By Nicole Ramsey
Once one of the most popular sports at the collegiate level, gymnastics is now being overshadowed by more modern competitive sports. The members of UCSC’s Gymnastic Club feel strongly about the sudden abandonment, but are working hard to put gymnastics back on the map and refusing to let it subside.
Andrew McMartin formed the UCSC Gymnastics Club in January of last year along with three other founding members: Florence Rubinger, Jenna Yamaguma, and Sophia Spiteri.
The experienced gymnasts teach the newcomers the fundamentals of gymnastics and guide them throughout the season. The range of experience among the gymnasts goes all the way from novice beginners to men and women who have competed at the national level during their high school days and earlier.
“The problem is that there are a lot of people that are interested in joining,” junior Jenna Yamaguma said. “[But] they have this common misconception that gymnastics is hard and they get intimidated.”
Due to their status as a newly formed club, funding has been extremely hard to come by and members are constantly looking for ways to raise enough money, though it has not been easy to gain support.
“We have been kind of frustrated by the lack of acceptance or sponsorship by the university,” member Kenneth Garges said. “It was easy enough to get it started under the Student Organization Advising and Resources (SOAR), but we want to become a recognized sports club under OPERS.”
Having that status would entitle the club to benefits such as transportation, web pages, and most importantly, funding.
The club, consisting of 30 members, applied and has been under review since it was established. They are hoping to get into OPERS, which will provide funding on the condition that they compete against other schools. Since OPERS can only accept a certain amount of sports clubs during the year due to the construction of the west field gym and the lack of space, the gymnastics club has to wait until next year to apply again.
“We are not an official club yet [under OPERS],” sophomore Chloe Lee said. “But we are trying hard to change that and it’s a great opportunity for students to be a part of.”
The club is supported by a local business, Santa Cruz Sports Central, which generously provides access to their facility. It is now the practice center for the gymnasts, and practices are held there four times a week.
“I love it,” junior Courtney Chase said. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s a really low annual membership fee, which gives us access to the gym and employment opportunities.”
The gymnastics club attended their first competition against UC Davis and UC Berkeley on Nov. 3 at the Golden Bear Recreation center at Berkeley. The Slugs walked away with first and third place in the men’s all around and a tie for second place in the women’s uneven bars.
On Nov. 17, the Slugs attended their second competition at UC Davis, after which the men’s team walked away with second- and third-place awards in the horizontal bar while the women earned a second-place award for uneven bars.
Although the club has a large number of members, they are always looking for new people to join.
“We don’t turn anybody down,” Chase said. “We allow anyone who is able to compete.”
The Slugs are planning for their next competition to be held locally in Santa Cruz during spring quarter.
“Hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to host a meet next year,” Yamaguma said. “It will be a great opportunity to get our name out there and become a well-established club.”
Yamaguma explained that a lot of hard work goes into this sport, mentally and physically, and the Slugs constantly stay focused on trying to hone their skills and those of their fellow teammates.
“The best thing that I have noticed about this team is the tremendous camaraderie,” Garges said. “I have seen in all the gymnasts a real sense of everyone trying to help out each other, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or an accomplished gymnast, everybody walks in the door knowing some things and sharing them amongst each other.”