One week out from the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship, the gymnastics team wrapped up its final meet of the regular season with a third-place finish at the University of Bridgeport. Brown tallied a 192.600 Saturday evening and bested the Centenary College of Louisiana while finishing behind Yale and the Purple Knights.
The Bears are on the brink of qualifying for the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships with only one competition left before teams travel to Texas to vie for the title.
“We’re coming in with this attitude that we have nothing left to hold back,” said Regan Butchness ’18. “This is our last shot. This is the last push, so full steam ahead.”
Going into the quad meet at Bridgeport, the team knew they had to put up a solid team score to protect their qualification ranking. The conference meet next Saturday is Bruno’s last opportunity to punch its ticket to the season finale by raising its regional qualifying score.
“We’re in one of the final qualifying spots, so we have to do really well in these last meets,” said Head Coach Sara Carver-Milne. “It’s going to come down to the last meet of the season to determine whether or not we qualify to nationals as a team. … It’s all very, very tight right now. Everyone is within hundredths of tenths.”
The Bears kicked off the competition on the balance beam, where they were able to regain composure after a fall early in the lineup and hit five routines for a strong first rotation. Julia Green ’19 and Emma Hansen ’21 posted a pair of 9.600s while Rose Domonoske ’21 supported with a 9.650. Cassidy Jung ’19 built on their scores by tying her season-best 9.700, and Butchness closed out the event with a 9.775 in the anchor spot.
With the most nerve-racking event out of the way, Bruno rotated to floor exercise where all gymnasts posted scores of 9.600 or above. Anya Olson ’18 earned a 9.625, and Anne Christman ’20 contributed a 9.725. Julia Green ’19 led the team with a 9.775, and Anya Barca-Hall ’18 recorded a 9.650 to bring the Bears to the halfway point.
After two events, Brown sat in second, trailing Yale by six tenths of a point. The Bears took to the vault for their third rotation, boasting upgraded skills and stronger execution.
“We’re peaking at the right time, and at this point in the season, a lot of teams are tired and worn out,” Carver-Milne said of the team’s improvements. “Our team is still thriving, upgrading and growing every week.”
En route to tying a season-high 48.275, Kate Nelson ’21 scored a 9.575, and Gabrielle Hechtman ’19 earned a 9.650. Christman and Green added matching marks of 9.675 while Alyssa Gardner ’21 competed the most difficult vault in the lineup for a 9.700.
The Bears ended the meet on what is usually their strongest event, the uneven bars. But the pressure of qualifying for nationals took a toll on the lineup and resulted in uncharacteristic mistakes from the final two competitors. Though Bruno had to count a routine with a fall, Olson and co-captain Claire Ryan ’18 helped Brown stay on track with scores of 9.700 and 9.600, respectively. Caroline Warren ’21 and Erin Howell ’20 also contributed matching 9.525s at the top of the lineup and brought up the final team score of 192.600.
With only a few practices left before facing off against conference rivals, the Bears are staying focused on themselves and preparing for the unconventional format of ECACs, which features two byes among six rotations. Bruno has high expectations for the championship and aims for six hit routines on every apparatus and a team total above 193. Carver-Milne is confident the team can come together to put up a solid performance.
“We’re in a great spot,” she said. “The team is healthy and motivated. Their minds are set on our team goals, so we’ll pull through. … It’s so tight right now that it’s kind of anyone’s game, but I really don’t doubt that we will continue to be in one of those qualifying spots.”
Butchness similarly captured this sentiment: “There is just something special riding on the fact that this very well could be our last meet as a team, and if we don’t want that outcome then we should definitely come together as a team. … I’m so ignited to really just do my best gymnastics and be fully present and in the moment come Saturday.”
Brown’s fight for the ECAC title and a final shot at nationals begins Saturday at noon.