Gymnastics geared up for Flipfest season opener

Ilian Cervantes

Last season the gymnastics team won conference with a season-high score of 195.650 and competed at regionals in Washington.

After placing sixth in the all-around at the Seattle Regional on April 5, Kalliah McCartney made her debut at the NCAA Championships April 18 in Birmingham, Alabama; a first in program history.

With that momentum in place, the women are gearing up this season to repeat the success, starting at 7 p.m. tonight at Flipfest in The Nest.

Despite losing six seniors, coach Kim Hughes is optimistic about the talent level of the six incoming freshmen.

“We are fortunate that the freshmen that we brought in this year are really talented,” Hughes said. “They have experience at high-level meets, meaning most of them have already competed at the regional and national level during their high school years.”

The gymnastics competition at the collegiate level typically involves two teams: each sends six athletes to compete in a series of events and the top five are averaged for a total.

The home team starts on vault and continues onto uneven bars, balance beam and a floor exercise, with the opponent beginning on bars and rotating events as the home team finishes.

Senior Kayla Wonderly came onto the team as a freshman and set a career-high early on with a 9.750 at Utah State for the 2012 season. Despite nursing an elbow injury the following season, Wonderly managed to compete in the final four meets on bars and scored a season-high 9.725 versus the Air Force Falcons.

Last season she scored a career best of 9.850 at home against UC Berkeley and achieved a career-high on bars with a 9.776 against opponents San Jose State and UC Berkeley.

Qualifying for the NCAA Seattle Regional on beam for the 2014 postseason has inspired Wonderly to shoot for regionals this season.

“My goal for the team this year is to hit all the routines as early as possible, starting with the first meet and continuing through to the end,” Wonderly said. “That will get us to regionals, because we have that kind of talent.”

Freshman Annie Juarez is joining the program with six years of experience competing at Deveau’s School of Gymnastics in Fishers, Indiana and said acclimating to college life has been easier with having teammates on campus.

Juarez has the mindset that training hard will achieve goals, and with great team chemistry and a strong freshman class, she said the team is equipped to take on the 2015 season.

“We need to train hard in the gym every single day,” Juarez said. “We have to have the mindset that other teams are training just as hard or maybe harder than we are, and we have to make sure we put everything we have into it and try to keep up with other teams.”

The formula for achieving competitive form is having high expectations during practice and performing routines consistently as well as staying healthy throughout the season, Hughes said.

The team met with a nutritionist this week to gain insight on eating habits for the season and how to plan for meals before and during competition.

“[The nutritionist talked about] how we are suppose to eat before meets and during meets so that we can have the best energy for meets,” said sophomore Julia Konner. “Also the right food to eat at the right time so we have enough fuel but are not being weighed down.”

A focus-preparation technique the team employs involves simulating pressure situations for varied competitive atmospheres by varying sound and practice space. For example, they practice routines by cheering loudly, again with minimal noise, and also in tighter spaces.

“Sometimes [we compete in] a smaller gym and sometimes it’s a huge arena and it always affects the noise level and the amount of people that are there,” Konner said.

Konner tied for 23rd place on vault with a 9.800 at regionals this past season. She competed on vault in 11 meets and consistently scored 9.750 or better in eight of the 11 meets.

Consistency has been a weak point in the past for the team, Wonderly said, but the talent is there this season and she hopes to capitalize on that to make it to regionals.

“I am very excited about this season, we lost six seniors but gained six great freshmen,” Wonderly said. “We are processing at this point, better than we have in my four years here. Hopefully we will be able to capitalize on all that talent we have and make it to regionals.”

The gymnastics team will head to Davis to compete in the NorCal Classic Jan. 4 against UC Davis, San Jose State, UC Berkeley and Stanford.

“For our first meet of the year we are going up against two conference rivals as well as two Pac-12 powerhouse teams, it really throws the team right into the mix,” Hughes said. “We came in third last year. We are hoping to repeat that or improve.”