Mei Li Costa Brown bars

Former ECAC Teams Excited About Opportunities, Exposure From New Gymnastics East Conference

After a long 658 days, several teams will finally, and happily, find themselves back on the floor, this time competing in a new conference: the Gymnastics East Conference. This merger of eight teams—Brown, Cornell, Penn, William & Mary and Yale from the Division-I ECAC conference and Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut and West Chester from Division-II—have united to become one master division. 

This new conference is sure to foster stronger, fiercer competition, with talent pushing talent. With such a deep pool of gymnasts and teams, meets are sure to be higher-stakes with nail-biting drama from event to event. Looking ahead toward this first GEC season, Kat Doran, a fifth-year at Bridgeport, believes this new conference will add “greater recognition for individual and team accomplishments” both within the GEC and in the NCAA as a whole. Lorraine Galow, Bridgeport head coach, echoes this sentiment, and notes she’s excited for the drive to compete with seven other talented teams, helping to “strengthen the depth of college gymnastics as a whole.” With Division I and II teams together, it’ll foster opportunity, preparation and essential experience that Bridgeport fifth-year Alexis Richardson says will help prepare the team for national championships.

The GEC comes out of necessity, too. Byron Knox, Southern Connecticut head coach, felt that the ECAC wasn’t doing enough for the teams, including the use of all of the fees teams paid. With only three teams in the ECAC-II division, merging the ECAC into the GEC just made sense to bring together a more competitive conference. A bigger conference, he says, is sure to bring a more extensive fan base rather than one divided between two ECAC divisions. 

Furthermore, Sara Milne-Carver, head coach at Brown, also looks forward to the GEC providing experiences and opportunities for her team, the conference offering opportunities that weren’t previously available in ECAC. This includes their newfound ability to further prioritize the student-athlete experience and offer distinguishments, including weekly awards. Brown is especially looking forward to this season, as it will be hosting the very first GEC championship in March.

Mei Li Costa, a senior at Brown, recalls watching the SEC championship, which is treated with greater grandiosity than smaller conferences, noting that ECAC gymnasts “never really got to have that experience.” She, like Milne-Carver, is excited that Brown will be hosting the conference meet, as they’ll be able to promote the event to make it that grander experience and finally have what will feel like a true championship meet.

For junior Lauren Lazaro, it’s not just the fanfare of a championship meet. The GEC means not getting lost in the rest of the ECAC. For her, these championships will be a chance for teams to finally demonstrate everything the teams have to offer.

Come spring, the championship will take place over two sessions on the same day, with the teams seeded between sessions instead of being separated by divisions and held in different locations. Teams who placed fifth through eighth during regular season competition will perform in the first session, with the higher-ranked first through fourth place teams battling it out in the second session.

An inaugural season won’t be without stress, though, as several teams will have not only freshmen but sophomores without any competitive college experience due to pandemic delays and cancellations over the past two years. Mingled with experienced upperclassmen, the conference will still lead off by giving teams a chance to shine on a bigger stage. Despite nearly two years without competitions, the teams are on a level playing field now, starting over after a long break and starting over together.

Even the logo reflects the unification of the teams, a crest that includes “eight multi-colored ribbons and stars at the bottom, signifying each of the eight conference schools.”

This newly founded conference will demonstrate just how talent gives way to more talent, as a remarkable group of teams and individuals push each other to improve week over week, season over season, all in the hunt to be the best and even better. All with a clean slate, opportunity awaiting everyone.

READ THIS NEXT: 40 Years of NCAA Gymnastics

Article by Allison Freeman

Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.