Athletes usually want to leave a lasting impression to close out a season. For the UCSB gymnastics squads, the final impression is all the more important with both the men’s and women’s programs set to be cancelled at seasons’ end.
The men’s 2002 team proved its worth, leaving a legacy as the best team in Gaucho history, while the women’s team stumbled out of the block and never caught up last weekend at the United States of America Gymnastics (USAG) Collegiate Gymnastics Championships in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The men’s team brought home a shiny new trophy thanks to an impressive second place finish in the team competition with a score of 207.875. Santa Barbara fell just shy of bringing home the Championship title, losing by less than a point to William and Mary (208.575). Navy finished in third, followed by Air Force, Springfield College, Southern Connecticut, Vermont, and M.I.T.
“We competed against teams we should have beat, and we did,” UCSB Men’s Head Coach Mircea Badulescu said. “Except for William and Mary, which I feel we matched routine for routine. But in the end it came down to the opinions of the judges.”
As has been the trend all season long, Santa Barbara went out and showed why this is the best team in school history by breaking school records. Junior Stephen Smith set a personal and school record on the floor exercise with a score of 8.950, only to have it broken moments later by fellow junior Geoffrey Howell. Howell went out and demolished Smith’s score, bettering it by 2 tenths at 9.150.
“Floor hasn’t been our strongest routine all season long until this weekend,” Howell said. “We all nailed our routines and the scores were obviously indicative of that.”
Smith also tied a school record on the high bar at 9.1 only to have another record score broken again, this time by junior Donald Mahr at 9.3.
Mahr continued his hot streak from the NCAA Championships last weekend where he was the only Gaucho to reach an event final, and recorded three personal season-high scores. The floor was good to Mahr as well, scoring 8.775, while also breaking personal high scores on the still rings (8.650) and parallel bars (8.400).
“If this is the end for all the underclassmen at UCSB, then we left a legacy which we all can be very proud of,” senior captain Michael Kelley said. “We exceeded everyone’s expectations of us and left an impressive standard in the record books.”
The competition was not as nice to the women’s squad as they posted a decent score of 186.500, third best on the season for Santa Barbara, but left them in eighth place and out of the team finals. UCSB struggled to get individuals in event finals as well.
Sophomore Lesley Ross turned out to be the only Gaucho to reach an event final. Ross scored 9.675 on the balance beam in the finals and finished in fourth place.
“Lesley was impressive as usual, she has been very consistent all season long,” UCSB Women’s Head Coach Alanna Trimble said. “I really felt that Ryanne Strohm should have made the floor exercise finals, her score was impressive at 9.825, but I thought it could have been higher.”
Strohm, a junior, was named MPSF Gymnast of the Year at the conference finals. Strohm finished her season with a solid all-around score of 37.150, to go along with her floor result of 9.825.