Looking back on Pitt’s season, it is hard not to be impressed with the progress the gymnastics team has made under first-year head coach Samantha Snider. Despite finishing at a meager 7-18, new program records and history-making performances defined the Panthers’ season.
The Panthers closed out their 2018 season April 7 at the NCAA Regional Championship in Columbus, Ohio. Seeded fifth in the competition, they performed to expectations, finishing in fifth place with a score of 195.125. UCLA won the event with a score of 197.650. This was Pitt’s first trip to Regionals since 2013.
During the meet, Pitt put up a 49.125 on bars, which falls in the top 10 in program history. Individually, five Panthers had top-10 finishes, including first year Haley Brechwald, who tied for eighth on the floor after posting a 9.875.
Brechwald has been the catalyst for the team, earning EAGL Rookie of the Year honors. She collected 12 individual titles in 11 meets this season and now holds three of the top-10 all-around scores in program history.
The team has also found leadership in its seniors, as Catie Conrad was the second-winningest gymnast on the team with four individual event wins this season. Two of her four came on bars early in the season at Jan. 13 and Jan. 20 meets. Conrad tied with multiple other gymnasts for first at both events.
The 2018 squad now owns six of the top-10 program scores, including the event record 49.275 — which was set twice this season, on Jan. 20 and March 24.
Snider also coached the team to the second best overall score in team history March 4 with a 196.475 mark. On beam, Snider got the best out of her squad, tying the program record with a 49.125 Jan. 20. Overall, the team has posted at least one top-10 score in program history in every event this year.
It was during that Jan. 20 meet against New Hampshire that individuals shined, with Pitt bringing home seven individual titles that day, including a three-way tie for first on bars between Brechwald, Conrad and junior Lucy Brett. Sophomore Alecia Petrikis took home her only individual title of the year during that meet, winning vault. Brechwald won three of her 12 titles that day, and Conrad won two of her four.
It was a rocky year in terms of wins and losses. Aside from the New Hampshire meet, Pitt did not win a single meet outright. The team came in second at two quad meets, falling short to Auburn Feb. 11 and finishing behind Penn State March 4.
Pitt was able to hold its own at home, going 4-4 during meets at the Fitzgerald Field House. It was when the Panthers traveled that they struggled, going 1-6 away and 2-8 at neutral locations.
There is plenty of room for improvement for next year, as the Panthers failed to beat a ranked opponent. The closest they came to this mark was at the Feb. 11 meet, when they edged out conference opponent NC State, who had been previously ranked No. 25 earlier in the season.
Looking toward next year, Pitt is only losing three seniors, and Brechwald will be bolstered by a group that has another year of experience under its belt. The loss of Conrad will be a difficult one to compensate for, but the team seems ready to step up. In fact, 11 gymnasts set career highs this season.
While the record might not reflect it, Pitt has plenty to be pleased about this season. The Panthers hope to get better in 2019, both as a team and as individual performers. If Coach Snider is able to cultivate a culture of consistency, look for an improved record and more history to be made next year.