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Sophomore gymnasts fight through adversity to achieve national success

From+left%2C+sophomore+beam%2Fvault%2Ffloor+Grace+Murray+and+beam+Emily+Kobusky+have+shown+out+in+their+careers.+Both+have+picked+up+NCGA+East+specialists+of+the+week%2C+with+Murray+being+named+an+All-American+in+2023.
Kaeleigh Banda
From left, sophomore beam/vault/floor Grace Murray and beam Emily Kobusky have shown out in their careers. Both have picked up NCGA East specialists of the week, with Murray being named an All-American in 2023.

The Ithaca College gymnastics team has been heavily reliant on its underclassmen this year. Thankfully for the team, trust and confidence within the program have propelled two sophomores to national and historic success.

Sophomore beam/vault/floor Grace Murray has launched onto the scene at the college, landing a third place finish at nationals in her first-year season and also landing All-American honors. What makes Murray’s feats of success even more impressive was her humble demeanor during each of them. Murray said she was not even aware of the magnitude of being named an All-American at the time. 

“It was awesome after the fact,” Murray said. “I actually had no idea what All-American meant before I got it. They told me I was an All-American and I was like, ‘Yep, I’m not really sure what that means,’ but then I looked into it and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s actually really cool.’ So I didn’t even focus on going into it. Getting that award felt even more rewarding because I didn’t expect anything like that.” 

To go along with Murray’s dominance of the floor and vault has been fellow sophomore Emily Kobusky’s precision on the beam. Kobusky broke the school’s beam record on Feb. 18 during the Harriet Marranca Memorial Invitational with a score of 9.875. Prior to the performance, Kobusky was tied with the prior record holder Cameryn Nichols ’23 at 9.850.

Kobusky now not only holds the school record on the beam, but led Division lll with an average SAS of 9.8348 at the time of the record on Feb. 18. Kobusky now holds an average SAS of 9.7222 heading into the NCGA East Region Championships on March 9. Kobusky also led the country in beam SAS heading into the same event with a 9.7438 in 2023. Kobusky said the achievement of finally breaking the record was an indescribable feeling.

“I was so close last year to tying [the record] and I guess it just showed that the hard work was going to pay off,” Kobusky said. “I think the worry is sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh, I only do beam,’ but if you work hard enough, it’s going to come together. So it was a great feeling.”

Prior to coming to the college, both Murray and Kobusky dealt with injuries that hindered their abilities to show off to college scouts. Murray was sidelined with a back injury during her senior year of high school while Kobusky dealt with shin splints. Head coach Rick Suddaby said he instead looked toward their character and potential to perform well at the collegiate level. 

Kobusky said both of their decisions to come to the college came down to the wire.

“I had stress fractures in my shins senior year, so I didn’t really compete,” Kobusky said. “Senior year is kind of mostly on [Suddaby] trusting that I could do it. [Suddaby] offered me a spot right before Regionals, I was getting out of my air cast. Then actually, I talked to [Murray] at Regionals because she wasn’t decided yet and she was like, ‘I don’t know,’ and I was like ‘You should really do it, I think it’s gonna be fun.’ So it was kind of like senior year … uncertain … and then a leap of faith.”

The team’s current construction has allowed Murray and Kobusky to take charge of leadership early on. The team only consists of one senior, vault/floor Cassidy Gallivan, and 13 underclassmen to eight upperclassmen. 

Suddaby said the sophomore class has taken control of many leadership responsibilities early and have been a key part of keeping the team going.

“[The sophomores] set the standard,” Suddaby said. “It’s kind of interesting. We sat down and had a little panel discussion with the team, and what I did was pull out the top three kids that are most successful and of course, Grace and Emily were two of them. Then [sophomore beam/floor] Corey Foster was the third one that we picked because she’s gone like 9.775 every time and so they shared with us how they meant to prepare. They shared with us what they’ve overcome to be as good as they are, they shared with us how to focus on those things and they have been leaders for sure.”

With all this strong performance and early leadership roles, pressure can creep in easily. Murray said that coming off of her All-American season stress has made its way in, but taking an underdog mentality has kept her locked in.

“[Stress] is something I’ve been struggling with a lot this year,” Murray said. “In the preseason, I was pretty stressed out because … I understood what all of this means. So I think as a freshman I was just going through the motions. I didn’t really know what was going on, but now I know what All-American means. The pressure has definitely been a little bit more intense this season but just trying to focus on how I thought last year. Sometimes I try to forget that I’m even an All-American and I’ll just remember at the end of season. For now, I just have to think that I’m not.”

Gallivan added to this mental toughness Murray shows and said her resilience to perform so well after a major back injury shows just how strong Murray is.

“Me and her both do just floor and vault, so we train a lot together on the same events which is nice,” Gallivan said. “I think she’s super focused when she trains. I know she had a pretty bad back injury in high school, so she’s very into mental training. So that’s been really inspiring to see her like mentally trained so well that she can perform as well as she does.”

Along with the mental toughness to fight through pain comes the team’s ability to calm down while going through high pressure routines. Murray said Kobusky has her own unique way of getting in the zone.

“Emily’s probably one of the most fun teammates I’ve actually ever had in my entire life,” Murray said. “She’s known for singing during her routine. It could be the most random song playing in the background and she’s just so focused on what she’s doing, but she can still be singing in the background and she just brings the most energy to the team.”

Kobusky said her singing is something that she lets take over during her routine and said gymnastics is meant to be fun.

“I say it almost every meet,” Kobusky said. “My one thing is the Hannah Montana song. It’s like life is a party, but it really is a party if you let it be. But it’s never that deep. If you’re not going to have fun, there is no point in doing it because we stress over this sport. It’s 15 years coming here you made it to where you want to be. It’s supposed to be fun. I see other teams and they’re very stressed, they don’t look like they’re having fun and that’s not where I would want to be.”

Suddaby said what Murray and Kobusky have done for the culture of the program will only lead the team to a brighter future.

“For the big future, [Murray and Kobusky] are going to continue to be nurturing the new kids coming in and they set amazing examples that kids will follow because they’re easy to identify with,” Suddaby said. “Everybody loves them and they will continue our leadership, so the whole internal leadership thing is in a really good place.”



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Billy Wood, Sports Editor
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