Senior Cami Drouin-Allaire’s passion for gymnastics started out as a way for her learn English.
When she and her family moved to the United States from Canada, Drouin-Allaire was 4 years old and spoke only French. Her mom enrolled her in a gymnastics program to meet other kids in her new neighborhood and work on her English skills.
“I also did soccer at some point, but I would do cartwheels on the field and stuff like that so we decided to stick with only gymnastics,” Drouin-Allaire said.
Nearly two decades later, Drouin-Allaire will become the first Colonial in gymnastics program history to make three appearances at the NCAA Championships. In her final collegiate competition this weekend, she will represent No. 25 GW as an individual all-around qualifier at the national competition in St. Louis. She will compete in the floor exercise, beam, vault and uneven bar events.
Drouin-Allaire qualified as one of the top individual scorers from a non-advancing team at the NCAA Raleigh Regional competition earlier this month, totaling 39.275. As a team, the Colonials placed fifth out of six teams – three spots out of national qualification.
“I think now I have that confidence from the past three years, and I’ve matured and grown,” she said. “I’ve been there before, and I’m ready for it.”
At the NCAA Championship last year, Drouin-Allaire finished tied for 34th place in all-around with a score of 39.025. At her first appearance as a freshman in 2015, she finished 21st with a score of 39.200.
Head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham said her goal for Drouin-Allaire is to finish in the top eight to earn NCAA All-American honors. Drouin-Allaire would be the first Colonial to receive the honor at the national championship.
“It would be a stretch, but for Cami it probably isn’t,” Foster-Cunningham said. “She competes so cool-headed and what she does in practice, she can duplicate in competition. At this level that’s a real challenge for athletes.”
Drouin-Allaire said she plans to go into the competition without any expectations.
“It’s my last competition in my career, so I just want to do my best and hit all my routines and definitely have fun and enjoy it,” she said.
To prepare, Drouin-Allaire said she has been following the same training schedule and practice assignments as she did during the regular season. Although her teammates are no longer in competition, they have continued to train with her daily.
“It would be a lot different if I was the only one at the gym by myself,” Drouin-Allaire said. “I think having them there is really important because I know they’re supporting me.”
In 2016, she became the first gymnast from GW to be named East Atlantic Gymnastics League Gymnast of the Year. Two years later at the conclusion of the regular season, Drouin-Allaire took the title again and was named to the all-around All-American team and earned EAGL Senior of the Year.
“As a coach, it’s a dream to have an athlete like that on your team,” Foster-Cunningham said. “For her teammates, it’s been the standard in front of them every single day.”
During her time at GW, Drouin-Allaire has made an impact on the record books. She will currently leave tied for highest score in program history for vault and floor with a score of 9.95. She is also tied for fourth and ninth place, respectively, for bars and beam with a score of 9.90, and second all-around with a score of 39.600.
Foster-Cunningham said she has led a string of young women through her program since she took the helm 33 seasons ago, but Drouin-Allaire stands out as one of the best.
“I’ve been here a long time to see a lot of history, and this is a special person,” she said.
The team’s core group – Drouin-Allaire and senior all-arounds Jillian Winstanley, Liz Pfeiler and Sara Mermelstein – has been instrumental to the recent successes of the program, Foster-Cunningham said.
In the past four years, the senior core has won first place in 22 meets and captured two EAGL Championships in 2015 and 2017. The team qualified for NCAA regional competition in each of the past four years, including the program’s first appearance since 2002 during their freshman year.
This year, the squad helped the Colonials tie the record for highest team score in program history with a 196.875.
“They came in and they have just put us on the map. They have so much to be proud of,” Foster-Cunningham said.
After graduation, Drouin-Allaire plans to take a gap year before attending medical school with the goal of becoming a doctor. She said she hopes to attend as many meets as possible as an alumna and would consider getting involved as a coach if given the opportunity in the future.
As her 17-year-long career in the gym draws to a close, Drouin-Allaire said she is proud of the growth the program has seen since her freshman year and in improving her self confidence.
“I came in a little shy and not sure of myself and not super confident in my gymnastics, but I was willing to learn and willing to improve,” she said.
Despite the numerous accolades she has earned over the past four years, Drouin-Allaire said she has only ever tried to consistently work hard and improve throughout her career.
“I’ve had a lot of honors and firsts and everything, and I didn’t try to do that,” she said. “I just tried to do my best gymnastics that I knew I could do.”
This article appeared in the April 19, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.