COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College gymnastics team recently gathered together for its end-of-year banquet, celebrating a year of achievement both in the gym, in the classroom, and in the community by handing out individual awards.
First-year head coach Kim Valenti, her staff, and the gymnasts alike were given the opportunity to vote on six newly installed awards, which will become the cornerstone of the annual banquet.
"We suffered together - big injuries, small bumps and bruises but celebrated deeply joyous moments together and got the opportunity to witness hard work shine," Valenti said. "It certainly wasn't always easy, but this team welcomed me, and from the bottom of my heart I thank them for a really sweet, memorable first year as a head coach. We've laid a strong foundation, one I'm really proud of, and I think we should all be really excited for what the future holds."
The full list of award winners:
Rookie of the Year – Kaylin Knapsack
This award is given to the top-performing "rookie" or gymnast competing at the collegiate level for the first time. This young woman bought in to UCG fully and made a difference in the program in her 1st year.
Knapsack garnered this award after she turned in a stellar debut campaign, posting the second-highest floor score (9.700) and third-highest beam score (9.600) for the team. Knapsack scored a 9.650 on the floor at the NCGA East Regional championship.
Most Improved – Sam Aguirre
This award is given to the gymnast who most improved their game to new heights over the year. She accepted constructive criticism and remained determined to be better each day. She overcame obstacles, possibly even came back from major injury, but deeply advanced her routines and skills practicing each day to be better.
One of the more inspirational stories of the season, Aguirre received the honor given to "the gymnast who elevated their performance to new heights over the course of the year. She accepted constructive criticism and remained determined to be better each day. Aguirre returned from a major injury to compete on the beam at five meets.
Scholar-Athlete – Breanna Couts
This award is given to the student-athlete who has dedicated herself both in the classroom and the gym. She has excelled and deserves to be recognized for academic successes. She demonstrates what it means to be a student first and foremost at Ursinus College.
Couts earned this laurel for posting the highest cumulative GPA on the team. She competed in six meets this season on the vault, posting a career-best 9.350 in the home finale against West Chester and at the regional championship.
7th Woman – Gabrielle Pitt
This award, voted on entirely by the team, is for the gymnast whose effort is never in question and possesses a strong hidden quality – heart. She is always there to do whatever is asked of her. This is the person that the six lineup performers want next in line or standing next to them on the day of competition.
Pitt was a steady presence on the vault for the Bears, taking part in eight meets and coming on strong down the stretch. She scored above a 9.250 in each of her last five routines, including a personal-best 9.400 at the NCGA East Regional championship.
MVP – Matisen O'Brien
This teammate is the most critical to our team performance and demonstrated exception skill and ability this season. She had the largest impact on the team and is judged to be the most outstanding athlete. To receive the MVP award, you brought all you can to your performance and inspire others to do the same. You are pursuant in your goals both personal and team.
O'Brien was a valued leader and consistent contributor in her final collegiate campaign, starting for the Bears on both beam and floor in each meet. She notched a season high of 9.575 on the beam at Temple and scored a 9.525 at West Chester. O'Brien also collected Academic All-America honors from the NCGA.
BEAR Award – Lindsay Rush
This athlete is the ultimate team player and exemplifies what it means to be an Ursinus gymnast and a BEAR – someone who is brave (ready to face fear and endure danger/pain), empowered (make the team stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life), adaptable (able to adjust to new conditions, flexible in mind and spirit) and resilient (able to withstand or recover from difficult conditions).
This award is not only for hard work or even the four qualifiers within the name, but for a deep willingness to understand, to learn, to enter into a partnership with coaches and your teammates, to invest in the family in an effort to recognize one's full potential. Winning this award encompasses the utmost dedication to the program.
Rush was the Bears' undisputed leader, a universally respected teammate and a terrific performer on the vault who qualified for NCGA nationals for the first time after registering the 16th-best season-average score in the country. Rush, who logged the team's highest single score on both the vault and bars, tied for 27th with a 9.475 at the individual championship and totaled at least a 9.400 at every single meet this season. She capped her outstanding career with an NCGA Academic All-America certificate.