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Gymnastics off to hot start as defending champions

by Paul Cifonelli - Sports Editor
Wed, Feb 5th 2020 05:00 pm
Senior Alyssa Klock prepares for takeoff at the same meet. Brockport is defending its 2019 national championship and is yet to lose to a Division III opponent during the 2019-20 campaign.
Senior Alyssa Klock prepares for takeoff at the same meet. Brockport is defending its 2019 national championship and is yet to lose to a Division III opponent during the 2019-20 campaign.

Defending a national championship is hardly ever easy. After topping all the competition, teams will try to be a little sharper the next season when taking on that team in order to try and knock them off their perch. That can also bring out the best of the defending champions, as they will do whatever is needed to reclaim the title the next season.

The College at Brockport gymnastics team is no different, working just as hard while it is the team at the top as when it was chasing the title.

“Since the day we won the championship, our coach [John Feeney] and team were all under the same mindset that we can’t be complacent,” senior Courtney Kamberalis said. “With that mindset, we have trained just as hard as any other year because we know this work ethic and dedication yielded positive results in past years. We start every year with a clean slate and move forward knowing everyone is after that title.”

For the newcomers on the team, defending a national championship could be a lot of pressure. Helping to replace the seniors that led last year’s squad would not be easy, but the returning gymnasts made it easier for the freshmen and newcomers.

“Coming in as a freshman, this year was super exciting,” freshman Kyra Figurelli said. “The team was very welcoming to all of the newcomers and we were immediately a family. After winning nationals last year, our team wants to ‘maintain the hype’ this season. We know that other teams are chasing us, but we are working very hard to be our best. It’s exciting to be a part of the process.”

Brockport’s work this season has already paid dividends, as the Golden Eagles have not lost to a Division III opponent all season. The only times Brockport did not come out victorious was at Southern Connecticut State University, when Division I Cornell and Division II Southern Connecticut State took the top two spots.

The Golden Eagles have taken care of business against opponents trying to dethrone them. Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland are the only two teams to come within five points of knocking off the defending champions. The Bombers’ close call came on Saturday, Feb. 1, in their own gymnasium.

Figurelli had a career-best performance in the floor exercise for Brockport at Ithaca, taking first place and capturing a score of 9.700 over her two turns. With the Golden Eagles putting up a rocky performance at Southern Connecticut State the week before, the team kept it together and did not panic, and the results showed, especially for Figurelli.

“Coming off of last weekend where our team had some ups and downs, we stayed positive and worked really hard in practice this week,” Figurelli said. “At the meet, the energy and support within our team was incredible. I wanted to hit a good routine for my teammates and coaches.”

Sophomore Jensen Todd had the highest score for either side on the balance beam with an average score of 9.625. Junior Amy Eck led the way on the bars, scoring a 9.500. Freshman Gabbi Gare had a 9.475 and freshman Rachel Swick and Kamberalis both had a 9.425 on the bars. Junior Jamie Skelnar paced the Golden Eagles on the vault with a score of 9.575. The vault was the only event Ithaca piled up more points than Brockport.

Three of Brockport’s next four meets will be against Division I opponents, as the Golden Eagles travel to Yale on Sunday, Feb. 9, Cornell on Sunday, Feb. 16, and Kent State on Friday, Feb. 28. That type of step up in competition could intimidate some teams, but Brockport keeps a reasonable mindset headed into the matchups against teams competing at a higher level.

“Our mindset for approaching Division I matchups is to focus on our team and performance,” Kamberalis said. “We need to keep our focus on the routines that we practice every week, regardless of the competition. We approach these matchups with excitement because we can be exposed to new teams.”

Brockport is still the top-ranked team in Division III and owns a 5—0 record against the teams it will compete for another championship against.

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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