Golden Eagles Gymnastics Soars to Second National Championship
Senior Candis Kowalik also named All-Around National Champion.
Entering the final event of the 2019 National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA) National Championships on March 23 in Oshkosh, WI, the team championship was still up for grabs.
Brockport coach John Feeney knew his team had a chance to win its second national championship (2012), but had to perform well on the uneven bars in order to do it. And his confidence level wasn’t sky-high.
“We didn’t have the greatest bar warmup, so I was getting a little nervous,” Feeney said.
His jitters didn’t show through to the team, however. Feeney gathered them together and reminded them that warmups mean nothing. He told them that what would propel them to success was their preparation — and their preparation had been outstanding.
“Then they went out and hit like they had all season long,” he said.
Brockport’s gymnasts went six-for-six on the bars. Silently, Feeney knew his team had done enough to win it all. But he was stone-faced until the judges announced their decision: the Golden Eagles were national champions.
“We just started screaming and jumping up and down and hugging one another,” said senior Candis Kowalik.
Kowalik had extra cause for celebration. She had been named the NCGA All-Around National Champion, following up the national championships she had won on the balance beam in 2016 and 2017.
“I felt like I did everything I could, and now I get to graduate with no regrets,” she said. “I don’t have to question myself, ‘could I have done more, could I have worked harder?’ It’s the best feeling in the world to know that I could go out on top like this — both the team and individually.”
While Feeney wasn’t surprised by the final outcome, he was surprised by the margin of victory.
“I didn’t think we’d win by as much as we did. I thought it was going to be one-tenth or two-tenths (of a point). But we won by seven-tenths. That’s a lot in gymnastics,” he said.
The Golden Eagles returned to campus the following evening to a heroes welcome. University Police provided an escort into campus. Teammates, fans, family, fellow student-athletes, administrators, and Brockport President Heidi Macpherson were on hand to greet them.
“It’s overwhelming. It feels great,” Kowalik said. “It’s really cool to see how the campus has responded.”
The celebrations aren’t over yet. The team will be honored at halftime of the men’s lacrosse game at 2 pm on April 6.