With more than half its roster filled with underclassmen, gymnastics is looking to its two seniors to make a deep postseason run.
The Colonials have just two upperclassmen with at least three years of collegiate gymnastics experience under their belts for the first time in four years. Head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham said her two captains this season, senior duo Cydney Crasa and Nicole Rogalski, have provided guidance and leadership for an overall young team.
Rogalski is currently sidelined by an injury, but Foster-Cunningham said she has found ways to contribute to the team beyond competition.
“Nic has been a great off-the-court leader, and Cyd is like the in the competition leader and so we have a really healthy balance of that,” Foster-Cunningham said.
In the Colonials’ opening meet in Boston Saturday, Crasa competed in three of four events – floor, vault and beam. She led the team with a 9.800 score on the floor and matched her career score on the vault, earning a 9.850. Following the competition, she was named the Colonial of the Week.
Margie Foster-Cunnigham said Crasa has consistently grown throughout her career at GW.
“There’s nothing that makes me prouder than seeing a senior that just keeps improving and getting better,” Foster-Cunningham said. “This is the best athlete she’s been, and she’s going to have a great year.”
Crasa recently added the beam to her competition repertoire, posting a 9.750 in her event debut Saturday.
“She was just up for that challenge and said, ‘If the team needs that, I can do it’ and has worked very hard,” Foster-Cunningham said. “I feel very proud of her for doing it because it was a large task to take on, but she’s such a competitor. She brought her success from the other events to beam this weekend and did just a great job for us.”
At the Little Boston Invitational, GW’s first competition, the squad took on Maryland and West Chester. Finishing second out of the three teams, GW had its strongest showings on the vault and beams.
“On balance beam and vaulting, that 48.975 we got in those events, we only need to improve a couple tenths of a point to be in the national rankings,” Foster-Cunningham said.
The Colonials posted worse scores in the bars and floor, earning 47.900 and 47.925, respectively. To address the team’s weaker areas, Foster-Cunningham said she plans to implement more group practices to capitalize on the “unity of our team.” She said she anticipates the team will improve on the floor and bars in its upcoming competitions.
“On bars and floor, it revealed that we weren’t quite ready,” Foster-Cunningham said. “We have a ways to go on those two events but a lot of things that I see are very fixable. I think when you see it this weekend when you see the scores you’re going to see a huge improvement on those two events.”
Coming off their fifth consecutive NCAA regional appearance and ranked second in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League preseason poll, the Colonials are setting their sights higher this season. Crasa said the squad wants to avenge its second-place performance at the 2019 EAGL Championships and win the title outright.
“Something that we really talk about is that we want to earn things,” Crasa said. “We don’t want it to be something that we just show up and it was luck. Definitely being conference championships is something we want to earn. Overall, just building off last year and going far in the postseason.”
Last season, GW competed in the Baton Rouge NCAA regionals with eight underclassmen, tying them for the most most underclassmen among all qualifying teams. This season, that number has grown to nine with four freshmen and five sophomores. Crasa said the team works hard to catch new faces up to speed.
“Even though our team is mainly underclassmen, we’ve been working since this summer to get everyone on board with how we do things in our program,” Crasa said. “And our four freshmen, especially, have been receptive to how we do things. By this semester, we say that they’re not really freshmen anymore.”
During the meet, junior Katya Karpova competed on the bars for the first time in her collegiate career. The event was her strongest in high school, but an injury senior year preventing her from competing in the event. Karpova earned a 9.800 score, tying junior Anna Warhol for the highest score in the event.
Karpova said the squad has a positive attitude that permeates throughout the team and has made the freshmen feel welcomed.
“We have a very cohesive team,” Karpova said. “Everyone is equal.”
The Colonials are back in action Sunday for their first home meet of the season against Cornell, Kent State and Penn. Competition begins at 1 p.m.