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The University of Bridgeport women’s gymnastics team, winners of the previous three USA Gymnastics Championships, faced more pressure on them this year than in years past, in part because UB was hosting the 2012 championships.
In the end, it didn’t matter where the gymnastics team competed. On Friday night, in front of a mostly pro-UB crowd at Webster Bank Arena, UB won its fourth consecutive championship. UB finished with a 195.575 score. Texas Woman’s University finished second at 193.700, while the University of Pennsylvania and US Air Force Academy finished third and fourth, with scores of 193.475 and 191.075 respectively. UB coach Byron Knox, who was named the USAG Coach of the Year, said that the home crowd, which was raucous throughout, benefitted them greatly.
“It made us motivated,” Knox said. “It didn’t make us nervous, it got us pumped up.”One of the few challenges the team faced that night was the order of the events in which they were competing. They started with floor first, followed by vault and bars, which meant they were ending with beam. “It’s hard mentally to finish on that event, but we have an extremely strong beam team and we came in here with our heads on right,” senior Caroline McAvity, who scored a 9.75 on the beam, said. “It didn’t matter where we started.”
The team got contributions across the board, from the veterans on the team and from those who were competing in their first event. Sophomore Lissette LaFex scored the highest on the bar with a 9.8 and senior Emily Repko scored 9.875 on the floor and 9.925 on the beam, while freshman Sasha Tsikhanovich scored at least a 9.675 in all three events she competed in.
Aside from the USAG team finals, UB also excelled in individual contests. Junior Monica Mesalles won the all-around title at Harvey Hubbell Gymnasium on Thursday, and she took the floor, vault and beam individual titles on Saturday. Repko and McAvity finished in the top four in beam. LaFex finished second in bars, while Tsikhanovich finished third in floor.
One of the things that turned the program from an also-ran to the top Division II women gymnastics program in the country is recruiting. Knox, who has presided over all four championships, said that he recruited athletes who really wanted to learn gymnastics, and then he sat down and mapped out a plan with them.
UB athletic director Jay Moran had high praise for the program. “When you win a championship and build a program like this, it just makes the university proud.” Moran said. As for what’s next for the program, Knox had a simple answer. “Forward,” he said. “We just reload and do it again.”
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