We brought on four stellar new editors after the conclusion of the 2021 season, and we wanted to take this roundtable to let you get to know them, and our other editors, a little better! Have a question for one of our editors or want to reach out? You can find their social media handles and email addresses on our contact page.
Let’s start by telling the readers a little bit more about yourself. What’s your background and why did you join CGN?
Elizabeth: Hopefully you all know me by now. I was a gymnast for over 10 years and studied journalism at the University of Georgia. I started College Gym News in 2015 for a couple reasons: One, I felt there was a need for a single site where people could go for all the information they needed about college gym, and two, I knew it would be unlikely I’d get a job specifically covering gymnastics, so I took matters into my own hands.
Kathleen: I danced and tumbled when I was growing up and absolutely fell in love with both elite and NCAA gymnastics around the 2016 Olympics. I started coaching gymnastics when I graduated high school in 2018 and was a student manager for the women’s gymnastics team at Minnesota for the 2019 season. I then transferred to Bradley University where I’m studying sports communication, and I thought that CGN would be the perfect place for me to apply what I’m learning in school to my favorite sport!
Tavia: I started gymnastics at 5 years old and continued through my collegiate career at Centenary. Throughout college my love for the sport only grew. In fact, my roommate and I hosted weekly Friday Night Heights watch parties on campus in between our own gymnastics meets. As a DIII athlete, I grew more respect for student athletes and the things they have to overcome in order to excel. I joined CGN because I was really excited for the opportunity to continue to watch, write and educate others on the most amazing sport in the world. In addition, I appreciate CGN’s desire to bring awareness to all levels of college gymnastics, not just large DI programs. I am currently a graduate student studying physical therapy, but gymnastics was my first love.
Katie W: I’ve always been into the sport of gymnastics, but I was never able to convince my parents to put me into it for classes. I was an avid dancer growing up though and have continued to be a gymnastics fan. Tara and I became friends in 2012, and she approached me about an opportunity to join the College Gym News staff in October of 2020. It was perfect timing because for the first time in years, I was not working 13 hour days on the weekend, which allowed me to focus on the college gymnastics season. I’m currently a senior public relations, digital journalism and sports media student at Pace University and take on many other roles as a student leader, PR intern, ice hockey coach and even a barista! I’m currently in the process of launching a personal blog and some new social media.
Mary Emma: I was never a gymnast myself, but I was hooked on the sport after watching the 2004 Olympic Games when I was 9 years old. I followed gymnastics on and off until after Rio when I discovered NCAA gymnastics for the first time. The rest is history. I joined CGN in the fall of 2018 because I loved the site, and I wanted to have a more active role in promoting the sport.
Allison: I started gymnastics when I was 6 and kept at it until I graduated from high school in 2008. When I moved to Boston in 2012, I found an adult gymnastics class and eventually found my way to competing as an adult in NAIGC for the past five seasons. Outside of my own participation, I grew up not far from Brockport, so I was able to watch quite a few meets over the years, as well as later when I was at Ithaca for college. Now I’m not far from the University of New Hampshire, so I jump at any chance to go watch. After having the chance to compete recreationally in gymnastics, it seemed like an incredible opportunity to be able to be on the other side of things, which was what drew me to CGN—I’m able to feed my love for gymnastics in a different way.
Rebecca: I grew up in ballet and entered the gymternet as a teenager on Tumblr after falling in love with the Russian team in London. CGN photographer Emily HF and I applied together after becoming friends at Washington meets, and I intended to focus on DII because of my proximity to Seattle Pacific. (RIP)
Claire: I fell in love with gymnastics while watching Shannon Miller compete at the ’92 Olympics. I started flinging myself over the sofa in imitation of her, so my parents enrolled me at a local gym. I took classes and competed on and off until I was 14 but always maintained a love for the sport. I joined CGN two years ago after being an avid reader for several seasons.
Tara: While I never competed gymnastics, I did it recreationally up until high school when I joined the closest thing my school had to gymnastics: cheer. At the end of my senior year, CGN put out a call for new contributors, and I had been talking to a few other people (including Rebecca and Emily HF) about applying to CGN. At the time, I loved reading all the different pieces CGN put out and wanted to be a part of it myself. I also wanted a way to stay connected to the sport in college beyond just being a fan, especially since I grew up in Denver, would be attending the University of Denver and knew I wanted to be involved with the gymnastics team in some way. Four years later, I just graduated with my degree from DU, but don’t worry! I will be staying in Denver and continuing to make it to meets whenever possible.
Ryan: I fell in love with gymnastics as a kid in Lincoln, Neb. A local club had created something called the Cartwheels program, where coaches parked a gutted-out school bus padded with mats and foam in the lot of my daycare center for an hour per week. Inside, we were taught forward rolls, handstands and other simple skills. Eventually I enrolled in the club where I realized I wasn’t as daring as I initially thought. When my parents took me to my first Nebraska meet in the early 2000s, I discovered that being a gymnastics fan was much less scary (sometimes). I’ll always have a soft spot for my hometown Huskers, but I’ve been a fan of both college and elite ever since. I joined CGN because I wanted to be a part of expanding coverage with detailed, thoughtful journalism. These incredible athletes deserve to be known and respected, and I believe CGN is helping them get there.
Jenna: I was obsessed with Tatiana Gutsu following the 1992 Olympics, but my gymnastics fandom really got going after watching Atlanta’s Magnificent Seven win gold in 1996. In 2019 CGN was looking for an admin assistant right when I was starting a remote job that would give me more free time, so it was a perfect fit!
Talitha: I took gymnastics classes growing up, though always at a low level, as we trained in a school gym rather than at a properly equipped gymnastics club. I always seemed more interested in following gymnastics than my mates, however, and I finally got into the sport around 2008 when the internet connection became fast enough to allow me to watch YouTube videos. In 2020 CGN was looking for a recruiting editor; Jenna got in touch with me, asking if I was interested in applying, at which point I knew I would give my all to get the position. I didn’t have precise deadlines in my job at the time, so having a strict schedule for the website really helped with my mental balance during the fluid times of the first lockdown.
Emily M: I was a club and then high school gymnast until bad knees forced me to quit at 16 (RIP my ACLs). I joined my college’s purley recreational club (not NAIGC, just for fun), and judged compulsories for a few years as well. After I realized my body just couldn’t take adult rec classes, I joined CGN as a way to stay involved in the sport.
Carolyn: I competed club gymnastics from third grade to the summer before my eighth grade year and was totally that teammate who knew everything about the gymternet, the history of gymnastics and kept up with the elite scene every year. Although my personal competitive career ended on some bad terms, I couldn’t just give up my love of the sport, so I started a personal blog and Twitter to keep up with it and loved reading many gymnastics websites, my favorite one being CGN. I was reading through the contact page one day in late 2020 and saw that they had an intern who was quite similar to me, with the main two similarities being our age and wanting to study journalism in college. So I reached out to CGN for an internship role and started in January 2021!
Brandis: Having done gymnastics as a child, the sport has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a good gymnast, so I switched over to diving in middle school. But my love for gymnastics never wavered. After graduating from Iowa with a sports journalism degree, I joined CGN to combine both my love for writing and my favorite sport to watch!
Katherine: Zero gymnastics experience here! I can’t even do a cartwheel, but I got very into the sport after the Rio Olympics, right before I went to college. I’ve always loved writing and journalism, so when the chance to join the team came up in 2018, I applied on a whim and here I am!
How did you get into college gymnastics?
Elizabeth: I followed the sport ever since I can remember. I grew up about an hour outside Athens and went to so many Georgia meets. I also was heavy into elite, and when Courtney Kupets went from the Olympics to college, I became even more engrossed.
Kathleen: It really started with me following the elites from the 2016 Olympic cycle into college, particularly Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross. They made me into a huge UCLA fan, and gymnasts like Sarah Finnegan and Jazmyn Foberg drew me over to the SEC as well.
Tavia: My dream to become a college gymnast began at a very young age. One of my first inspirations in college gymnastics was Alabama’s Ashley Miles. I’ve had my 2006 Power of Pink poster taped to the wall of my childhood bedroom for as long as I can remember. As a young, half African American girl, Ashley Miles’ success showed that I too could find success in college gymnastics if I worked hard enough. I started attending more college meets and following individual teams more closely as my older club teammates went to college as well. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Katie W: I really got into elite gymnastics during the 2012 Olympic run. I was itching for more gymnastics and became a follower at the collegiate level when Bridget Sloan started her career at Florida. Now I think I enjoy college gymnastics way more than elite!
Mary Emma: Watching the Rio Olympics renewed my love of the sport, and I spent lots of time that summer and fall watching as much gymnastics as I could. Somewhere along the line I stumbled on an article about why you should watch NCAA gymnastics. I vaguely knew college gymnastics existed, but I had no idea it was such a big thing. I decided to watch a bunch of meets on YouTube, and I was hooked and never looked back.
Allison: College gymnastics has always existed in my life. Growing up, my club coaches either volunteered or worked as assistant coaches for the local college, and my high school team was lucky enough to use the Brockport facilities a few times each season. When I was in college, Ithaca was a DIII school, which meant I was able to keep up with the colleges I’d grown up following.
Rebecca: Even as a student at a university that has a gymnastics team, I had no idea that college gymnastics was a thing until I joined the gymternet. I decided to go to a meet in 2014 because UCLA was in town, and I’d just seen video of Danusia Francis’s new transverse side aerial dismount combo. Unfortunately she was sick that day so I didn’t get to see it, but I kept going back anyway.
Claire: My mom’s side of the family lives in and around Atlanta, so I started watching Georgia meets from an early age. I stopped watching when I went to college and didn’t have access to all the fun TV channels, but picked back up in my mid-20s (and even got my husband interested).
Tara: I started seriously following elite back in 2012. Through that I saw a post about college nationals one day (I think it was 2013?), and it piqued my interest. That winter I also discovered fantasy gymnastics, which was the perfect introduction to college gymnastics. I joined, started watching meets and the rest is history.
Ryan: I went to my first NCAA meet in 2004 when Nebraska and KJ Kindler’s Iowa State team tied with a 198. The atmosphere was electric, and in my childhood imagination the gymnasts trading stuck landings was like a fight between superheroes. The next year, Emily Parsons began her storied career at Nebraska, and I loved everything about her. She was dynamic, aggressive and a joy to watch regardless of scores. She made me a lifelong fan.
Jenna: I had a vague idea that college gymnastics existed, but I didn’t go to a university with a gymnastics program so I focused on other sports where I could support my own school. I didn’t follow college gymnastics until I found the Gymcastic podcast in the wake of the 2016 Olympics and heard Spencer talking about why everyone should watch NCAA. I started out by watching every Super Six back to 1995 on YouTube, and I was hooked!
Talitha: I didn’t follow college gymnastics at all from 2008 to 2016, as I struggled to take it seriously. In my defence, I’m not American, so collegiate sports have been an alien world for me until recently. When most U.S. elites, starting with Kyla Ross, went to college after the Rio Olympics, however, I decided to give it a try, and I quickly fell in love with it.
Emily M: I watched nationals most years during my time in college (2009-13), in part because I was a fan of Bridget Sloan. The fun routines and atmosphere really drew me in. I distinctly remember thinking Sarah Patterson was wild in the best way. Around the time of the Rio Olympics it occurred to me that if I started paying more attention to the NCAA I could watch gymnastics all the time.
Carolyn: I paid attention to the elite scene when I was still competing, but my first look at the college side was in the offseason of the 2015 NCAA season when I stumbled across this video that Florida put out after it won its third national championship title, and I was immediately attracted to that side of the sport. It also helped that the older girls at my gym were going off to college to join gymnastics teams, so it was really fun to watch their journeys and see them thrive.
Brandis: My love for college gymnastics really started in high school when I started to pursue diving in college myself. My best friend and I started going to our hometown Illinois State gymnastics meets, and once we watched the 2012 Super Six final at the end of the season, I was hooked.
Katherine: I got into gymnastics after Rio 2016, so I followed a bunch of people on Twitter related to the community. Since the 2017 NCAA season was the first to come after those Olympics, I inevitably found coverage of it on my feed.
What’s your beat for the 2022 season and what are you looking forward to most when it comes to covering it?
Elizabeth: I obviously don’t have a specific beat, but as editor in chief it’s my job to edit all the content that gets published, oversee high-level projects and coverage and continue to educate our editors and help them improve as writers and reporters.
Kathleen: I’ll be covering the MAC this season, and I’m most looking forward to the increasing parity of the entire conference. Every team brought something new and exciting to the table last year, and I can’t wait to see how they build upon that this season.
Tavia: I’m covering the MIC and WIAC this season. I am really looking forward to showing everyone the side of college gymnastics that often goes unnoticed. These teams are competitive and deserve their time in the limelight too!
Katie W: I’m covering the SEC and MPSF for the 2022 season. The SEC is always entertaining, has great coverage and should feature some exciting competitions. I also love the fact the timezone is the same as the one I live in for live coverage purposes. I definitely feel like it’s my strong suit in terms of background knowledge on gymnastics conferences. I ended up live blogging a ton of SEC meets in my first year with CGN. Last season, I covered the MRGC conference and was able to educate myself and fall in love with a whole new set of teams and gymnasts. I’m hoping a similar situation happens with the MPSF in 2022.
Mary Emma: I’ve been on the EAGL beat ever since I started at CGN and will continue to cover it into 2022. There are a lot of talented gymnasts in the EAGL who fly under the radar, and I love being able to bring more awareness to these teams that are often not talked about a lot.
Allison: I’m covering ECAC-I, ECAC-II and NCGA-East for this upcoming season. I love following programs that aren’t always in the spotlight; I’ve found that those teams often have some of the most creative ways of working the code to their advantage. And I obviously have a soft spot for DIII teams.
Claire: I’m very excited to be taking on the SEC this upcoming season. Now, I’m generally an ACC fan, but I’ve always had a soft spot for SEC gymnastics since that’s what I grew up watching. I’m very excited by how competitive this conference is: All eight teams are capable of high scores and major upsets.
Tara: I’ll be back on the MRGC beat this upcoming season after spending 2021 focusing my attention on my assistant data editor duties. I’ve had a soft spot for MRGC ever since I started covering it a few seasons ago because there’s so many interesting storylines and potential in every team. Plus, being from Denver I love watching and covering other teams from close by.
Rebecca: I’m overseeing USAG once again, and I’m very excited to have some new people on the team! I’m starting grad school this year, so I might be spread a little thinner. I’ve also been interfering with the recruiting team’s job for four years now, and I’m not planning to stop anytime soon.
Ryan: In 2022 I’ll be covering the Big 12. Last year, the conference championship was one of the highlights of the postseason, and I’m hopeful that this year will be just as exciting. Denver’s returning seniors will go a long way toward pushing Oklahoma, and you can never count out Iowa State or West Virginia as they continue to rise. I’m ready to show people that the Big 12 is more competitive than it has often been stereotyped to be, and that parity is here to stay.
Jenna: I’m the data editor so I’m not assigned to a specific beat, but I’m most looking forward to having a normal fantasy season again. Our fantasy coverage in 2021 was pared down since the main fantasy site wasn’t running and the teams’ schedules were constantly changing, so it’ll be nice to be able to truly strategize again for fantasy in 2022.
Talitha: As the recruiting editor I’ll continue to cover the recruits in the classes of 2022 and 2023, as well as the elites. I hope to hype up the incoming freshmen as much as I can in the months leading up to the 2022 season.
Emily M: Hanging strong with the Big Ten! This will be my fifth season covering the conference, which is wild. I’m really interested to see how Michigan State will look since we never really did get a great sense of the 2021 freshman class with only two meets last year. As with every year, I’m also hoping this will be the year that BTN gets its life together.
Carolyn: In 2022 I will keep fulfilling my intern role, but I will also be the assistant editor of the Big 10 conference with Emily M leading the way! I’m so glad I’m covering this conference because I was born in and still live in the Midwest, so I feel like I have a connection to the teams since I grew up watching them.
Brandis: I will be covering the Pac-12 Conference for the third year in a row! This season I am really looking forward to seeing how Arizona State and California are able to build off of their breakout seasons (or not), and continue to see some new teams challenge for the conference title!
Katherine: Since I’m in law school now, I have a bit more on my plate; I’ve thus taken on more of an “as-needed” role within the site community. That said, I’ll be liveblogging anywhere I can and paying close attention to my former beat, the SEC. I’m looking forward to the many amazing freshman classes entering that conference (Florida, Missouri and Arkansas—looking at you guys especially!).
For our new editors, what are you looking forward to most in your first season with the site?
Kathleen: I’m really looking forward to growing my writing and finding my own voice as a journalist. While I’ve written articles for school, I never felt like I was really showcasing my own unique viewpoint. With the support of the team at CGN and my endless passion for gymnastics, I feel confident that I’ll be able to find my voice.
Tavia: This season, I am looking forward to pushing myself and growing as a writer. I’m excited to learn about the ins and outs of journalism while also continuing to be around the sport I love.
Allison: I’m looking forward to a new side of gymnastics. This sport is constantly evolving and developing, and I hope to learn even more about the sport while developing my own skills as a writer. Quite a few teams from both ECAC divisions compete at UNH, so I’m looking forward to covering meets in person as well.
Ryan: I’m most looking forward to discovering gymnasts, routines or skills that I’ve been missing as a general follower of top teams. Even more, I’m looking forward to sharing those discoveries with CGN readers. It’s a dream come true to cover college gymnastics in any capacity, but the thought of helping fans find something that inspires them adds more fuel to my fire.
Carolyn: Since I’m relatively new to covering a beat, I’ll put my answer here. I am looking forward to learning more journalism skills that I can use in college and possibly even live blogging (perhaps in-person?).
For our veteran editors, what are you looking forward to most with the upcoming season?
Elizabeth: I’m looking forward to getting back to covering meets in person. I have Texas Woman’s, Oklahoma and Centenary relatively close, and I always enjoy in-person coverage and photographing meets more than sitting at home on my couch.
Katie W: I’m looking forward to finding new ways to contribute and help enhance coverage more than ever before. On a gymnastics level, I’m excited to see the stacked teams with the incoming freshmen and gymnasts taking COVID years, along with more out-of-conference regular season meets.
Mary Emma: I’m looking forward to hopefully doing more in-person coverage in 2022. I did some in 2021, but due to COVID and my job, I only covered at Pitt. I’m hoping to make it back to West Virginia this year as well as potentially some other nearby teams.
Claire: I’m with Mary Emma; I love covering meets in person and can’t wait to do more of that in 2022.
Tara: Seconding being able to be there in person again! I definitely missed being at meets this year and always enjoy photographing meets and in-person coverage. I’m also excited to return to MRGC coverage!
Rebecca: I’m moving (again) this summer, and I’ll be near some new teams I’ve never seen in person before! Maryland has been one of the country’s most exciting teams to me for the past few years, and I can’t wait to go to a meet. I’m also super excited that photographers, many of whom weren’t allowed on the floor in 2021, should be back to normal next season.
Jenna: I’m looking forward to covering a meet in person again! I was able to cover one Florida meet in 2020 before the season ended, and I’d like to do that again in 2022 even though it isn’t one of my specific responsibilities as data editor. Live blogging from home is fun, but covering in person is a whole other level of excitement. Gymnastics-wise, I’m looking forward to the incoming freshmen; not only are there a lot of strong level 10 gymnasts joining the NCAA, but we also have all those amazing elites who are finally making their college debuts following their Olympic deferments.
Talitha: I hope to continue writing features—they’re by far the most exciting part of the job!
Emily M: Everyone is talking about covering in person; that actually stresses me out so much that I don’t enjoy it at all and dread it! Unlike Elizabeth, I vastly prefer covering from my couch. That said, I do appreciate live gymnastics, and it’ll be nice to be in an arena again. Like Jenna, I’m most looking forward to the big group of elites coming in after deferrals. There are so many high-profile gymnasts making college debuts, and I’m hopeful they’ll bring a big, newer audience with them. I mean, Oregon State gets to advertise meets like, “Come watch Olympic medalist (maybe!?) Jade Carey compete up close!” If that doesn’t bring in new people to college gym, I’ll be shocked.
Katherine: The crop of elites who will be entering their first year in the NCAA (McCusker, Carey, etc.) was just getting started at the senior elite level when I first became a fan of the sport. So I’m excited for the full-circle moment of seeing them compete in college for the first time.
What’s something you hope to accomplish this year in terms of your or the site’s coverage?
Elizabeth: I can’t wait to see how the site continues to grow into a trusted source for college gymnastics coverage in 2022! I’m also looking forward to our editors producing more in-depth, long form features and producing a wider range of content than ever before.
Kathleen: For this first season, I’m really just hoping to hold myself up to the standards CGN has set out, and make sure I’m providing MAC fans and athletes with the coverage they deserve.
Tavia: My goal is to help shine a light on the MIC and WIAC teams this season. These teams are often ones that can fly under the radar and get less coverage in mainstream media, but I’m glad that CGN has a platform that allows the accomplishments of ALL college gymnasts to be recognized. I hope I can write features that really depict what it’s like to be in the MIC and WIAC so the readers will fall in love with those teams too. In the future, I want these teams to be added to fans’ “teams to follow” lists.
Katie W: I want to develop some spreadsheets to help other editors when it comes to their specific work, such as tracking lineups to assist in fantasy, etc. I also want to write some insightful feature pieces that are beneficial to our readers and can serve as resources.
Mary Emma: I don’t have one specific thing, but I’m hoping to grow more as a writer and continue to promote the EAGL.
Allison: I’m excited to take a deeper dive into the ECAC and NCGA-East and shine some more light on the lesser-known programs. There’s a lot of heart in all of these athletes, and I’m looking forward to them getting more coverage than they would traditionally have elsewhere.
Claire: Our staff is constantly looking for ways to expand our coverage and feature a variety of teams, athletes and topics. I’m hoping that with so many new editors on board we’ll be able to provide even more in-depth features and content.
Tara: I definitely want to dig into more data over the next year and take on some data projects that could be useful to our editors and fans. I’m also just looking forward to doing more photography and in-person coverage again.
Rebecca: I’m also hoping to FINALLY cover USAG nationals in person—it’s been too far to travel for several years, and then I planned to attend in 2020 before it was canceled.
Ryan: This first season I want to concentrate on covering the Big 12 to the best of my ability, so I can make sure CGN continues to maintain its high standards. I’m also hoping my design background will empower me to create graphics for the site and social media, and to improve user experience in the long term.
Jenna: I own a lot of the spreadsheets that we maintain both publicly and behind the scenes, and my goal is always to become more efficient with our processes. The more I can automate, the better!
Talitha: I’m excited about the size of our team—hopefully our projects, analyses and features will be even more numerous and insightful next year. I would personally like to cover international recruits a bit more.
Emily M: I’ve never been able to go to Fort Worth to cover (or even watch) nationals. (April is a mess! Birthdays for my mom, sister and partner, plus always a wedding or two.) Hopefully 2022 is the year.
Carolyn: Even though the Big 10 is one of the most exciting conferences, I feel like it is often overshadowed by the SEC and Pac-12. I really want to get the gymternet and CGN readers interested in the Big 10 teams this year.
Katherine: Since I’m in Tallahassee for law school, I’m hoping to make the two hour drive down to the second best college town in the state and cover a Florida meet in person. I wanted to do it in 2021, but the insanity of my first year of school was a little too much to make it happen. Also, across the board I’m excited to emphasize CGN’s legitimacy as a sports media outlet, and I hope to continue pushing the bounds of gymnastics “normalcy,” and treat it like the real sport it is through our coverage.
What unique characteristics or expertise do you think you bring to the CGN team?
Kathleen: I think that my training in journalism and particularly sports journalism helps my quality of writing, and my passion for this sport makes me want to do the best job I can for the athletes, coaches and fans.
Tavia: As a former collegiate gymnast, I think I can bring a different perspective to the CGN team. Centenary is the only DIII school in a conference full of DI and DII programs, so I had both the experience of competing in DIII athletics and competing against big-name programs. I’m motivated to cover my beat to the best of my ability because I remember the excitement of scrolling and seeing that my college team was featured in a CGN article. I feel like gymnasts at every level deserve to have their accomplishments recognized. Being inside college gymnastics might also help me build rapport with the athletes and coaches I interview for CGN content because I was in their shoes not too long ago.
Katie W: I think my background in journalism and public relations has helped me adapt to working for CGN. I also think being an involved college student who has tracked the higher education process during COVID-19 gave me another level of background education that I could share with the team. Above all, I think my work ethic and willingness to succeed is my greatest characteristic though. I will spend whatever time is needed on something to get it right.
Mary Emma: I serve as the SID for the EAGL in addition to being the EAGL editor here, so I feel like I really know the conference inside and out. I also echo what Katie said in that I have a strong work ethic, and I always make sure to get the job done.
Claire: I’m a utility player: You can put me in just about any role you need and I can hold my own (or, at the very least, I won’t screw up too badly!).
Tara: I have a wide range of skills! Through my degree program I’ve developed data management and analysis techniques that I’m hoping to continue to apply to my work at CGN. Over the past four years I’ve honed my writing through writing for CGN, and I can do photography too. Beyond that, I am a team player and willing to work to get things done, even if I sometimes end up not starting projects as early as I’d like.
Rebecca: I type super fast, and I basically don’t sleep. Ask anyone.
Ryan: My design education has helped me develop both the logical and imaginative parts of my brain, and I think this balance will allow me to tell meaningful stories about the teams I cover. This could also serve CGN well in graphics I create, as there is a need for both data-heavy visuals and eye-catching, emotional images.
Jenna: I’m obsessed with data and spreadsheets and coding and all things nerdy! I’ve been building up my Python skills since joining CGN, which has proved helpful in fantasy and recruiting coverage in addition to our normal data-centered articles.
Talitha: As a historian by training, I can collect information and quotes efficiently and write up features fast. I wish I could interview my historical figures sometimes—it would make my life so much easier!
Emily M: Can confirm that Rebecca is a typing robot that just needs to shut down for a day once every few weeks to reboot. As for myself, I find writing really enjoyable and something that comes easily. I rarely get writer’s block, and I can knock out an opinion piece or feature pretty quickly.
Carolyn: Although one of my biggest disadvantages is not having any formal journalism training (besides a few summer camps) or a college education, I am for the most part a quick learner and love to dive into anything college gymnastics-related. I also can’t not mention my youthfulness and how that plays into working with adults on a website, so I think having that unique part of myself adds a different perspective to the team.
Brandis: I think having been a DI student-athlete in college helps give me a different perspective. Although I wasn’t a gymnast, having gone through similar experiences training and traveling the country competing for a school gives me a lot of insight on college athletics as a whole that one can’t necessarily get as just a journalist or a fan.
Katherine: I consider myself a big fan of other sports, so I try to bring that knowledge/awareness to the site and treat gymnastics the same. There’s a lot of things we accept as “normal” with gymnastics that any other sports community would never let fly, and we at CGN often talk about how this holds gymnastics back. A lot of these quirks need to go by the wayside if we ever want gymnastics to receive the same respect, so I try to push those boundaries through my coverage and knowledge of other sports too (Emily M expands on this a little later, and I think she’s right on).
What’s your favorite thing about college gymnastics?
Elizabeth: I don’t know if this puts me in the minority, but I prefer college to elite gymnastics. I just love the perfection element, as well as the diverse styles of routines, skills and the pure energy you feel in your bones at a big meet. It’s also a place where the playing field is leveled out, and you can have a former star level 10 competing right alongside the Olympic champion.
Kathleen: I’m right there with you, Elizabeth! I always say that routines in college gymnastics are the right length for my short attention span, and I definitely prefer perfectly executed “easy” skills to more difficult ones being done poorly, which we’re more likely to see in elite. I’d have to say my favorite thing about it is the team atmosphere. I love seeing the support the athletes have for each other and the way they’ve always got each other’s backs.
Tavia: It’s hard to pick just one favorite thing about college gymnastics, but I’d have to say it’s the camaraderie among the athletes. There’s not another level of our sport where you will see teammates filled with that much elation for their teammate’s successes. Yes, the lines, the sticks and the skills are all amazing, but nothing beats the pure joy that is college gymnastics.
Katie W: I love watching teams compete week after week, striving for perfection. I’m also always interested in the coaching options for lineup development and seeing how they play a role in competition. I will echo Tavia as well and say the camaraderie and diversity at the college level is so much fun to watch. I’m really enjoying seeing more elites compete in college rather than going pro right away too.
Mary Emma: I’m also going to echo what Elizabeth said. I love the fact that college focuses on cleanliness over difficulty. Gymnasts have the chance to perfect their skills rather than just chucking a bunch of skills to up their D score. And where else would you be able to see someone like Natalie Wojcik on the same playing field as an Olympic champion like Kyla Ross?
Allison: I really enjoy the quick pace of meets. It feels like elite always has downtime. But my favorite might be the energy of quad meets—the atmosphere and constant action keep me drawn in, and it reminds me of why I fell in love with this sport. Much like Kathleen said, I love the way college teams support each other even between teams—everyone wants the best for one another.
Claire: The energy in college gym is unlike anything else. Whether it’s the way a home team feeds off its fans’ cheers or teammates hugging after a hit routine, there’s just something electric about this sport and the pure joy it can ignite.
Tara: I love the energy and supportiveness of college teams. Like others said, I also love how college focuses on cleanliness over difficulty. Echoing Elizabeth, I also love the perfection aspect and the fact that college still uses the 10 system—even if those 10s may not all be legit.
Rebecca: I love how close to the surface the strategic component of the sport is. Things like lineup ordering, skill selection and injury management are fascinating to me, and we hear far more about them in NCAA than elite.
Ryan: It’s undoubtedly the joy. Seeing someone score a career high, come back from injury or win the meet for their team is incredible to watch. I’m able to watch people form memories that will bond them as a team for life.
Jenna: I love the team aspect of college gymnastics. Elite gymnastics is primarily an individual sport, and the team aspect feels forced at times. In college, however, the team camaraderie feels very genuine. I’ve always preferred college sports over pro sports because of the passion of the fans and the teams.
Talitha: As others have said, I much prefer college to elite gymnastics. I love the emphasis on execution over difficulty, as well as the intensity of emotions during college meets. When I feel down, I often play perfect routines on YouTube, as the electric joy with which gymnasts celebrate brightens my day instantly. I also really like the fact that athletes can get an education while doing the sport they love; the complete dedication that elite sports require has always made me uncomfortable.
Emily M: The chaos. Elite meets always feel overly calm in a way that’s off-putting to me. I don’t want to have to be silent during a routine and golf clap when someone salutes. Blah. It’s a sport! Give me four events at once with teams yelling themselves hoarse in the corrals, screaming fans in wild striped overalls and all the adrenaline that comes with that atmosphere. Olivia Karas screeching “I LOVE YOU EMMA MCLEAN” as the latter is lining up to do floor while an opposing team’s gymnast is on the beam? I live for it. Utah’s student section raising newspapers while an opposing gymnast is competing? Gives me life. The drama and the noise and all the stuff that gets called mean on Twitter is often my favorite.
Carolyn: I love many parts of college gymnastics, but my absolute favorite part (as dumb as it sounds) are all things leotards. The design, the sparkle, the colors, the unique elements of leos—I just love it all.
Brandis: Like Jenna said, I love the team aspect of the sport. Although gymnastics is usually viewed as an individual sport, college gymnastics has found the sweet spot to bring all these talented individuals together and unite them to compete for not only themselves but each other.
Katherine: Even though college gymnastics is “watered down” in terms of difficulty compared to elite, it is still objectively one of the most difficult sports there is. To watch gymnasts and student sections take this in and rep their school at the same time is super exciting.
Do you have a memory that stands out from past years’ coverage for the site?
Elizabeth: Oh man… A single memory? I have so many fond ones. I had a blast covering the 2019 MAC championship with Emily M at Northern Illinois. I also got to photograph that insane Florida at Oklahoma meet the same year. I also hold onto the truly generous messages we’ve gotten over the years from fans, parents, coaches and gymnasts alike. Those small comments make all the hard work and long hours worth it.
Katie W: I really enjoyed getting to know some of the athletes during interviews. I also think positive feedback on your work is always a wonderful moment. On an insider note, I love how well we all tend to work together and always compliment each other’s work.
Mary Emma: Covering Big Tens back in 2019 was memorable for a lot of different reasons. On one hand it was stressful—I was supposed to cover the meet with another editor, but at the last minute I ended up having to cover it by myself, plus I spent 10 minutes running around the building before the meet because no one at Penn State seemed to know where my credential was. On the other hand, it was rewarding—I got to experience a real NCAA championship meet first hand, and I produced one of my favorite features I’ve written.
Claire: Seeing N.C. State advance to the regional final after such a controversial seeding was incredible.
Tara: It’s hard to pick just one! I loved photographing the Denver meet against George Washington in 2020–it had the high of Alexis Vasquez’s perfect 10 on beam, which was incredible to watch and photograph in person (easily the highlight of the meet). But it also had the low of Lynnzee Brown’s Achilles tear, which was even more gut-wrenching to experience from the floor as it was happening.
Rebecca: One time I was at the media table at Washington and Harry the Husky stole my phone to take a selfie. Dude, I’m trying to live blog here. I also covered nationals in 2019, and while it was incredibly stressful in some ways, I have fond memories of sleeping on Elizabeth’s couch and tag-teaming with her and both Emilys to get everything done.
Jenna: I would have to say the best moment was when we finished our first round of recruit ratings in late 2020. We had been discussing the project as a pipe dream since I joined (and other team members before I joined!) but the pandemic really gave us the time to make it happen. After months of strategizing, organizing and carrying out our ideas, it was so rewarding to see the project come to life.
Talitha: I have many, of course, from joining the team itself to interviewing gymnasts and coaches. I find it especially heartwarming, however, to be a member of an intelligent group of people, with whom I can have informed and respectful discussions and share my thoughts and opinions, without fear of being attacked or insulted as it happens daily on social media. It makes me optimistic about humanity.
Emily M: Oh man, Elizabeth touched on it but that 2019 MAC meet was wild. She was air dropping me photos to quickly edit in Lightroom (look, I’m a noob, she had presets ready to go for me) so I could tweet them in real time while also live blogging. It was a seven-rotation three hour whirlwind! Elevate Toledo in 2019 with Emily HF was similarly chaotic. I think I did maybe 12 interviews after the second session alone. I was just willdy running around the floor trying to catch SIDs before teams left to get back on their busses. I’ve never been so tired in my life! I agree with Talitha, as well; the frank discussions and even disagreements the CGN team has about gymnastics are really wonderful. We all respect each other very much, and it’s special to get to discuss the sport so openly.
Katherine: Like Katie and Talitha touched on, it has to be meeting this amazing team of editors. I’ve learned so much from all of them, and even though I have a lot going on outside of my work on the site, I legitimately feel like I can enter any Slack conversation or go to any of them and feel supported and appreciated.
Give a brief rundown of your favorites: favorite team or gymnast, favorite event to watch, favorite skills…
Elizabeth: I don’t necessarily have a favorite team at this point, but growing up I was a big Georgia fan and naturally loved all those gymnasts—from Kupets and Katie Heenan to Tiffany Tolnay and Grace Taylor. When it comes to a favorite event, a compelling floor routine can’t be beat. But any event can be exciting if the right gymnast is performing.
Kathleen: My favorite gymnast of all time is Jordyn Wieber, and her presence along with how incredible the team is has led me to be a huge Arkansas fan. They’re such an amazing group of women, and they get better and better every season. I also love UCLA (staying true to my NCAA roots) and love the feel of the SEC, so watching any of those teams is a treat. My favorite event is beam (for some reason) and my favorite skill is either an Onodi on beam or a double layout on floor, particularly if it’s being performed by Bailey Lovett.
Tavia: It would be dishonest of me to not claim my alma mater as my favorite team. If we’re excluding Centenary, my favorite team honestly fluctuates by the year. I like whoever shows the prettiest gymnastics the most consistently. Historically, I’ve been a fan of LSU. I particularly loved them in the era of Lloimincia Hall, Rheagan Courville and Jessie Jordan. Recently, I’ve been really falling in love with Big 10 gymnastics (specifically Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan). Their form has been amazing, and listening to Minnesota chant “Go Big Ten,” after Michigan won the national title really gave me chills. My favorite event to watch is definitely bars. I’m a sucker for pretty lines and high flying release moves. My favorite skill would have to be any back handspring swing down variation. I just love how floaty they are, and they always take the crowd by surprise.
Katie W: If you know me, you know I love everything Penn State. You can ask my parents about the months of heartbreak regarding how it would not be a wise financial decision for me to attend the university for my college career. I also tend to find myself rooting for Florida, and I genuinely think it is because it’s the team that got me into college gymnastics.,
Mary Emma: My favorites of the “big” teams have always been Michigan and Florida, but I have to consider all of the EAGL teams to be my favorites too. My favorite event to watch is definitely bars. There’s just something about the rhythm that’s so satisfying to watch. My favorite skill has got to be a well done handspring front pike half (like Haleigh Bryant’s).
Allison: I’m all over the place with favorite teams, and it depends on the year honestly. I had several family members attend and play for Florida over the years so I support the Gators, but I also tend to follow teams based on where my favorite elites end up. Oklahoma was my go-to team when Brenna Dowell was competing, and I still miss her tumbling. I supported Georgia when Courtney McCool was competing—I’d follow her layouts anywhere. I haven’t typically followed LSU much over the years, so her move has put me into a situation. My favorite event is absolutely beam hands down. Despite having a love/hate relationship with bars, I absolutely love Hindorffs. Otherwise, my heart skips a beat for any ring skill and front tumbling.
Claire: I started out at CGN as the MPSF editor, and Alaska is a sentimental favorite. I love unusual skills on any event: Omelianchiks, Deltchevs, Onodis, Shushunovas… If it’s a skill that isn’t in every single routine, I’m into it!
Tara: I just graduated from the University of Denver and grew up in the area, so it would be dishonest of me if I didn’t say that was my favorite team. Apart from my hometown team, Florida and Oklahoma are the teams that got me into college gymnastics, so they’re two of my favorites. Southern Utah is a sentimental favorite for being close to home and because Scotty Bauman is just amazing. My mom grew up in Michigan, so I find myself rooting for the Michigan schools as well. Growing up, the first gymnast I remember loving is Shawn Johnson, and I loved Jordyn Wieber as well. In terms of college gymnasts, it’s hard to pick just one favorite, but I loved Bridget Sloan, Alex McMurtry and Lindsay Mable. My favorite event to watch is probably bars, though my favorite to photograph is either beam or floor. I love a good, well-executed double layout on floor or a well-done transition on bars, such as a van Leeuwen.
Rebecca: My favorite top-ranked teams are Michigan and Utah, but I usually latch onto a few mid-tier teams every year and watch their every move. This year it was Maryland, N.C. State and Boise State. My all-time favorite NCAA gymnast is Kiana Winston. I’m someone who values precision far more than difficulty, and there’s nothing in NCAA that makes me quite as happy as a good, snappy toe blind—think Sara Ulias or, on her best day, Savannah Schoenherr.
Ryan: I became a fan of gymnastics because of Nebraska, and some of my fondest memories involve the team. My favorite gymnasts are Anna Pavlova and Chellsie Memmel, both elites, but Jamie Dantzscher’s college routines are spectacular. I also believe there will never be another Ashley Miles. I could watch her on floor all day. She really epitomizes why floor is my favorite event to watch. With the music and the energy, it feels like gymnasts take their rightful place as star performers. I’ve always loved the 2.5 twist to front full combination on floor, but nothing beats a floaty double layout. If simply for the sake of proving I like other events, I’ll add piked front vaults, stalders on bars and punch fronts on beam to my list.
Jenna: Even though I’m disappointed my alma mater doesn’t have a gym team, in some ways that’s a bit of a blessing because I’m able to enjoy the sport without getting emotionally attached to any one group. That said, I think if you forced me to choose a favorite team it would likely be Utah, perhaps followed by Michigan. As an ACC fan in other sports, I also feel drawn to the three ACC schools with gym teams. My favorite event is definitely vault, followed by bars, beam and floor in true Olympic order style. For favorite skills I love an Omelianchik on vault and a Deltchev on bars, so I’m hoping Aleah Finnegan brings both of those to LSU next year!
Talitha: I’ve always felt a special attachment to UCLA. That doesn’t mean that I’m a diehard fan or that I root only for the Bruins (quite the opposite, really!), but deep down I know that that’s where my heart belongs. I also really like California, and I started following North Carolina closely after I took my first trip to the U.S. to Chapel Hill in 2019. Sarah Finnegan was my favorite gymnast while she was in college—I loved how immaculate her form was on every single skill. My favorite event is floor if the choreography is good, though I don’t really mind the event as long as the execution is sound. My favorite skills are a flared and stuck Yurchenko full on vault, a Pak salto on bars, an Onodi on beam and a double layout on floor.
Emily M: Oh that’s tricky. I came into CGN particularly liking Florida and Rheagan Courville-era LSU. In recent years, I’ve become quite partial to Utah, which was an unexpected about-face for me. Each season I try to become familiar with some lesser-known teams outside my radar. In 2022 I want to learn more about both North Carolina teams and West Virginia. I’m not sure about a favorite event—it depends on the gymnast really. A huge, clean vault is so satisfying, but I love nothing more than really elite bar execution, like fully extended shoulders in giants! Popas on beam are a favorite (Lexi Funk-style), and I find good illusion turns very satisfying. I’m fully with Rebecca: If you made me give you one all-time favorite gymnast, it would be Kiana Winston, but Vanessa Zamarripa would be right up there, too.
Carolyn: Although my favorite event to compete was beam, I of course love watching floor. The music, dance, skill combinations and fun the competitors have just make it so much more fun than any other event. Some of my favorite teams to watch are Minnesota, Iowa, SEMO, Arkansas, Ball State and UCLA, but I really want to get into West Virginia and Southern Utah more in the future.
Brandis: My alma mater, Iowa, will always be my favorite, but what I really love to do is root for the underdogs. My favorite moments are when teams or gymnasts pull off massive, unexpected wins or feats that you know they will cherish forever. However, while upsets are great, I also do appreciate great gymnastics, making Bridget Sloan, Kytra Hunter, Courtney Kupets and Kyla Ross some of my favorite college gymnasts of all-time.
Katherine: I don’t have a favorite team, but I will say I’m always happy to see LSU and Alabama do well (especially when it’s against the Gators; like Jenna, I’m a Florida State Seminole). I also went to Temple for undergrad, so it’s been amazing to see its recent success. My favorite event to watch is floor, and my favorite skill is the ubiquitous yet snappy back 1.5 to front layout combo. That layout is just so satisfying.
Speaking of favorites, what’s your favorite aspect of coverage? Or if you’re new, what coverage element are you looking forward to?
Elizabeth: I’m sure people know this by now, but I can’t get enough of leotard coverage. I love seeing new designs, I love judging, I love ranking and I love looking back at old ones. I can’t get enough of it. I also love helping our editors come up with compelling feature ideas and working through the process of turning those ideas into published pieces.
Kathleen: I’m definitely looking forward to writing some features because I think that will give me a great chance to familiarize both myself and our audience with all of the talent in the MAC, and because it will help me find my style as a writer. I’m also really excited (and a tiny bit nervous) to do some live blogging.
Tavia: I’m most excited to live blog and judge in the weekly leotard rankings! I’m also looking forward to learning the interview process for writing features. That aspect of CGN coverage will push me to be a much better writer.
Katie W: I was so nervous about live blogging in my first season, but I absolutely love it. I miss the excitement of live blogging competitions each week, and I’m already looking forward to the first opportunity in 2022. To tell you how excited I am, I’m planning a vacation (first one in a million years), and making sure everyone leaves me alone on the first Friday in January for this sole reason.
Mary Emma: I really like doing in-person coverage. It can be stressful at first, but it’s so rewarding. There’s nothing that beats the energy of a live NCAA meet, and press row (usually) gives you the best seat in the house.
Allison: I’m definitely looking forward to in-person coverage since I only lived in New Hampshire for a year before COVID, so I’m excited to watch more meets in person. Although I’m also excited to spend some time on leotard coverage, I’m always delighted when the time comes for new leotards.
Claire: I love live blogging in person. Distilling all of the fun and chaos into a readable, (hopefully) coherent blog is such a rush!
Tara: Seconding Elizabeth, I love leotard coverage and judging leos, whether it be during the season or offseason! In-person meets can definitely be stressful, but at the same time it’s fun to be there in the moment.
Rebecca: Recruiting is endlessly fascinating to me. I’ve gotten deeper down the recruiting rabbit hole every year I’ve watched college gymnastics, and I’m still digging. Signing day is my Christmas.
Ryan: I’m especially interested in covering the athletes returning for COVID years. Something on this scale has never happened before, and I’m excited to see what kinds of moments it creates! I’m also looking forward to possibly covering a meet or two in person.
Jenna: Definitely recruiting and fantasy coverage; I’m not sure I can choose which one I like more. Both are spreadsheet-heavy, and I love using data to try to figure out who’s going to excel in college!
Talitha: Interviews are my favorite part, but also the leotard coverage and recruiting. Every time I discover a new international recruit, it’s a special day for me!
Emily M: I love trying to bring elements of revenue sports journalism to gymnastics. Introducing Fantasy Central and recruit ratings have been two of my favorite things. I know there’s a sense that gymnastics is different and we should treat it more delicately, but I reject that as coddling and I think there’s a lot of toxic positivity in gymnastics (my opinion, you’re free to disagree). I try to personally combat that in my own projects and coverage. I’m not trying to be cruel, or say football fans act a certain way and gymnastics fans should too, but I think there’s a middle ground where we can treat gymnastics objectively as a sport (ex. “Her ring leaps are poor and should not be credited.”) and move away from the sense that gymnasts are dainty young women who must be protected from big bad media and fans (ex. “She’s trying so hard, so it doesn’t matter what the ring leap looks like—you’re being mean by calling them poor.”). This can be done without moving into the uglier aspects of football and basketball fandoms (ex. “Her ring leaps are poor, so she’s a bad person, and also I hate her.”).
Carolyn: I am looking forward to reading other editors’ features, the possibility of live-blogging and hopefully writing more articles related to leos!
Katherine: I really enjoyed covering meets in person back when that was a thing. Since I went to Temple, I was in close proximity to multiple college teams, most of whom don’t get the big-name coverage others do (think West Chester and Penn). So it was amazing to go to these schools and help put a spotlight on them for the afternoon and through my subsequent features.
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Article by the editors of College Gym News
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