By: Mike Rose
The Brockport gymnastics program hasn’t claimed a national championship since 2019. In spite of a coaching change, a COVID-19 cancelled season and heartbreaking losses, the Golden Eagles have remained one of the best programs in the country. For the fifth time in the last six seasons, Brockport ranked as the No. 1 team in the country in Division III heading into the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA) Championship at Winona State in Minnesota. Unfortunately, they felt heartbreak once more as they took fifth place in the meet.
Brockport posted a score of 189.225 at the event in their fifth place finish. UW-Oshkosh claimed the national title with a score of 192.525. Kyra Figurelli believes a slow start ultimately sunk her team.
“We went into the meet really confident,” Figurelli said. “We had a second place finish last year and we had three mistakes on the first event last year. This year we started on the same event (beam) and we had three mistakes again. So I think everyone was a little defeated by it and a little thrown off because we didn’t expect it.”
Brockport entered ranked first in Season Average Score (SAS) on the vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise. The balance beam, the weakest event for the Golden Eagles, they still entered fifth in the nation by SAS. When tallied up, Brockport resided as the highest ranked team by SAS in the all-around while also recording the highest single meet score of the season to date with a 193.250. Sydney Schumaker believed stability this season played a role in their success.
“I think last year it was very quick to get back in and everything was very new, it was a pretty chaotic year,” Schumaker said. “Now we have that year under our belt with our new coach and finally getting back together after COVID and we’ve had a good solid year of consistency, which is what we needed.
Despite a year of consistency, the national’s performance was anything but. Head coach Dr. René Lyst is in her second year since taking over from longtime coach John Feeney who retired in 2021. Lyst, despite a 25-3 regular season record and two regional championships with Brockport, has now posted second and fifth place finishes at nationals. She thought her team was pressing a bit this time around.
“Honestly, I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves and whenever you’re trying to go for perfection it can be a tricky line,” Lyst said. “I think everyone expected a lot from each other and we had plenty of errors that were people changing things to try and be something they didn’t need to be when they just needed to be themselves.”
Brockport as a team finished first in the vault with a score of 48.550 in the event. On the floor Brockport recorded 48.050 to take fifth place. The Golden Eagles posted a score of 46.650 to finish fifth place on the beam. On the bars, Brockport finished tied for fourth place with a score of 45.975.
“Everyone was sad, everyone was angry,” Figurelli said. “It was shocking to really just watch everything we had worked so hard for this season just unravel in front of us. The team score that won (192.5) was like our average. So we didn’t have to do anything spectacular to have taken it. So it was just tough to see it fall apart the way it did.”
Despite the overall disappointment from the team performance, there remained notable individual feats for the Golden Eagles. Brockport had four gymnasts claim All-American honors with top eight finishes in their events. Schumaker finished second on the vault to gain All-American status for the second consecutive season in the event. Figurelli, last year’s national on the floor, added an All-American recognition on vault to her resume finishing in fifth place. Maren Eramo tied for eighth on the vault to become an All-American for the first time in her career. Emma Grace Sargent was the lone two event All-American for Brockport, finishing third on the bars and tied for eighth on the vault. While disappointed, Figurelli was still proud of what her team accomplished.
“I think everyone’s slowly accepting the fight place finish,” Figurelli said. “It’s not what we wanted but you know we still had a good season. We still had a bunch of All-Americans that came out the meet and all the seniors got Academic All-Americans. Even though it wasn’t the finish we wanted, I think the team is still proud of what we did this season.”
As the Brockport gymnastics program and Lyst look to crack the code moving forward, she believes this can be a learning experience for her team moving forward.
“Sit in this disappointment for a little bit and feel what it feels like because we want to be successful more than we want to fear failure. I told them to keep reminding themselves of that feeling when we’re up against big challenges, that’s something we’ll be taking with us into next season,” Lyst said.