Gymnastics team looking for strong 2016 season
Edgar Ayala – Sports Editor
After last season’s program record of qualifying 11 student-athletes to the USAG Collegiate National Championships at the University of Pennsylvania, Southern’s gymnastics team look to replicate last season success into the 2016 season.
Head gymnastics coach Jerry Nelson said the objective for this season was to have a stronger season than what the team accomplished in 2015.
“Our goal is to improve on last season,” Coach Nelson said. “The team goal is to always qualify for the national championships as a team. And our secondary goal — if we don’t make it as a team, is to qualify as many individuals as we can to the national championship.”
Last year’s ECAC Rookie of the Year, Alexandra Avendano, said it would be a great accomplishment to qualify as a team to nationals, but only if the team is consistent throughout the season will they have a shot at qualifying the entire roster.
“I always have faith in my teammates and our abilities. If we perform as well as we do in practice, we are more than capable of qualifying as a team,” said the sophomore, Avendano.
Coupled with qualifying as a team, Avendano said the team is capable of setting a new program record for the most student-athletes making it to this year’s USAG Collegiate Nationals in St. Louis, Mo.
“This year we have worked a little harder on our team spirit and just keeping up a good attitude during practice,” Avendano said. “Our coaches have been saying a big part of our success will come from our ability to work together as a whole.”
Yet, on the other hand, senior gymnast Nicole Pruchnik said she wants to make this season “one to remember.” This being her last year, Pruchnik said she wants to enjoy every minute of her senior year.
“It doesn’t feel real,” she said. “I want to make my parents proud. That’s my goal for this season. I want to go out and take what I want; I don’t want any regrets when I look back at my career. This is my closure.”
In the season opener on Jan. 16, Pruchnik won two events. She captured first place in the vault with a score of 9.675, and the floor exercise with a 9.7. Helping the Owls secure second place behind Brown University.
Additionally, Avendano was right behind Pruchnik in the vault, finishing in second with a score of 9.65.
Despite just being one meet into the new season, Coach Nelson said the season opener showed him that the team is ready to compete.
“[Our first meet] showed a lot of promise,” Nelson said. “The season just started, but this a strong team with a lot of experience.”
Nelson also mentioned that the team holds a heavy schedule ahead of them. As the Owls are facing Division I teams with very strong programs, according to Nelson.
“We have a much stronger schedule this year,” Coach Nelson said. “Anytime you’re competing against Division I teams with 12 full-scholarship athletes, it’s hard to comprehend that you can beat them. But our gymnastics team performs better when we’re surrounded by better athletes, and that’s why we’re doing it.”
Coach Nelson and the players have made it clear that this season’s expectations is getting the whole roster to nationals.
And with a roster that had 20 athletes last year, to having 17 athletes this year, the Owls probability of qualifying the whole team to nationals just got higher.
Photo Credit: SCSU Athletic Communications