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Gymnastics team finds true meaning of winter

Katie Goddard '12 isn't afraid of a little pain. A nasty, dinner-plate-sized bruise, undoubtedly the result of a tumble gone awry, colored her backside as she took the floor by storm Feb. 14. She's not scared of the competition, either. She earned the top spot on floor, edging out a former Olympian by one-tenth of a point.

And she's certainly not worried about a little snow. Well, a lot of snow. This week, Goddard, along with the rest of the gymnastics team, is escaping this brutal New England winter — and heading to Alaska.

Four and a half thousand miles seems pretty far to take 13 girls for a long weekend. But the University of Alaska Anchorage is more than just a destination for the Bears. It's Head Coach Sara Carver-Milne's alma mater and a snapshot of her career as a collegiate gymnast. Emotions run high as the girls' departure approaches, the athletes brimming with excitement and anticipation. And perhaps, for Carver-Milne, a touch of nostalgia.

"I look forward to sharing all the beauty of Alaska as I enjoyed it during my four years there," she said. "It will be a solid competition as well as a chance for the team to compete in a different area of the country."

So, how will the East Coast gymnasts fare in the Wild West? "The Alaskan team is strong, but, based on Brown's determination and success so far this season, they are definitely beatable," Goddard said.

"We usually get scored pretty tough here with our judges, so when we travel, our scores are significantly better," added teammate Victoria Zanelli '11.

Officiating was a topic of concern for Brown on Sunday, causing some distress among the athletes and coaching staff. Carver-Milne said her team's hard-hitting routines were underscored and was visibly disappointed by some of the judges' marks. Coming off their two strongest meets yet, the Bears will look to put up a high score at Alaska in order to land them a spot in Nationals later this season.

Chelsey Binkley '11, a key all-around competitor who finished second on Sunday with a combined 37.35 score, is confident in the squad. "This is the best and most hard-working team that I have been a part of in my three years here," she said. "We are going to give Alaska a great competition."

Win or lose, Alaska will be an arctic adventure for the girls, none of whom have been there before.

"We have a lot of southerners and warm-weather people on the team, so snow in general is pretty exciting to us," Binkley said.

After two months of a wet Rhode Island winter, the Alaskan wildlife and landscape should be a good change of scenery.

"We have planned a trip to a glacier, a big game wildlife zoo, a tram ride up the mountains and will see ice sculptures and dog sled races in downtown Anchorage," Carver-Milne said.

"Apparently we are supposed to see moose!" Binkley said.

In the past, the team has travelled to Los Angeles, Oklahoma and Arizona. The Department of Athletics will not incur more expenses than they would have if the girls were competing away from Brown in New England, according to Carver-Milne. Alaska has covered most of the travelling fees.

"Hopefully we can have two great meets at Alaska and keep our momentum from those meets going strong and win Ivies," Binkley said.

The Ivy Classic Competition will take place the following weekend at the Pizzitola Center. The Alaskan team, studded with talented gymnasts like vault standout Lauren Agostino and floor specialist Shakea Sanders, will prepare the Brown team well.

Between competition and sightseeing, the girls have a busy week ahead of them.

"We're just going to try and stay warm," Zanelli said.

With the way the Bears have performed recently, they should have a heated competition against a tough Alaska squad. If Goddard and the girls can repeat last Sunday's performance, they may return home with some extra hardware packed into their luggage.


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