Gymnasts compete in final meet before Nationals

Courtesy Photo / GVSU Gymnastics
Members of the GVSU Gymnastics Club

Courtesy Photo / GVSU Gymnastics Members of the GVSU Gymnastics Club

Kevin VanAntwerpen

For the first time this season, the Grand Valley State University gymnastics club did not take first place. The team traveled to Eastern Michigan University on Saturday to compete against fifteen teams and took third place behind the University of Miami and Pennsylvania State University.

For some on the team, it was the last meet of the year; for others, it was the last before nationals.

“We went in knowing that we had to finish out the season the best that we could,” said sophomore Bethany Ryder. “It was exciting, because we were against teams that we haven’t been pitted against yet. Getting third place against a bunch of (Division I) schools is pretty huge.”

Ryder, who placed second in the individual scores, is among the gymnasts who will not travel to nationals this year, a choice she made due to financial constraints. She did, however, manage to go out with a bang by taking first place during the floor event with a score of 9.7, a personal best.

“I really do wish I was going,” Ryder said. “But it’s expensive and I decided I’d save it for my senior year. But it’s definitely a relief knowing that I can focus more on school but still be able to go into the gym and practice. It’s bittersweet, I guess.”

Club president Kristi Hopkins said the teams they faced at Eastern Michigan were among the toughest of the year, and the club was a little unsure of what to expect going into the match. The team had only played two of the teams so far this season, and one of their top scorers – Amy Burke – was absent due to illness.

But through all that, Hopkins said she was very pleased with the end results.

“A lot of the girls who are normally on our B team stepped it up and had high scores,” Hopkins said. “Some of them had nines, so that was good. Everyone knew that [Burke] wasn’t going to be there, and that there was pressure to do well since we’ve done so well in the previous meets – it just worked itself out.”

Other highlights among the team include a fifth-place individual finish by Alexa Kitson and an eighth-place individual finish by Sarah Harlow.

But for some of the gymnasts, with the national conferences approaching in April, this is only the beginning of the end. Senior gymnast Katie Page is among the athletes headed to nationals this year – the first from GVSU since 2007.

“We haven’t been to nationals in at least four years – we don’t know what to expect,” Page said. “We’re just going to have fun. For me, I’m a graduating senior so it’s the last meet of my life. I just want it to be memorable. It’s very emotional. I’m probably going to cry my face off at the meet. I just want it to be something I can remember.”

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