Walking around campus at the University of Pittsburgh, you can sense the changes that are taking place. The navy blue and gold colors that have been a part of Pitt’s color scheme for over 20 years are being replaced with the old school royal blue and yellow from years past.
For Pitt’s gymnastics team, this new rebranding isn’t the only change taking place. After a record breaking season in 2018, multiple injuries to key contributors meant the Panthers were unable to replicate that success in 2019. However, with increased depth and some exciting newcomers, 2020 could be a year of rebirth.
“We’re definitely much farther ahead at this point this year than we were at this point last year,” head coach Samantha Snider said. “More people are healthy. The biggest thing we have [is] a lot more depth this year, but we have a lot more quality depth as well.”
The Panthers bring in a freshman class of five, as well as two transfers from the SEC with Katrina Coca from Kentucky and Michaela Burton from Arkansas. While Coca is out for the season with an Achilles injury, Burton has the potential to be a game changer.
“I’m definitely looking forward to seeing [Burton] contribute on every event,” Snider said. “She’s obviously a standout: beautiful beam routine, beautiful floor routine, [beautiful] bars as well.”
When asked why she chose to transfer to Pitt, Burton said the team atmosphere and the coaches’ passion for the program was a major factor.
“When I came on my visit…I got to meet a bunch of the girls, and they are just amazing and so welcoming,” Burton said. “And of course, being back with Sam and Ryan who were my coaches freshman year. It was really awesome, just seeing how passionate they were about the program. They kind of sold it for me.”
In addition to the newcomers, sophomore Katie Chamberlain, who competed one bars routine in 2019 before being sidelined with an injury, is expected to make her return.
“I’m really looking forward to having Katie Chamberlain make her debut. She’s going to be a really strong all arounder for us,” Snider said. “She’s got a fun floor routine, she’s a beautiful beam worker and she’s really strong on vault and bars. She’s just a really great solid all around competitor.”
With a fresh new look for 2020, things are looking up for the Panthers.
“Everyone’s come in with the theme this year [of] ‘fuel the fire,’” Burton said. “We want to go out this year, show everyone who the team is and show everyone what we’ve got.”
Article by Mary Emma Burton
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