Fifty years ago, West Chester University opened their doors to women’s varsity athletics. On Sunday, Feb. 1, the women’s gymnastics team celebrated that history by hosting Brown University and Southern Connecticut State University in a tri-meet. Past coaches, participants, and fans were in attendance to share in the celebration. Members of the team wore commemorative patches on their warm up jackets in recognition of the 50 years of Women’s Varsity athletes that came before them.
Barbara Cordova, first year coach and alumni herself, was particularly proud to be part of such an important year in the program’s history. A former captain of the WCU gymnastics squad, Cordova felt honored to be part of the historic day.
“It’s very exciting to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of Women’s Varsity Athletics as a coach of a team I competed for,” Cordova, who was a 1988 graduate of WCU, said. “My former coach, legendary Sandy Thielz, was at the meet supporting us and that was quite an honor.”
The first home meet for West Chester was crowded with numerous alumni returning to their alma mater to join in the recognition of the program’s history. Alumni were honored by a reception following the meet that afternoon.
A former teammate of Cordova, whose name will be withheld, who was also an ’88 West Chester graduate, reminisced on her years at WCU while watching current gymnasts and observing changes in the sport since she was a student.
“The sport has changed just by level of difficulty alone, which is tremendously high now. They can do things we never would have dreamed of doing,” she said.
Although West Chester fell to both Brown and SCSU, Coach Cordova was extremely proud of the team’s efforts. With nine freshmen comprising her team and no graduating seniors, she views this year as a rebuilding year and looks forward to what the future holds for the program.
“We have many talented freshmen this year that have made the upperclassmen stronger,” Cordova said. “In all three meets we have competed in so far this year, we have posted higher scores than the team earned in any of their meets last year.”
The team got a lot of production out of their younger participants in Sunday’s meet. Freshman Alli Aquila ended up in third all around with a score of 36.275. She also was fourth in vaulting with a 9.45 followed by teammate Felicia Massaro who fell just shy with a 9.4.
Southern Connecticut ended up finishing first overall with a score of 185.3, followed closely by Brown who scored a 185.25. West Chester came in third with a 178.3.
Regardless of the outcome of the competition, Cordova felt the meet was a huge step in the direction she wants to be moving.
“We posted our highest score so far this season,” Cordova said. “They were absolutely excellent on the vault and continued strong on bars. We need to work on staying on the balance beam. They finished the meet strong on floor exercise.”
The team hopes to build off their growing success in their upcoming meets.
West Chester still has six meets left before the ECAC Championships, including a rematch against Brown University when they travel to Rhode Island in mid-March. The Golden Rams will be home again to compete against Wilson College on February 22 at Sturzebecker HSC.
Amy Festa is a second-year student majoring in English with a minor in Journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.