Towson hopes new ‘leadership council’ will lead to improved performance
After placing eighth in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) last season and having two gymnasts qualify for the NCAA Regional meet, Towson is already preparing for a more successful season than last.
The team welcomes Bridget Steffen, Bayleigh Fobes and Bailey Gallagher, three freshmen that Head Coach Vicki Chliszczyk believes will make an immediate impact on the team.
“All three have the ability to compete all-around for us during their career here,” Chliszczyk said.
Last season, sophomores Katie Sassa and Abby Griswold qualified for the NCAA Regional meet where Sassa gave her best performance of the season, earning a 9.85 score on beam. Griswold competed as an all-around, earning a total score of 38.275 on the bars, vault, beam, and floor.
“Both girls are currently working through some injuries at this point,” Chliszczyk said. “Their experience at the Regional Championships will help both of them in practice and competition.”
With a small group of 13 girls, Chliszczyk has not officially named a captain for the team. Instead, they have what is called a leadership council that has representatives from each class along with a CEO.
“We believe in a saying, ‘You don’t need a title to be a leader,’” Chliszczyk said. “We are looking for each member to be comfortable leading at some point or another- this will only make our team stronger.”
Among members of the leadership council are Steffen, sophomore Lydia Thompson, junior Nicolette Vignola and senior Alexa Davis. The CEO of the team is sophomore Vicki Vesecky.
“Being the CEO is an honor and a privilege,” Vesecky said. “Every person on this team has the ability to step up as a leader, but being given this position, I am most excited about helping unite this team through positive energy and communication.”
Moving back into the EAGL conference for the second year, the Tigers will face a tough competition schedule for the 2013-2014 season. Towson will be facing off against two teams they have not seen in a while, the University of Michigan and Central Michigan. Other teams in the conference include the University of North Carolina, West Virginia, North Carolina State, Maryland, Pittsburg and George Washington.
“Competing against teams of this caliber will raise our competitive level and we are looking forward to the challenge,” Chliszczyk said.
The Tigers plan to continue being a threat with their performance on floor as Chliszczyk said it has been there strongest event in seasons past, but look hopeful for other events such as the beam to play a huge contribution.
“If we can control our nerves and stay consistent on beam, it can also be strong as we have a number of individuals who are showing great potential,” Chliszczyk said.
She also said she hopes to increase the team’s consistency in order to have more countable scores that will help with the team’s rankings.
“We would like to go out strong at the beginning of the year and build as we go,” Chliszczyk said. “Steady and consistent is what we are looking for.
Vesecky said her team expectation for this year is to continue building on their previous season.
“I am really looking forward to seeing people step up this year on events that they haven’t been huge contributors on in years past,” she said.
While working hard in the gym plays a big part in their performances, academics contribute as well.
The National Association of Collegiate Gymnastic Coaches ranked the Towson gymnastics program 14th in the nation for their academic performance during the 2012-2013 school year. The team also finished the year with a combined GPA of 3.5027, making them the team with the highest overall GPA in the EAGL Conference.
“We strive to increase in the rankings and continue our academic excellence,” Chliszczyk said.
The Tigers have already started routine training and conditioning in preparation for the season.
“As a result, this team is already a closer and stronger team than last season,” Chliszczyk said.
The team has also strengthened team comradery by volunteering every September at a gymnastics camp for a weekend.
“During this time, we really get to know our incoming freshmen and bond as a team,” Vesecky said. “We spend most of what little free time we have together.”
This year, the Tigers have come up with “Attack it” as a team motto.
“This is something that can be used for every aspect of their lives as they want to make sure they live each day to the fullest and appreciate the talents they have been given,” Chliszczyk said.
Towson will start off its schedule against Pittsburgh on Friday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.
“We want to have fun along the journey and find the joy in each and everything we do,” Chliszczyk said