Seniors honored against UC Davis

Statistically, it wasn’t the largest crowd of the season. But the 659 spectators at Royal Brougham Pavilion on Friday night were the most energetic home crowd the Seattle Pacific gymnastics team saw all season.

“You [could] totally feel their energy and their excitement to be here,” senior Aditi Kulkarni said.

Before the meet started, eight SPU seniors received flowers and applause for their four years as Falcons. Between events, the public-address announcer called out the names of 33 alumnae gymnasts in attendance, who received loud cheers. On three separate occasions, one fan stood up, faced the crowd and started a chant.

SPU fed off the crowd’s energy in its first event. Sophomores Ali Tso and Kenley Memmel scored career highs on the vault, and senior Samantha Taylor tied hers.

“I always think that I can do better, but it was a good start,” Memmel said. “We had a really good crowd, which helps keep our energy up. It’s very motivating.”

Although visiting California Davis ended up winning the meet, 192.900-191.350, SPU was more focused on itself.

The meet was not just another competition; it was also a celebration of Falcon gymnastics.

Fans roared in anticipation of a dismount on the uneven bars, greeting a good landing with cheers and a fall with audible groans.

“It’s always nice to have alumni in the building,” senior Lari Wilson said. “It feels like a family [atmosphere].”

The crowd’s noise drowned out the public-address announcer more than once, and the crowd gave head coach Laurel Tindall a standing ovation. She was the last alumna announced, but she received the loudest cheers.

The announcer called her “the mother of SPU gymnastics.” Tindall is in her 37th year as head coach after also competing for the school.

The crowd’s energy and the culmination of a four-year career on Senior Night led to an emotional meet, Kulkarni said.

“The seniors [have] been through a lot together, and I’m glad that so many of us were able to compete tonight and are healthy,” she said. “It’s been a very fun, rewarding, memorable four years.”

After an up-and-down first three events, which included the team’s second-highest vault score of the season and six falls in the next 12 routines, the Falcons had a chance to end Senior Night on a positive note in the floor exercise.

Memmel scored 9.675 in the first routine, setting an example the rest of the floor competitors followed. Freshman Shannon Escarra scored a career-high 9.775. Junior Stephanie Wagner scored a 9.750. Senior Sherah Veron capped off Senior Night with a 9.850.

Tindall could only marvel at her floor lineup’s prowess.

“This is probably the first time this season we’re probably eight [competitors] deep … [and] able to put so many good routines on the floor,” she said. “It’s a toss-up every meet, who to put in.”

However, the first and last events of the night bookended two events that needed to be better, Tindall said.

“We had some very uncharacteristic falls,” she said. “We’ve left the door open for improvements.”

Tindall said she does not mind a little inconsistency now, as long as the team puts up big numbers in the conference and national championship meets — but the Falcons have to get there first.

The Falcons have three more meets before the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships, starting on Friday at Air Force. SPU currently sits in the No. 4 spot in USA Gymnastics; the top eight make the national meet.

“We don’t want to be on the bubble because it’s stressful,” she said. “If we can keep those low 191s coming, we’ll be OK, I hope.”

<b>California Davis 192.900, SPU 191.350.</b>

SPU scores:

Vault — 2, Sherah Veron, 9.750. 3, Kenley Memmel, 9.700 (career high). 6, Samantha Taylor, 9.625. T-8, Ali Tso, 9.575 (career high). T-10, Bryn Larson, 9.500. 12, Lari Wilson, 8.950. Team, 48.150.

Uneven bars — 2, Texie Gregory, 9.825 (career high). 5, Cara Lord, 9.575. 6, Bryn Larson, 9.550. 9, Kenley Memmel, 9.375. 10, Samantha Taylor, 9.225. 12, Stephanie Wagner, 9.150. Team, 47.550.

Balance beam — 2, Stephanie Wagner, 9.775. 3, Shannon Escarra, 9.675. 7, Samantha Taylor, 9.150. T-8, Brittany Malone, Aditi Kulkarni, 9.125. 11, Sydney Clark, 8.950. Team, 46.850.

Floor exercise — 1, Sherah Veron, 9.850. 2, Shannon Escarra, 9.775 (career high). T-3, Brittany Malone, Stephanie Wagner, 9.750. T-8, Kenley Memmel, 9.675. 10, Aditi Kulkarni, 9.650. Team, 48.800 (season high).

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Title: Seniors honored against UC Davis | Author: Liviu Bird | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2012-02-29 | Internal ID: 8072