Forty days out from its first competition of the 2018 season, the gymnastics team is more prepared than ever. Led by co-captains Maggie McAvoy ’18 and Claire Ryan ’18, the Bears put up solid performances in a mock meet Saturday.
The preseason competition marked the first time the gymnasts faced judges since competing at USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals in April, where Brown fell short of qualifying for the finals after finishing fifth in preliminaries. An uncharacteristic fourth-place finish at the Ivy League Championship and a third-place ranking at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship last season left the team feeling like there was room for improvement.
“I don’t think we really finished where we wanted to finish,” McAvoy said. “We didn’t even make it to the second night of competition at Nationals, and we’d done that the year before and broken a ton of records. To come in last year and kind of flop was really disappointing because we had set a lot of high goals for ourselves.”
But things appear to be looking up this season as McAvoy and Ryan work to maintain a positive vibe during workouts.
“This year, it’s already a 180,” she said. “It’s such a different environment and it’s such a great environment to come into every day.”
Though the atmosphere in the gym has changed, the team’s goals remain the same — winning Ivy and ECAC crowns, qualifying individual athletes to NCAA Regionals and earning a berth to USAG Nationals for the sixth consecutive year. But head coach Sara Carver-Milne’s primary focus is ensuring the gymnasts stay composed on the competitive stage.
“Overall, our main goal is consistency,” she said. “We have the talent. We have the work ethic. We just need to work on being consistent and handling the pressure well in every single competition this year.”
Twelve members of the team have experience under pressure in college, but five first-years will be tested for the first time in Bruno’s opening meet against Rhode Island College and the College of Brockport, State University of New York. Carver-Milne is confident in the rookies’ ability to make an impact early.
“They’ve really bonded well with our team and our system,” she said. “There’s no doubt that they’ll contribute immediately on all events, and we’re excited to see what they can do.”
The absence of standout all-arounders Caroline Morant ’17 and Jorden Mitchell ’17 leaves gaps in the Bears’ lineups, but Alyssa Gardner ’21 and Kate Nelson ’21 have the ability to post big scores for Bruno on all four events while Emma Hansen ’21 and Caroline Warren ’21 can make contributions on uneven bars and balance beam. As a “natural beam worker” according to Carver-Milne, Rose Domonoske ’21 will also help the Bears out on the event that evoked nervous mistakes last season.
Veteran competitors like Julia Green ’19, Anne Christman ’20 and Anya Olson ’18 will also play large roles in the team’s success. Green earned Second Team USAG All-American honors on vault in 2017 and boasts creative skills on beam and floor, where she is expected to receive high marks. Christman has been rock solid “since day one,” according to McAvoy, and will contribute on multiple events this season. After placing second on bars at Nationals and capturing USAG All-American honors in the event, Olson will cap off her season by anchoring her strongest event and adding solid performances on vault and floor.
The Bears will have a chance to show off their skills in front of home crowds multiple times this season as they host their annual Beauty and the Beast meet with the wrestling team Feb. 4 and another regular-season meet March 4. But the competition Bruno is most looking forward to is the Ivy Classic Feb. 25, which Brown hosts for the first time in four years.
“We’re extremely excited,” Carver-Milne said. “The last time we hosted, we won. It would be an incredible opportunity for our team to keep that trophy at Brown again.”