Last week 12 catamounts representing the University of Vermont’s women’s gymnastics team traveled to Ypsilanti, Michigan to compete in the Club Gymnastics National Championships hosted by Eastern Michigan University.
Coached by Gary Bruening, the club, which has only been in existence since 2002 when the University cut it’s varsity gymnastics programs, had high hopes going into the competition.
Over 550 gymnasts representing 40 schools from all over the country attended but there was only one winner- the University of Vermont (143.775), who edged out Penn State (142.7). The Catamounts also beat the University of Virginia (138.9), Ohio State (138.9), James Madison (138.575), the University of Texas (137.1) and 35 other teams.
The first round of competition featured the team and individual all-around competition and determined who qualified for the second round which featured individual event finals.
UVM was well represented at finals with six competitors; more than any other team.
In the first round, Vermont dazzled the crowd with the ease at which they performed even the most difficult skills.
Vermont put eight women up on each event and rotated in Olympic order which highlighted their strengths on vault and floor.
A solid round of vaults lead off by junior Caitlin Reeves and consisting of a front handspring full by freshman Jen Whitten (8.8), a tuck tsuk by freshman Sarah Lade (8.925), a pike tsuk by junior Heather Boepple (9.3) and highlighted by a magnificent layout tsuk performed by junior Jeannette Brooks (9.45) opened the meet for the catamounts.
Both Boepple and Brooks qualified for event finals where they performed a second time and scored 9.275 and 9.475 respectively. Boepple earned 8th place honors and Brooks earned the title of National Champion!
The catamounts were on a roll as they headed to the uneven bars.
Lead off by senior Erika Pineles’ debut performance earning an 8.2 and followed by senior Sarah Silverberg’s graceful routine the team was ready to conquer the bars and that they did.
Senior Erla Magnusson, working through an injury which prevented her from performing on the other three events, gave a dynamite performance (8.75) including one of the only full-twisting giants of the competition.
Strong performances were all around when Whitten took her release move right into a handstand for an 8.75 and senior Carie blow earned an 8.95. Wrapping up the event for Vermont was Brooks who earned a well deserved 9.2.
Whitten, Magnusson, Blow and Brooks all advanced to the uneven bar event finals where they placed 15th, 13th, 12th and (4th) respectively.
The balance beam poses the most threat for any team on a roll but without Magnusson on the final two events the team knew they had to step it up and that they did.
They tackled the event with 8.65’s posted by Lade and junior Sara Duggan. Whitten gave the most solid performance of the session, topping it off with a stuck dismount for a 9.1 and senior captain Kara Tighe rounded out the event with a 9.05.
Both Tighe and Whitten represented UVM with repeat spectacular performances in the balance beam event finals where they finished 13th and 19th overall.
Going into the last event, the floor exercise, Vermont’s energy level seemed even higher than in the beginning of the competition. They captivated the audience with their powerful tumbling and elite choreography.
Duggan began the rotation for the catamounts and posted an 8.95. Junior Liz Jahn gave a strong performance pulling in an 8.8 while Tighe showed off her routine with grace and a dazzling smile for a 9.05.
Boepple (9.10) and Brooks (9.2) gave some of the best performances of the day to close out the team competition.
Again Vermont was well represented in event finals where Brooks (9.15, 5th), Tighe (8.75, 16th ), and Boepple (8.45, 22nd) impressed the crowd with their routines.
Four Vermont gymnasts competed in the individual all-around competition. Brooks finished fourth place out of all 550+ competitors with an all-around score of 36.1.
She was followed by Whitten (35.45) who placed 15th, Boepple (35.3) who placed 17th and Jahn (33.325) who placed 35th.
The catamounts hope to defend their title at next year’s national championships to be hosted by the University of Buffalo.