Two gymnasts earn All-American honors

Monday, April 21, 2008

Three members of the gymnastics team – Chelsey Binkley ’11, Jen Sobuta ’09 and Vicki Zanelli ’11 – traveled south to Shreveport, La., for the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championships this past weekend, and two came home with USA Gymnastics National All-American honors.

All three Bears qualified for nationals earlier this month and individually represented Brown, although not enough members qualified in order for Brown to compete as a team.

All gymnasts competed in Thursday’s preliminary rounds in hopes of moving onto the finals Saturday. Binkley was an alternate for the floor and Sobuta was an alternate for the bars and beam. They both earned All-American status, falling just short of the finals.

Sobuta had qualified in the all-around, but both she and Head Coach Sara Carver-Milne decided Sobuta should forgo the event because of a nagging ankle injury. She now has the entire summer to rehabilitate and regain the strength in her ankle that she has lost in the past month.

Sobuta competed in the bars and beam instead and received All-American status in both events, finishing in eighth (9.65) on the bars and seventh (9.725) on the beam.

“It feels great,” Sobuta said. “But the only other way to do this is to go to the NCAAs next year and be an All-American there as well.”

For the first time in their careers, both Binkley and Zanelli competed on the national stage at a high level.

Binkley’s first experience fared better than Zanelli’s, as Binkley set a personal best (9.725) in the floor exercise to finish sixth for All-American status. She finished in 23rd place in both the bars (9.15) and the vault (9.30) and 17th on the beam (9.275).

With every meet, Binkley improved on the floor exercise, in which she is now an All-American.

“It was a good meet to finish with a personal best,” Binkley said. “I’ve been working hard and it paid off.”

In the high-pressure atmosphere, Zanelli earned an all-around score of 34.925. Making USA Gymnastics nationals as a freshman is considered an impressive feat, and she looks to be ready to go the next time she makes it to this level.

“I see myself heading back to nationals next year more focused,” Zanelli said. “The crowds were loud and I was distracted with all the excitement going on. I know that if I would have hit everything, I would have scored just as well” as the other competitors.

All three Bears said the atmosphere wasn’t the same without their team, and they look to return in bigger numbers next season. Carver-Milne hopes the performances given by the three girls at nationals will motivate the rest of the team to aspire for the championships next year.

“I’m incredibly proud of them – it’s very tough to come to a national meet without your teammates,” Carver-Milne said.

The Bears lose depth in the vault, bars and floor, as seniors Sarah Durning ’08, Hannah Goldstein ’08 and Jessica Pestronk ’08 graduate. But the team returns 10 girls, who each have the goal of returning or going to nationals next season.

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