UConn springs into gymnastics
Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 23:11
Gymnastics is a sport that requires dedication and skill from a very early age. For those wishing to become gymnasts, it is almost impossible to pick up the requisite skills at the college level. Consequently, the UConn gymnastics team is almost exclusively composed of athletes who have a serious amount of competitive experience at the high school level, as well as experience in the United States of America Gymnastics programs. Team President Casey DiTroia started doing gymnastics competitively at the age of five years old, and had competed in USAG up to level nine by eighth grade.
There are 10 levels, with level one being the most basic and level 10 being "elite." Chronic back fractures stopped DiTroia from competing during high school. Upon reaching college, DiTroia and her friends wanted a way to continue their sport at a competitive level, so they formed a gymnastics club, which still exists as a way for students to learn skills and stay in shape at a non-competitive level, and Gymnastics as a club sport by her sophomore year. The team competed at Nationals in its first year of existence, but didn't do well due to the team's size and inexperience.
"This year we've about doubled our numbers and expect to do much better." says DiTroia.
The team practices two to three times a week at Deary's Gymnastics in Danielson. A normal practice consists of a group stretch and warm-up, followed by individual practice in each of the four events that a team member can compete in. Vault, bars, beam and floor. Many people might be familiar with some of these events from watching the Olympics on TV, or the character Stewie from "Family Guy" running through a complex series of moves and feats of acrobatic skill that make many of us here on the ground wince in anticipation of what seems to be an inevitable fall.
The vault consists of a hurdle over an approximately four-foot by four-foot padded table. An athlete sprints down a marked runway known as the "run" jumps onto a springboard and completes any number of complicated twists and turns in the air before landing on a predetermined spot on a mat. The athlete is marked down for hopping or being unable to execute a clean landing on this spot.
The bars is an exercise that involves two sets of uneven bars set about 4-6 feet from each other. The athlete then performs a series of complex swings, flips and releases on and between the two bars. Different moves on the apparatus necessitated its original evolution from the parallel bars used in men's gymnastics. Consequently, the uneven bars are an almost exclusively female event. In USAG levels 1-6 a compulsory routine is set forth. In Levels 7-10, the athlete must come up with her own routine within a series of specific guidelines.
The balance beam is an event in which the athlete must walk, dance and perform many complex moves on a long beam approximately four feet in the air. Athletes are expected to impress the judges with complex routines. The floor exercise consists of a "dance" type routine incorporating tumbles, flips and difficult maneuvers in a period of 90 seconds. The floor is underlain with springs in order to aid the gymnasts in gaining height.
All four events are scored by taking a Start Value, which is based of the difficulty of the techniques contained in the routine. This value might be up to 10. Additional points are added based on how well the performer executes the routine.
The team's season goes from December to mid-April. They compete in three home meets and three or four away meets, as well as regionals and Nationals. UConn hopes to be more competitive this season, and hopes to do well at their largest meet, Nationals.