After one of its strongest seasons in school history last year, No. 16 gymnastics is continuing its ascent as one of the top programs on the national stage.
GW hosted East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) rivals Towson, UNH and Ball State on Sunday afternoon. The Colonials captured first in team standings (196.400) and won or shared nine additional titles in the four events.
Senior Chelsea Raineri especially shined, tying a career-high 9.90 score on the floor exercise to capture the event title at Sunday’s meet.
With the season-high first-place finish, the undefeated Colonials improved to 11-0, tying their best start in program history.
“I was really proud of the team because we had a couple of rough spots and they minimized the errors,” head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham said. “They battled, they competed and there’s nothing more a coach can ask for than to go out there and stay in the moment and they did that today.”
Junior Cami Drouin-Allaire placed second in the all-around (39.225) and won the vault title (9.900) Sunday.
“Individually, I think today went really well,” Drouin-Allaire said. “I had a few mistakes but I made it the whole through and I think as a team it was kind of similar. We did great, we had some mistakes but we worked through them.”
Drouin-Allaire, who became the second Colonial to ever reach an individual qualifier to the NCAA Championship as a freshman in 2015, had a front row seat to the team’s upward climb.
After two straight trips to NCAA Regionals in the last two years, the team entered the 2017 season with high expectations.
“It’s been amazing to watch the program grow and to know that my class has been a large part of that success,” Drouin-Allaire said. “We want to do things that GW gymnastics has never done before and keep building [the program] for the years to come.”
Foster-Cunningham called juniors Drouin-Allaire and Jillian Winstanley and senior Alex Demoura “cornerstones” of the GW program.
Winstanley led GW, and finished second overall, with a 9.850 on the uneven bars Sunday, while DeMoura finished tied for third on the beam with 9.850, just behind her first-place teammate – junior Liz Pfeiler (9.875).
“Those three are exceptional,” Foster-Cunningham said. “They are beautiful athletes and they’re very dependable and they come through for the team time and time again.”
Drouin-Allaire attributed the program’s historic start to a positive atmosphere on the team.
“We have confidence in ourselves because we know our routines and just stay calm [during meets],” Drouin-Allaire said. “We all have the same goal, and knowing your team relies on you makes you want to be better for them.”
Despite the explosive start to the season, the Colonials remain focused on the coming weeks as they aim once again for NCAA Regionals. There are six meets remaining before the EAGL Championships in March.
“[This sport] is so demanding and you don’t want to be torn down, so at this time of year we have to continue to build up strength and endurance,” Foster-Cunningham said. “We still need to add more difficult skills into our routines, but we’re in a good place.”
For the veteran head coach, however, the added pressure of recent success is a welcome motivator for the team.
“We’re getting invited places because of the excellence in the program,” Foster-Cunningham said. “We’ve got a really focused team and we’ve laid a good ground work so we can excel at the next level.”