UAA women’s gymnastics team flips into season

Last weekend, the Seattle Pacific Falcons competed against the UAA Seawolves women's gymnastics squad at the Sports Center. Despite an energetic performance by the home team, the Falcons won 186.175 to 180 on Friday night and187.525 to 180.925 on Saturday night. Yet, the Seawolves seemed to plant firm roots for a positive relationship with a large and vocal crowd.

As the meet played out, the Seawolves appeared to match skills and even possessed more enthusiasm than the Falcons. However, the enthusiasm dissolved as both nights progressed.       

Captain Rachel Glover said, “We don't want to peak too early” – a sentiment that coach Paul Stoklos seconded, adding that the weekend experience was not bad. It might even be called good, when one takes into account the injuries of the team – a dislocated shoulder and a knee injury as well as several stress fractures, and its youth – six newcomers to the team.

Friday night's competition began as the Seawolves attacked the vault. The thunder of that attack, shocking and abusive, turned instantly to a summer breeze as the gymnasts' bodies left the jump and spun majestically, or wildly, into the air. That place exists for merely an instant. Then, contact. The reality of earth met the Seawolves, whether it was feet on floor, knees on ground, rear down or face first. You name it, and it was represented. And it was art.

Yes, our friends from Seattle Pacific University were equally masterful in their aggressiveness. They, too, struck at their bodies' limits, their minds lighting the fire that pushed, contorted, pulled, twisted and blazed the air surrounding them.

Erin Kawasaki, a member of the Falcons, said, “I just hope to land on my feet.”

Yes, an artist.

congratulations from UPD to UAA graduates
- Advertisement -

The home team went next to the uneven bars. Strength and imagination are vital for this portion of the meet. Both teams performed nicely. However, this event was so far away, all that could be distinguished from the bleachers was the athletes looping gracefully and repetitiously. At times it seemed that the Seawolves and Falcons were oblivious to each other. Is there any camaraderie between the athletes? Kawasaki said the team members were busy supporting each other.

“And that means focus. We have no animosity towards anybody we compete against.

Next, the balance beam, a 4-inch wide board, was prepared to be jumped on, flipped on and contemplated on. And all while a frenzied, noisy floor exercise thundered a few feet away. Glover said the team doesn't even hear the crowd.

“We've learned to block out that noise.”

The balance beam is the character test of the meet. Again, both teams performed well, but the Seawolves were more unbalanced, losing points and opportunities. Many fell, several twice. Most tottered, and some swayed grandly.           

Finally, the Seawolves took to the floor exercise. The spectacle of originality is the focus with these performances. Seattle Pacific warmed up the rug for UAA. The night had come full circle. Once again, the ladies exploded their souls on the floor. Maybe it was because they were losing and needed a huge finish; maybe they were in love with their art. Or possibly, the open space that is the floor exercise stirred memories of youth, running through open fields, meadows, parks or city streets. Places where freedom reigns – arguably the only time in one's life it is so pure and strong.

Yet, there is one other reason to be considered, even plausible. That is the possibility that everyone in the whole world is crazy and these gymnasts have found a release. They are trying to tell us to simply quit being spectators.


UAA gymnastics team bios

Name: Stacey Renfrow
Year: Sophomore
Birthday: Aug. 8, 1981
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Alvin, TX

Favorite Event:   Bars

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Overcoming an injury and staying positive when coming back into the swing of things from that injury.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: Traveling all over and being able to see different parts of the United States.


Name: Melinda Merritt
Year: Sophomore
Birthday: Aug. 9, 1980
Major: Journalism and Public Communications
Hometown: McLeansville, NC

Favorite Event:   Beam and Floor

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Staying in shape all year round.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: Hitting routines in competition, learning new skills and working out with teammates.


Name: Michelle Bartleman
Year: Sophomore
Birthday: July 7, 1978
Major: Professional Piloting and Graphic Design
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Favorite Event:   Vault

Hardest thing about gymnastics: The mental aspect – it doesn't matter how talented you are, if you can't learn to control your mind you won't succeed.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: There are no limits – there is always a new skill you can learn, and always something you can make better.


Name: Mandi Burdick
Year: Freshman
Birthday: May 1, 1982
Major: Undecided
Hometown: Stacy, MN

Favorite Event:   Floor

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Having to stay in shape all year round and never getting time off.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: Creating everlasting friendships and getting to be with a bunch of girls all the time.


Name: Jesse Currie
Year: Sophomore
Birthday: Dec. 7, 1980
Major: Criminal Justice
Hometown: Portland, OR

Favorite Event:   Bars

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Training year round.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: Always having a team for there you when you need them.


Name: Rachel Glover
Year: Junior
Birthday: Aug. 8, 1978
Major: Nursing and Psychology
Hometown: Mathis, TX

Favorite Event:   Bars

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Waking up at 5:45 a.m. for 6:30 a.m. practice, balancing gymnastics with school and perfecting all four events.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: Swinging on the bars, learning new skills, hitting routines in competition, receiving high scores, being part of a dedicated team and making nationals.


Name: Amy Jones
Year: Freshman
Birthday: March 24, 1982
Major: Undecided
Hometown: Gig Harbor, WA

Favorite Event:   Floor

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Staying mentally tough.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: Competing and team friendships.


Name: Joanne Mitchell
Year: Freshman
Birthday: March 26, 1982
Major: Undecided
Hometown: Kennewick, WA

Favorite Event:   Bars

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Injuries.

Favorite thing about gymnastics: It is challenging and lots of fun.


Name: Alli Andra Lackey
Year: Sophomore
Birthday: Oct. 9, 1979
Major: Journalism and Public Communications
Hometown: Fairbanks, AK

Favorite Event:   Bars

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Conquering fears and keeping a good attitude all the time. 8. Traveling and friendships with teamates.


Name: Heather Salo
Year: Senior
Birthday: Sept. 8, 1979
Major: Natural Sciences, minor in Graphic Design
Hometown: Spokane, WA

Favorite Event:  Bars

Hardest thing about gymnastics: Trying to stay awake in class after a 4 hour practice starting at 6:30 a.m.

Being able to do tricks and skills that most people can't do, and the challenge.