Gymnastics travels 4,000 miles for win

The Eastern Michigan University women’s gymnastics team traveled nearly 4,000 miles to compete Sunday against the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves. Even with a four-hour time difference, the Eagles prevailed to win the meet 193.350-192.850, which brought them to an overall record of 2-5.

“Traveling that far, it’s always a little tentative,” EMU coach Steve Wilce said. “It does get you tired. The kids, when competition came around, handled it pretty well.

EMU sophomore gymnast Anna Willette led the Eagles in three events. Willette took first place on the vault (9.875) and balance beam (9.825), and second place on the uneven parallel bars (9.750).

Another highlight for the team came from EMU freshman Khadijah Hudson, when she won the all-around competition with a score of 38.6. Wilce said it was a last-minute surprise.

“Anna’s good, but we knew a year ago that she was the best kid we had,” he said. “Now you put her and Khadijah together, and we’ve got a good core base to start building some things around.”

Hudson is the first Eagle to compete in all four events this season and her all-around competition came from UAA gymnasts M’rcy Matsunami (38.425) and Simone Penker (38.450).

The Seawolves gained an early lead on the vault with EMU on bars, but as soon as they switched events, the Eagles came back with a running score of 97.175-96.600 and kept the lead.

“Both [Hudson and Willette] are really good athletes and there’s lots of other good athletes,” Wilce said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to get some consistency.”

The vault presented the best score for EMU with 48.800. With Willette leading, third place was claimed by Hudson and fifth by sophomore Paulina Miller. Seventh place was a three-way tie shared by EMU gymnasts, sophomore Carrina Lo Bello and seniors Kristina Kurkmilis and Amanda Fuller with a score of 9.700.

Hudson came just behind Willette on the bars with 9.725 to take third place. Following them was Lo Bello at fourth, senior Camille Cicchini at ninth and junior Taylor Patterson at twelfth.

The Eagles retained their lead going into the floor exercise and taking first through fifth place. Hudson led the floor followed by redshirt Fuller (9.800), Kurkmilis (9.750), junior Chantelle Loehner (9.725), Miller (9.600) and junior Shawna Ciaramella (9.450).

“The floor was a little harder than we are used to, but when it came down to it we all made our routines,” Kurkmilis said. “We made six for six floor routines for the first time this year, so that was a really good accomplishment and we hope to build off that.”

The beam proved to be the lowest scoring event for the Eagles with the team pulling together a 47.450.

“The meet went real well until beam, and even then we were still pretty good,” Wilce said. “We just had some mistakes.”

Two out of the top five gymnasts for this event came from EMU. Willette led both teams, and senior Brittany Cassar claimed fifth place with a 9.700.

“We basically fought for everything we did in order to win that meet and it was successful,” Cicchini said. “It was really awesome to come home with a win from Alaska.”

The Eagles will head to Bowling Green, Ohio, on Saturday to compete in the Bowling Green Invitational.

EMU will have a second chance to defeat Ball State University and Bowling Green University—schools that defeated the Eagles earlier in the season.

“It’s a really big goal for us to finally go out and bring our own A game and show them that we are in it for revenge,” Kurkmilis said.

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