Pitt Gymnastics set to vault into season


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Senior Charli Spivey completes her floor performance during Pitt’s 196.225-195.175 victory over New Hampshire on Jan. 20, 2018.

By Kate Hall , staff writer

After a nine-month hiatus, Pitt gymnastics is ready to take the floor again this weekend. The Panthers will open their season on Saturday in a quad-meet at home against West Virginia, Utah State and East Michigan.

The Panthers ended their 2018 season on a high note, placing fifth at the NCAA Regional Championship after losing to four nationally ranked opponents. Then No. 33, Pitt came within two points of beating No. 3 UCLA in regionals, displaying potential.

The Panthers were ranked No. 36 in the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association preseason poll.

“We had a great year last year,” coach Sam Snider said. “But now we expect more, so we raised the bar and set the standard a little higher.”

This is Snider’s second season coaching the team, and so far her high expectations have led to success. Under Snider’s leadership, the Panthers appeared at the NCAA Regional Championship last season for the first time in five years.

Snider is hoping the off-season work has helped her gymnasts prepare themselves both on and off the mats to finish higher in the national rankings, and more importantly, get another shot at winning the championship.

“There have a been a few ups and downs here and there,” Snider said. “But for the most part they are ready to go, they are ready to get out there.”

The past few weeks have served as crunch time for the team as it focuses on its theme of the season — which, according to senior Charli Spivey, is “no opportunity wasted.”

As a veteran leader for the team and a player to watch this season, Spivey takes the theme seriously and is working hard to make this season unforgettable.

“This is my senior year,” Spivey siad. “So I’m just working on embracing what that brings and enjoying every moment with this team.”

Spivey, who competes in floor and vault, is coming off a career-best season in 2018.

At Pitt’s home quad-meet in early February last season, Spivey recorded a career-high score of 9.825 in her floor routine. Later that month, Spivey scored a career 9.800 with her floor routine at the West Virginia tri-meet. She tied that score the next weekend.

While they have put in a lot of work in the gym, the Panthers are putting a lot of focus on enjoying their time together beyond it as well, holding lip-synch battles and a Secret Santa gift exchange. According to Snider, the bond the team has created is going to shine through on the competition floor.

“This team is really, really close with our chemistry and our love and support for one another,” Snider said. “They’re positive, they’re high-energy and that’s so great in a competition to feed off of. We’re having fun.”

One person the team should have no problem feeding off of is sophomore Haley Brechwald, as she was one of the most accomplished gymnasts last season. Brechwald made her mark in the Pitt gymnastics record books by tying fourth in program history all-around with a score of 39.375. She was also named the East Atlantic Gymnastics League Rookie of the Year in 2018.

In addition to being named rookie of the year, Brechwald was named to the All-EAGL First Team in the all-around and floor categories and All-EAGL Second Team in beam and vault.

Aside from Spivey and Brechwald, other key gymnasts to watch this season are returning seniors Lucy Brett, Krista Collins and Brittany West.

Brett, who competes on bars and beam, earned First Team EAGL All-Tournament Bars honors after earning the second-best score in program history as well as her career-high with a 9.925 at the EAGL Championship. She also tied the team’s highest beam score of the year in 2017 with a 9.875.

After breaking records and participating in every meet during her sophomore year, Collins had a quiet junior season. In the past, Collins had made noise on the vault, bars and beam, scoring a career-high 9.775, 9.675 and 9.750 in each event in the 2017 season, respectively.

West will make her comeback performance in her senior season after sitting out last year due to injury. If she picks up where she left off in 2017, she could have a big year. In her sophomore year, West was All-EAGL Second Team on beam and All-EAGL Tournament First Team for vault and beam.

With Saturday quickly approaching, the Panthers are more than ready to show what Pitt gymnastics is all about.

“I’m so excited,” Spivey said. “This is such a family and I can’t imagine doing this without this group of girls and coaches.”