twice in both all-around and bars. While qualifying for level 10 regionals for three years, Fox competed in all-around, beam and floor.

These four freshmen bring experience and skill to the team, along with seniors Kendra Daniels, Madeleine Arbuckle and Morgan Ross.

To prepare for their upcoming meet, all the new additions and returners competed in a Green and Gold intrasquad meet on Dec. 9 to highlight the potential that the season holds.

The teams were broken down to have five girls on each squad. On the Gold team was Mancari, Miller, Scalapino, Ross and Hyderally. Opposing them on the Green team was Daniels, Green, Phillips, Nelson and Riley. Overall, the Gold team took the win with a score of 123.550 over the Green’s score of 101.675.

“[Competing against Cortland] will be my first time competing as a freshman which is much different than club, or what I am used to,” Fox said.

Although they still had a month between the Green and Gold meet and the Cortland meet, several of the freshmen, as well as others, scored high in their events.

Sophomore Mackenzie Miller scored a 38.025 for all-around. As for individual results, Scalapino won vault (9.600), Nelson took the title for bars (9.675), Hyderally won beam (9.775) and Mancari made No. 1 for floor (9.650).

“We are battling some minor injuries and illnesses right now, so we [didn’t] have our strongest team that we hoped to have on the floor but we do have a lot of depth so we [were] able to put out about six [gymnasts] on each event and be pretty competitive,” Ho said.

Even with the lack of athletes, the team still had several factors on their side, including location that lead them to their win on Jan. 12. The Seawolves ended with a final score of 188.825, reigning over their opponents who finished at 182.675. The team toppled Cortland once more on Jan. 14, with a final score of 190.975 over 183.2.

“Competing at home was [definitely an advantage] because it is the equipment we practice on, even though it is a different atmosphere I am glad our first meet was a home meet,” Fox said.

The Seawolves will travel to Missouri on Jan. 19 to compete Lindenwood, and then follow-up in Illinois against Illinois State on Jan. 21.