The West Chester women’s gymnastics team finished out one of their most successful seasons in school history with yet another record breaking performance at the ECAC Championships, which they hosted in their south campus gymnasium on Saturday, March 19.West Chester welcomed in the University of Bridgeport along with Southern Connecticut State University for the championships. Bridgeport finished the meet in first place with a team score of 192.000 followed by Southern Connecticut State University who came in at 187.725. West Chester finished in their place, but broke the previous school record for team score with a 186.050.
Alli Aquila landed herself a spot on the podium with her all-around performance, which placed her in second place for the afternoon. She finished the afternoon with an all-around score of 37.6. Aquila was just barely edged out by Bridgeport’s Monica Mesalles, who came in first place with a score of 37.750. Southern Connecticut State University’s Mallory Miller rounded out the top three in the all-around with a score of 37.175.
West Chester’s Paige Griffin just missed the podiums coming in fourth place all-around with a 36.750.
From the very beginning, West Chester knew the University of Bridgeport would be a tough competitor. The Purple Knights have scored higher than 190 in all but one of their meets this year.
“Going into the meet, I knew that Bridgeport would really be out of our reach as far as score goes and that we could stay close to Southern Connecticut,” said head coach Barbara Cordova. “I wanted the girls to focus on doing their best and to not worry about scores or who would win the meet.”
West Chester started off the meet on the balance beam where they had a little bit of a shaky start. A couple falls brought down their score to start the meet.
“The girls did not allow that to hold them back and came on really strong on floor and for the rest of the meet,” Cordova said. “We had no other falls after the balance beam.”
The floor exercise fared well for West Chester. Every gymnast placed about a 9.0. Rachel Pearson finished with the highest score on the floor with a 9.55, which placed her in a tie for fifth place.
After the beam and floor, West Chester got the opportunity to prove themselves on the vault and ended up placing their highest score of the season with a 46.850. Aquila had West Chester’s highest score with a 9.525, which was also her personal highest score for the season.
For the third time this season, West Chester was able to rewrite the record books and set a team school record on the uneven bars.
“We finished the meet on the uneven bars scoring an amazing 47.3 and breaking the previous record we had set this year of 46.625,” Cordova said. “All of the girls posted scores higher than a 9.1 and freshman Emily Seigel was our top scorer on that event with a 9.55. This was her highest score of the season.”
Their uneven bars score wasn’t the only thing that wrote this West Chester team into school history. Their team score of 186.050 erased the previous record of 185.875.
Although West Chester’s season as a team came to an end, they will send three gymnasts to USAG Collegiate Nationals.
Aquila, who has been a strong all-around competitor for West Chester all season, will return to Nationals for the third time.
Griffin, who is a freshman competitor for the Rams, will get the opportunity to experience her first meet at a national level. She will compete with Aquila in the all-around competition.
The third competitor for West Chester is Kaley LaFleur. LaFleur has been hurt for the last portion of the season, which forced her to be disqualified for the all-around competition. However, she had enough scores on the balance beam to qualify for that event, and her coach is very optimistic.
“She is able to train now and looks to be a great contender on the balance beam,” Cordova said. “Last year at Nationals she just missed qualifying for finals and earning an All-American honor.”
LaFleur’s highest beam score of the season came on Feb. 9 when she scored a 9.65.
The USAG Collegiate Nationals will be held the weekend of April 8-10 in Colorado.
Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.