Gymnastics kicked off its season with a second-place finish at the Lindsey Farris Invitational Sunday afternoon at the Smith Center.
North Carolina edged out the Colonials by less than a point with a team score of 194.175 to GW’s 193.525, followed by Ball State with a score of 193.200 and Cornell with 190.750 points.
Fifth-year gymnast Alex Zois led all competition with a first-place all-around finish and a score of 39.050, and the Colonials swept the podium on balance beam.
GW entered the year with a young roster that includes five freshmen and seven sophomores.
Four Colonials made their collegiate debut in the invitational, with freshman Simone Banen earning the best individual score on balance beam with a 9.825 mark, freshman Deja Chambliss picking up a second-place finish on vault with an individual score of 9.800 and freshman Olivia Raymond capturing third on uneven bars with a score of 9.750.
Even with the team’s strong overall performance, head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham said GW has room to improve because the Colonials made mistakes she said were the product of inexperience and attempting harder skills.
“We’ve got a lot to fix and it’s all fixable,” Foster-Cunningham said. “They just needed to get their feet wet and get out here. We did a lot of really big skills.”
The event marks the first competition for GW without 2018-graduates Cami Drouin-Allaire – who competed at the NCAA National Championship three times during her collegiate career – and Jillian Winstanley, an EAGL First-Team selection in every event her senior year.
The Colonials finished third among the competition on vault with a score of 47.875, and their 48.175 mark overall on the uneven bars was the second-best team finish in the event. GW earned a meet-best score on the balance beam after totaling 48.675 points on the third rotation before finishing the competition with a team-best 48.800 score on the floor exercise, good for second among the competition.
“We went out there and we went for it, we went big,” Zois said. “We’ve been training hard all season and I think that there are things that we’re going to get back in the gym and work on, but I think it was a great way to start the season.”
The Colonials got off to a slow start on the vault. A team score of 47.875 landed them in third place overall in the event.Chambliss’ second-place finish was GW’s best placement in the event, and Zois’ 10th place score of 9.600 was the team’s second-best mark.
“We’re putting them out there and they’re eating it up, they’re thriving on it,” Foster-Cunningham said. “It’s a very resilient group. A little mistake and they can turn the page on it really quickly.”
Three Colonials cracked into the top-10 on the uneven bars, with Zois and Raymond taking second and third in the event with scores of 9.825 and 9.750, respectively. Banen’s 9.700 score placed her eighth among the 24 competitors in the event.
But sophomore Anna Warhol and senior Julia McLaughlin finished last and second-to-last, respectively, after Warhol suffered a rough landing. McLaughlin earned a score of 9.300 in the event while Warhol rounded out the competition with a score of 9.200. The Colonials closed the gap between North Carolina to 0.650 points by the end of the second rotation but Ball State held onto its lead with a score of 97.125 following its turn on the vault.
“As soon as the athletes came off that, had a few hiccups here and there, they knew exactly what they should’ve done, and that’s a win for me,” Foster-Cunningham said. “You go back into the gym on Monday and we get after it.”
GW was third in the field heading into the team’s third rotation, the balance beam, before Banen, Zois and Raymond swept the podium in the event.
After the third rotation, Ball State and UNC were deadlocked at 145.825, while the Colonials trailed by little more than one point. A score of 48.800 on the floor – and an event-best mark by junior Cydney Crasa – was not enough to dislodge the Tar Heels from the top spot, but bumped Ball State out of second place and GW in.
“They don’t harp on a mistake,” Foster-Cunningham said. “They’re ready to fix it. With that type of attitude, that type of perseverance, we’re going to end up where we need to go.”
GW is back in action on Sunday when they go on the road to compete against Kent State at 1 p.m.