Photo credits: wcupagoldenrams.com.
April 8 began a successful weekend for the Golden Rams Gymnastics Team. They traveled to Cornell University to compete in the USA Gymnastics (USAG) Collegiate Championships. This division comprises 11 schools that have 7.5 full athletic scholarships or less: a good mix of division I, II and III schools. The top eight schools in the USAG division competed at team semifinals. After two sessions, the top four teams advanced to the final session to compete for the National title. Unfortunately, the Rams did not advance to the finals session, but they did not go down without a fight and still earned a commendable score.
Fortunately, from a random draw, the Rams competed in home-team order — vault, bars, beam and then floor. Caitlyn Allen led the Rams on vault, sticking her full-twisting back tuck and earning a 9.6. Seniors McKenna Kissinger and Jessica Meakim added scores of 9.625 and 9.675 respectively to the team score. Anchoring the lineup, junior Kiah Johnson scored a huge 9.8, qualifying her for the individual vault finals on Sunday and earning her First Team All-American. The vault team scored a 48.275, leaving them confident as they headed to bars.
On bars, freshman Kristina Rodriguez and sophomore Hyla Betts performed clean routines to earn 9.625 and 9.65 respectively. Freshmen Jordan Coleman and Meakim closed out the bars performance with a pair of strong 9.525s. The bars squad put up a respectable 47.7, as they moved onto beam to build upon their score.
The beam lineup scored a huge 48.525. Sophomore Caroline Cascadden performed a gorgeous routine to score a 9.725. Betts and Meakim both earned 9.7s to add to the team score. Freshman Natalie Marshall ended her routine with a stick to score a big 9.75. The Rams were confident moving into their last and best event: floor.
The Rams shined on floor with a score of 48.925. Senior Brashlyn Johnon and Cascadden’s powerful tumbling earned them both 9.75s. Senior Rose Fanara stunned the judges with her super entertaining routine, scoring a 9.8, and earned her Second Team All-American. Kissinger continued this momentum and earned a 9.775 and Meakim finished the meet for the Rams with a nearly perfect 9.85, which qualified her for event finals on Sunday.
Overall, all around competitor Meakim placed fourth with a 38.75. Her talented performances earned her the Outstanding Senior Gymnast Awards as she had the highest score of all seniors in the competition.
Altogether, the Rams scored a 193.425, only 0.375 away from qualifying for finals. Despite not qualifying for finals, the weekend was not over for the Rams. Junior Kiah Johnson and Meakim’s outstanding performances on the vault and floor exercises qualified them to compete in event finals on Sunday, April 8. Johnson’s Yurchenko layout full vault scored a 9.7875 and secured a fifth place finish. Meakim’s show-stopping floor routine scored a 9.9 and earned her third place.
The success for the Rams did not stop there. Meakim won the Mari-Rae Sopper Award for the gymnast who showed unparalleled passion, dedication and devotion to the sport of gymnastics, as well as tremendous and inspiring perseverance. Assistant Coach Stephanie Plaughter won Assistant Coach of the Year and the Assistant Athletic Director Deirder Bertotti won Administrator of the Year.
The Rams had an extremely successful season. Their consistency, talent and passion were unmatched. Next season will be very exciting as this program continues to grow.
Jordan Coleman is a first-year Exercise Science major. JC968405@wcupa.edu
Kristina Rodriguez is a first-year Biology major. KR970636@wcupa.edu