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Trio leads gymnastics team to tie for first-ever conference crown

Morant ’17 claims first in all-around, wins ECAC Rookie of the Year award by large margin

While most of their fellow undergrads were relaxing on spring break, the gymnastics team was hard at work, adding trophies to the program’s most successful season ever. The Bears matched the College of William and Mary with a 193.600 team score at the ECAC Championships to earn a share of the team’s first ever conference crown.

“We thought we had lost by a really small margin,” said Caroline Morant ’17. “When we heard somebody else announced in second place, it was really confusing. But that was followed by a lot of excitement when we realized we won.”

The ECAC title was not the only hardware Bruno brought home from the meet, as four ECAC end-of-season individual awards went to Bears. In what had to have been a landslide decision, Morant was named conference Rookie of the Year. In each of their final years with the program, Michelle Shnayder ’14 and Rebecca Freedman ’14 were honored as two of the league’s six Scholar Athletes of the Year. Head Coach Sara Carver-Milne added to the team’s accolades by earning recognition for Bruno’s record-breaking season, taking ECAC Coach of the Year.

Morant continued her dazzling first-year campaign by snatching the meet’s individual all-around crown with 38.975. The rookie led a Bruno effort that put three gymnasts in the top six individual finishers, including a fourth-place showing for Michelle Shnayder ’14 and a tie for sixth for Diana Walters ’16.

Through each event, the trio of Morant, Shnayder and Walters consistently propelled the Bears to top scores. Morant said the team benefits from this equality at the top.

“We all push each other to be better,” Morant said. “We all know that any of us could be the best on any given day.”

Bruno began the day on the floor, where Shnayder and Morant helped the squad to a second-place 48.275. Shnayder’s routine garnered a 9.750, the second-best posting of the day. Morant followed close behind in fourth place with 9.700.

The vault has been a strong suit all season for the Bears, and conference meet was no exception. Once again, Morant and Shnayder finished with the top two Brown scores, as the pair tied for second with twin showings of 9.775. Walters joined the duo with an impressive vault of her own, earning a third-place 9.725. Powered by the formidable trio and complemented by a 9.700 from Freedman and a 9.650 from Danielle Hoffman ’15, the Bruno vault score reached a season-high 48.625. No opponent came within .275 of the Bears’ team score, by far the widest margin of victory in any event.

Bruno’s signature bar specialist Alexandra Chretien ’15 led the team in the day’s third event. The four-time ECAC Specialist of the Week posted a 9.775 to earn a tie for third place, while Morant’s stellar day included a 9.700 bar routine. The 48.250 team score was the lowest of the day, and the third-place finish made bars the only event in which Brown finished outside the top two.

To bounce back from the slightest of slip-ups on the bar, Morant, Walters and Shnayder carried the team to a second-place finish on the balance beam. The fantastic first-year saved her best effort for last, as Morant notched a 9.800 beam routine, tying for first place. Walters’ 9.750 and Shnayder’s 9.725 proved to be top-four scores, and the team finished in second with 48.450.

The meet ended in the first-ever tie for the ECAC title. To add to the unlikely symmetry of the Brown and William and Mary finishes, the teams posted identical 48.450 scores on the beam. Bruno gymnasts claimed first, fourth and a tie for sixth in the all-around, while Tribe gymnasts garnered second, third and a tie for sixth.

Bruno’s remarkable spring break did not end with the conference title. The NCAA released regional qualifiers for the national championships. In each of the six regions, six teams and five individuals — from non-qualifying teams — are selected to participate.

While Brown did not qualify as a team, three of the five individual spots in the University Park Regional went to Shnayder, Walters and Morant. It has been three years since Brown qualified a single gymnast for the regional competition, 11 years since Brown qualified two, and the University has never had three athletes selected.

To add a cherry to the team’s spring break sundae of accomplishments, the squad was selected for a spot in the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships. Bruno will host the nationwide meet — which is a separate and somewhat less prestigious national tournament than the NCAA’s — at the Pizzitola Center April 11-13. The bid is only the program’s second in its history after last season’s squad finished fourth.

“At this point in the season, we just keep doing what we are doing,” Morant said of preparation for national meets. “We’re going to stay the course because we’ve been doing so well.”


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