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Former gymnasts find new home with swimming and diving team

Graduate+student+diver+Abby+Marraccino+was+initially+recruited+to+the+Ithaca+College+gymnastics+team+before+getting+cut+during+her+first+year.+Since+then%2C+she+has+been+a+standout+athlete+on+the+swimming+and+diving+team.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MALIK CLEMENT, KALYSTA DONAGHY-ROBINSON
Graduate student diver Abby Marraccino was initially recruited to the Ithaca College gymnastics team before getting cut during her first year. Since then, she has been a standout athlete on the swimming and diving team.

The Ithaca College gymnastics team has been known to be extremely selective with its recruits. Unfortunately, the program does not have enough space to keep everyone on the roster, causing head coach Rick Suddaby to make cuts. However, a number of those who were cut from the gymnastics team have found another home at the college, in particular, the women’s swimming and diving team.

There are plenty of similarities between gymnastics and diving. According to Gymnastics123, one of those similarities is the focus on mechanics when in the air. Another area of focus for these athletes is the aspect of take offs and landings. Some of these attributes make the transition from gymnastics to diving much easier for ex-gymnasts.

Diving coach Chris Griffin said there are currently 12 divers on the team that were previously on the gymnastics team at the college. One of those divers, graduate student Abby Marraccino, has been on the swim and dive team since her first year after originally being recruited for gymnastics.

“I started looking at Ithaca my sophomore year and had been in contact with the coaches early on,” Marraccino said. “I was definitely under the impression that after tryouts I would make the team, but unfortunately I was cut right away.”

Marraccino said that after being cut from the gymnastics team during her first year, she looked for another sport to join, trying to fill that gap as athletics has been an important part of her life.

“I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I knew I had to find something to put all of my passion behind,” Marraccino said. “I was looking at anything, club swimming, rowing, until another gymnast who was cut reached out to me and recommended I join the diving team. Originally, I thought there was no way I would join the diving team, but I was able to build off my foundational skills from gymnastics and I joined and hoped for the best.”

Sophomore Natalie Soloway, who was also recruited to be on the gymnastics team, saw her first year riddled with injuries, before being cut at the beginning of her sophomore year.

“My senior year of high school, the coach offered me a spot on the team and the next day I tore my achilles,” Soloway said. “I was still on the team last year but I did not compete as I was still recovering. Once tryouts rolled around this year, I was cut and was never fully back to where I was before I tore my achilles.”

Soloway, like Marraccino, had been an athlete her entire life. Committed to gymnastics, Soloway had a hard transition joining the diving team after being cut from gymnastics, but she found a new home as a diver.

“I’ve always wanted to dive but I’ve never had any time to try other sports because of gymnastics,” Soloway said. “Coming in, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done with this transformation.”

Soloway gives credit for her success to Griffin, who has had a number of former gymnasts join the team during his time coaching.

“The progress I’ve made is mind-blowing to me and it’s all because of my coach,” Soloway said. “He has coached so many successful divers, especially ex-gymnasts and transformed them into strong divers. He’s a huge reason why I love swimming and diving so much and the team too, as everyone is so supportive.”

Soloway also said her teammates have helped her find success, fighting through the adversity of trying a new sport for the first time.

“[Senior diver Karolyn Pawcio], Abby, and [senior diver] Rachel Lange all came from gymnastics too and they knew my position,” Soloway said. “They all knew exactly what to tell me and looking at them and seeing how successful they were, I knew it was possible for me to do it, too.”

Soloway finished 19th and 20th in the 1- and 3-meter dives, respectively, at the NCAA Regional Diving Championships on Feb. 24 and 25.

Griffin said what he loves about his job is how he helps his athletes grow and succeed, especially in finding their strides.

“I think it’s fantastic and is one of the wonderful things I am able to do as a coach,” Griffin said. “As coaches, we take a look at where our athletes can grow and not, and we have to make choices. I think it’s fantastic we can help these athletes find a new home and family and allow those athletes to excel in a new environment.”

Griffin recently coached graduate student Ava Lowell ’22, who was also originally recruited for the gymnastics team, to an individual national championship in the 3-meter boards in 2022.

Marraccino said she gives her teammates credit for her development, as well as Griffin, saying the team has been extremely motivating and supportive over the years. 

“I think it took a whole team and my coach taught me literally everything I know about diving,” Marraccino said. “Joining a team that has had and currently has so many amazing divers led me to become a successful diver, too. I’ve been in an environment with so many talented divers, the expectation to succeed and push each other on has helped me on the way.”

Marraccino also competed at the NCAA Regional Diving Championships, finishing second in the 3-meter dive with a score of 457.40, as well as fifth in the 1-meter, tallying a score of 447.30 points.

In her final season on the team, Marraccino said it is unbelievable to look back on her transformation as a diver, considering she was unfamiliar with the sport when she joined the team her first year.

“It’s so crazy to think that I knew nothing about this sport coming in and now I’m a part of such a successful team,” Marraccino said. “It’s so rewarding, seeing all of my teammates put so much hard work and passion behind everything we do. We have been so successful and it has been amazing to be a part of it all.”

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