The Road to Nationals

Despite the repercussions of COVID-19, the Northeastern women’s club gymnastics team has been dominating their competitions.

By Bridget Bost

The Northeastern club gymnastics team has been a force to be reckoned with for many years. As a part of the National Association Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs (NAIGC), they typically compete in three to five meets per season in the New England area. But because of COVID-19, they had only one meet during their 2021 regular season. 

After placing second during their meet at the University of Rhode Island, the team clinched first place at Regionals to earn a place on the Nationals stage. The team then fought their way to an outstanding third place finish against the 64 teams at Nationals—the team’s highest finish in its history. How did they manage to perform so well after COVID-19 drastically shortened their season? 

“Having a really big and good group of freshmen that wanted to do well and really cared about doing well. A lot of them had an interest in doing several events and are very passionate and meshed really well with the team,” the club’s president, Julia Dextradeur, said. “Also just having everyone get along and feel like a big family.”

The team had only two days a week to practice in the gym due to limited space and availability, so outside team gatherings were crucial. They helped the team to connect off the mat, which correlated to more synergy during competition. 

“The team does gatherings such as a welcome back party in the fall to introduce all new members and get all returning team members back together,” Dextradeur said.

Freshman Hailey Koppelman added, “Some of our other team gathering events include a ‘teamsgiving,’ movie nights, holiday celebrations before break, and a senior night at the end of the season.”

But how do you train a team that has limited time in the gym and only one meet before the two biggest meets of the season? Pete Gobiel, Northeastern’s club gymnastics coach for seven years, explains.

“The credit lies within the girls. The girls are dedicated,” said Gobiel. “But it’s not enough to come and do gymnastics; they’ve got to stay in shape. They workout between classes on their own on campus.”

Each week, the team held two practices to perfect skills with the goal of improving the athletes’ scores in each event. Aside from practices, the gymnasts trained at the Winthrop Gymnastics Academy and worked out diligently at the Marino Center.

“Our practices were always productive, and I feel like everytime we practiced, we were one step closer to the success we had at Regionals and Nationals,” Koppelman said.

On April 3, the team took a short trip across the Charles River to MIT to compete at Regionals, where they dominated all of their events and clinched first place. 

“Regionals was my favorite competition this season as it had a very calm, unified, and victorious vibe,” Koppelman said. 

After the big win, they were eager to travel to Nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the following week. 

“We felt prepared going into Nationals as we were just coming off of a huge and memorable Regionals win the week before,” Dextradeur said.

The team moved onto the Nationals finals by making it into the top eight teams during the preliminary stage. By the end of a full day of hard competition, the team was awarded third place. 

“I could not be any more proud of my team, any more thankful for coach Pete, and any more appreciative of the NAIGC community,” Koppelman emphasized.

Besides the team’s award at Nationals, seniors Elizabeth Ergil and Danielle Brucato were standouts. Ergil finished in third for vault, while Brucato finished in second in vault and fourth in the all around.

“Danielle Brucato and Elizabeth Ergil are superstars,” Dextradeur said. 

Koppelman added, “Dani is someone that never fails to amaze me at every competition and practice. Liz is another one of my idols, as her passion and dedication to the sport of gymnastics are shown through every single one of her routines.”

The determination and hard work the team had been putting in the whole year proved worth it after placing in the top three at their biggest competition.

“It was the first time in program history we’ve ever made the podium at nationals, and it was out of 64 teams so it was really exciting,” Dextraeur said. “Everyone was so happy to be together in a different place and bond, and we were doing so well showcasing our skills.”

After a successful and memorable season, both Koppelman and Dextraeur cannot wait to see what the future holds for this talented and hardworking team in the fall.