Stahlbrodt and Peloquin finish dream season

Matt GadSports Writer

Freshman Hannah Stahlbrodt and sophomore Jordan Peloquin competed Sunday in the Balance Beam National Championship at USA Gymnastics Nationals, hosted by the University of Bridgeport.

Stahlbrodt and Peloquin, who both qualified for the finals after turning in strong performances Friday night during the opening session, had notable seasons coming in, with Stahlbrodt being recognized as ECAC Gymnast of the Year and Peloquin, a transfer student, having won the Balance Beam Challenge at ECACs.

“I’ve never done anything like this by myself,” Peloquin said. “I’ve gone to nationals for Junior Olympics before but nothing like this. It’s a brand new experience.”

The United States Air Force Academy, Brown University, Centenary University (N.J), Cornell University, Lindenwood University (MO), Seattle Pacific University, Southeast Missouri State, Texas Woman’s University, Bridgeport, the University of Illinois at Chicago, West Chester University (Pa) and Yale all joined the Owls for nationals.

Friday night, senior Tiffany Coleman scored a 9.725 on vault, sophomores Morgan Gatewood and Keara Loughlin had scores of 9.700 and 9.075 on the beam, and junior Jackie Kutcher followed behind Stahlbrodt with a 9.000 on the uneven parallel bars.

Peloquin scored a 9.850 on beam, good for a share of first, and Stahlbrodt finished tied for a fifthplace at 9.800. They both had marks to push them through to the final day of nationals.

“[The season] has been better than I could have imagined,” Stahlbrodt said. “Nationals, it’s a big thing, obviously. And it was good that it was in Bridgeport so my team could still come here in support.”

Stahlbrodt capped off her freshman year with a 9.725 on bars, which gave her an 11th place finish, and Peloquin hit 9.150 for the 15th spot.

“To make it to nationals right out of the chute is quite an accomplishment,” said head coach Jerry Nelson said, “and as the team’s been tearing it up this season [Stahlbrodt and Peloquin] have been leading the charge.”

Stahlbrodt began her career with the Owls in January, scoring 37.875 all-around in a meet with Bridgeport, Rutgers and Yale. On Jan. 27, she hit 38.525 for a meet score, tying a 2009 mark set by former Owl Justine Basley.

Peloquin won the beam competition in that meet, with a score of 9.725, and had numerous high finishes in that category all season–long. And again, at the ECAC Division II Championships March 23, she finished first in that event with a 9.850 to capture the balance beam title.

“We had eight girls qualify to be with the best of the best and then these two had a chance to shine even further than that,” Nelson said.

Sunday, Cornell’s Kaitlin Green, Southeast Missouri State’s Anna Kaziska and Lindenwood University’s Ryan Henry took the top three spots on beam, with scores of 9.9000, 9.8750 and 9.8500, respectively.

“You had girls from all different teams cheering you on,” Peloquin said. “It didn’t matter what leotard you had on. It’s just exciting.”

The meet at University of Bridgeport was also Nelson’s last, as he announced his retirement last month after 15 years with the program.

“I’ll miss the athletes the most,” he said. “It’s just been such a labor of love to be doing this. It’s the athletes I’ll miss; the interactions with them, the stories, the workouts — the trials and tribulations, as they say.”

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