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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Flooring opponents

The gymnastics team’s success this season literally has gymnasts jumping and dancing.

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Senior Kailee Spusta keeps her balance in a floor routine Saturday at the Harriet Marranca Memorial Invitational in Ben Light Gymnasium. SUNY-Brockport, SUNY-Cortland and Wilson College also competed in the meet. MICHELLE BOULÉ/THE ITHACAN

But these gymnasts aren’t leaping around for nothing; they’re competing in the Blue and Gold’s strongest event — the floor exercise.

The Bombers, ranked fourth in Division III in team scoring average, are second in the nation with an average score of 46.308 on the floor exercise — the team’s highest score in any event. Scores are calculated by totaling the top five individual performers on each event.

Sophomore Katie Sampson said during every teammate’s floor exercise, the team mirrors dance moves on the sidelines in unison with the gymnast performing.

“We are so supportive on floor,” she said. “There are certain parts of everyone’s routine that we always mimic; it just gets the person on the floor so motivated and pumped up.”

Some gymnasts choreograph their own routines, and some have others do it for them. The first step to choreographing a routine is picking the accompanying music. Any music without lyrics will work, but gymnasts tend to use more classical pieces — not modern hip-hop music that other teams use.

Gymnasts who choreograph their own routines often start by simply listening to the music and finding inspiration for movements that fit. Senior Justine Picciano said it often helps to come up with a starting pose and an ending pose first and fill in the rest from there.

Senior Caitlin Cleary said if all the events in gymnastics had personalities, floor exercise would be the most in-your-face member of the group.

“Floor would be the loud and outgoing person,” she said.

Freshman Jenna Van Dusen said she has a different mentality while performing on floor than in other events.

“Gymnastics is very nerve-racking for me,” Van Dusen said. “But on floor all my nerves are gone, and I forget about everything else when I’m doing my routine.”

During past years, the team has traditionally excelled on the floor exercise, and Head Coach Rick Suddaby said gymnasts tend to arrive on South Hill with solid dance backgrounds.

“As a coach it’s tough for me to teach that,” he said. “But if they come in with it, we can capitalize on it.”

However, Suddaby said he doesn’t focus on recruiting gymnasts with backgrounds in dance.

In addition to the choreography of floor exercise, another key portion of the event are tumbling passes. A tumbling pass is a series of acrobatic maneuvers performed in succession across the mat.

Senior Kailee Spusta, a two-time All-American on the floor exercise whose routine is characterized by upbeat, quick arms movements, said the event requires a combination of talents.

“You have to be powerful and explosive for tumbling, and then you have to be able to be graceful and put on a great performance,” Spusta said.

Sampson said her favorite portion of her routine is her first tumbling pass, where she starts from the back right corner, sprints to the middle of the mat, does a roundhouse into a back handspring and finishes with a double back flip.

Sampson, who slaps the floor twice during her routine while lying on the mat to add emphasis to dramatic points in the music, said when she hits her first tumbling pass, it motivates her to step it up.

“It’s a big skill, and its fun to flip in the air,” she said.

By combining skills or completing particularly difficult ones on tumbling passes, a gymnast can rack up bonus points for her score. Suddaby said the team has focused on getting bonus points on every tumbling pass.

“As a team, we’ve upped the ante,” he said. “It’s one of those things we try to get a little more than everyone else.”

Spusta said a strong performance on floor can set the tone for the entire meet.

“Because it’s such an exciting event it really builds a lot of momentum and a lot of energy,” she said. “So when the team goes and hits on floor it really carries through to other events.”