The Southern Connecticut State Owls have had a season of ups and downs in 2019. In spite of some low scores earlier in the season, the Owls have surpassed a 192 team total three times this year alone. Prior to 2019, that had only happened one time in program history.
A key contributor to that success is standout freshman Hannah Stahlbrodt, the team’s only consistent all around performer. She has competed all four events in all but one meet this season, and one of those performances resulted in the only 39-plus all around score to have ever been recorded by any Southern Connecticut gymnast.
The Cicero, N.Y. native couldn’t be happier with her success this season. “I’ve been on top of the world,” she expressed. “I never expected to come here and do as great as I have so far, and I know I can only improve more.”
Southern Connecticut head coach Jerry Nelson is thrilled to see his gymnast making the immediate impact she has. During the recruiting process, “her talent was hard to overlook,” he said. “You notice that about her right away. And her personality, we could tell, was a good fit for the team.”
Stahlbrodt also loves the team experience at Southern Connecticut, particularly in contrast to her club gymnastics experience in high school. “Coming from club—where you’re almost on a one-man team—to the atmosphere with 22 other girls is amazing.”
She emphasized the importance of her teammates in encouraging her to rise above her capabilities. “My mindset was that I had the skills I had and couldn’t improve much, but my coaches and teammates have been pushing me.”
Stahlbrodt isn’t the only freshman to make an impact on the team. Her six classmates have also made consistent lineups, including fellow ECAC weekly honors winners Cassidy Girolamo and Noely Macias. These three gymnasts are some of the top scorers in all four lineups, with at least one having scored one of the top five scores this season on every event.
“The freshmen are a very strong component of our lineups on every event,” said Nelson. When you have seven new kids coming onto the team, one third of your team is brand new, you don’t quite know what you’re in for, but they’ve done great.”
Both Stahlbrodt and Nelson lauded the enthusiasm that comes with their team and DII gymnastics as a whole. “Our team is always very loud and energetic,” Stahlbrodt said. “We’re really good at keeping each other’s spirits up.”
Nelson agreed. “They’re just as excited as a DI team scoring 9.950 when they score 9.750, and the difference is only a few tenths. They’re very hungry to prove themselves and do well.” Nelson also praised his fellow DII coaches, whom he says are just as passionate as their gymnasts.
In spite of the progress the Owls have made this season, there remain some goals the team would like to achieve. The foremost of those, says Nelson, would be hitting all 24 routines in a meet. “We’ve been working on it day-in and day-out, and we’d love to show up and have everyone hit, see where that score gets us. I know we can break some big records if we do that.”
Coach Nelson expects Stahlbrodt to continue playing a key role in that success, particularly on the path to ECAC championships and nationals. Though she remains a rookie in that she hasn’t yet been to postseason competitions, “[he] would say she’s going to contend for national qualification and all-America honors if she keeps going the way she’s going.”
“I’m very proud of her attitude day-in and day-out,” he continued. “She remains very grounded and is a team player. She has grown as an athlete and a person…there’s a lot of growing up to do your freshman year of college.”
Article by Katherine Weaver
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