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Gymnastics Club travels to nationals, brings together tri-campus community

| Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Notre Dame Gymnastics Club, although smaller than it has been in the past, concluded a successful season of competition at the national level. This year the club sent 17 students — three men and 14 women — to compete in nationals, where the team took second place and some students placed individually in events.

Senior Abigail Whalen, the former co-president of club, said the meet was a three-day event with various stages.

“This year nationals were held in Daytona Beach, Florida,” Whalen said. “It’s designed to be an inclusive meet, so we have people compete — from those who have never done gymnastics until college, to former D1 gymnasts.”

The team geared up for finals with practices during the school year off campus at a gymnastics facility in Mishawaka.

“We practice off campus at Gymnastics Michiana in Mishawaka.The gym is run and owned by a Notre Dame alumni and their family. He was actually a member of the gymnastics team when he was here,” Whalen said.

Jennifer Indelicato, a first year graduate student, has participated in the club for the past five years. She said practices tend to be open, as many of those on the team have prior experience with the sport.

“For first semester we usually try and go once or twice a week and then second semester I think we pretty much always went twice a week for a few hours. It all kind of depended on everyone’s schedule,” Indelicato said. “We had to carpool over to Gymnastics Michiana and then just open-gym style practice, just work on whatever events you’re competing.”

Indelicato said that the nationals event, run by the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Club, gave out both individual and team scores.

“So for nationals this year, the way it worked was we competed in all the event, but not every person competed for every event. So the top-three scores for each event were counted toward the team score,” Indelicato said. “So when they do [individual] awards they’ll do “top-six on vault’ or ‘top-six on bars’ and then the ‘all-around’ is from all the events combined for each person, and then they’ll have the team score.”

Though the club is now fairly small, consisting of roughly 20 members, the club has been around for a while, recently celebrating their 40-year anniversary. Whalen said the club used to be larger, and has a robust alumni network.

“In the 1990s our club was actually really, really large,” Whalen said. “It was predominantly a mens team actually, but had routinely won nationals. And so for a lot of the older alumni who follow our Facebook page, we had my sophomore year … a 40-year reunion and a lot of alumni came back to campus. So they’re really invested in seeing our team.”

However, the 20 or so members that make up the club now mark a significant expansion from four or five years ago, when Whalen and Indelicato said only a couple people went to nationals. Whalen said the recent growth contributed to the club’s success this year.

“Last year the club really exploded. We got a lot of young freshmen — now sophomores — [and] some really good talent who are coming up and will be here for several more years to continue the team,” Whalen said. “We had underclassmen who were very strong, who had competed at their high school or have done club for most of their life. So we had a pretty well-rounded women’s team and some very strong men’s team representation as well.”

One of these students, sophomore Brittany Keane-Murphy, placed individually in several events.

“We placed second as a team, but I qualified individually for all-around, bars and floor. I placed second all-around, second on floor and fourth on bars,” Keane-Murphy said.

She said though it helps to have a background in the sport, a lot of gymnastics is mental.

“Starting later is always harder because you’re older, everything hurts more and all that. But it’s not so much difficult to get into,” she said. “Gymnastics is a very, very mental sport. Ask any gymnast, it’s like 80% mental and only 20% physical for like all the skills. So once you get past that fear of doing something, the technique and the strength and all that is easy.”

Though it’s a relatively small sport, varsity gymnastics is very competitive and selective. Keane-Murphy said this means that club competition is also very competitive.

“A lot of people who don’t make their varsity teams will join their club teams, so you get some really high level people in the club teams,” Keane-Murphy said.

The club provides a way for those interested in gymnastics to compete and practice their skills, as well as a place and groups of people to do that with, bringing together students from across the tri-campus community.

“It’s really connected me into the St. Mary’s and Holy Cross communities. We have gymnastes from all three universities, which is pretty rare,” Whalen said. “It’s given me a different set of friends and a different place to blow off stress.”

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