Updated: Dec. 11, 2018 at 9:07 p.m.
Gymnastics is kicking off the season with a young roster of specialists.
After graduating five seniors from a group that led the league in regional qualifying score and finished third at the 2018 East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championships, gymnastics begins the new year with a young lineup led by two seniors and two fifth-year students.
In the last two seasons, the Colonials have graduated their top performers. Among last year’s graduating seniors was all-arounder Cami Drouin-Allaire, the 2018 EAGL Gymnast of the Year and the first Colonial to make three appearances at the NCAA level. The year prior the Colonials said goodbye to 2017-graduate and all-around gymnast Chelsea Raineri, who was nominated for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year award as a senior and became the first GW gymnast to win an NCAA Regional title when she tied for first on vault. Raineri now serves as an assistant coach to the team.
This season’s inexperienced roster features five freshmen and seven sophomores, but only six upperclassmen – two juniors, two seniors and two fifth-year student-athletes.
Alex Zois, a 2018 All-EAGL First-Team selection in the all-around, said she expects all five freshmen to contribute to the team this season.
“Even in competition, I can see all five of them making a contribution,” Zois said. “They’re very talented and they’re really excited.”
Julia McLaughlin, who called this year’s freshman class “one of the hardest-working classes that I’ve seen,” said it will be important for the rookies to be on board with the team’s mission and goal because of how much experience was lost to graduation.
“We have spots open on all of the events, and you don’t know who’s going to be there,” McLaughlin said. “It’s going to be whoever works the hardest, whoever is better that day.”
Zois views the loss of Drouin-Allaire as an opportunity for younger gymnasts to step up and show what they can do.
“We get to see where the cards will fall, and we have the opportunity that most of the lineups are open now, and there’s nothing really set in stone,” Zois said. “We’re just going to grind it out in practice and work really hard and see who’s the best up each day and for each need.”
GW was picked to finish third out of six teams in the 2019 EAGL Preseason Poll, behind NC State and New Hampshire.
One area in which this year’s freshmen will make their impact felt will be in the all-around competition. Three seniors – Zois, Drouin-Allaire and Jillian Winstanley – headlined the all-around squad last year.
Following the graduation of Drouin-Allaire and Winstanley, it will be up to Zois, in her fifth year, to guide a larger team of all-arounders featuring four freshmen. Zois said that currently, Olivia Zona, Deja Chambliss, Simone Banen and Olivia Raymond are training for the all-around competition with her.
In training, GW has heavily utilized a new style of practice called “team assignments,” a competitive team drill which McLaughlin and Zois said has helped the gymnasts simulate high-pressure situations and develop chemistry. For each event, lineups attempt to hit a certain number of points by completing various challenges for that event successfully.
For instance, the challenges for bars include one gymnast hitting a routine and then another gymnast sticking a dismount, or hitting the first handstand and then sticking the dismount, Zois said.
“It builds trust within the people who are on bars because you get that sense of who is going to go up and hit that routine for the team,” Zois said. “It allows you to practice that competitive edge that you need because you’re practicing the pressure.”
In the offseason, GW also hopes to improve attention to detail and work on fundamentals as opposed to making larger changes.
“Another focus we have is ‘doing simple better,’ so it’s going back to the basics and putting your effort into making sure that your entry on the vault is correct, making sure that handspring has straight legs,” McLaughlin said. “We can do the big skills but it’s doing them with perfection that’s going to matter in the end.”
Gymnastics will begin the 2019 season when it hosts the 12th Annual Lindsey Ferris Invitational on Jan. 13 at 1 p.m.
This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the gymnastics team is led by two senior captains. The team’s captains are a senior and a fifth-year student. A previous version of this article also misspelled a student-athlete’s last name. It is now spelled correctly. We regret these errors.