New beginnings: men’s and women’s gymnastics

Both coming from the East Coast, freshmen Michelangelo Villani and Camden Bontempo are on the men’s side of the program.

Katie Burns

Both coming from the East Coast, freshmen Michelangelo Villani and Camden Bontempo are on the men’s side of the program.

by Katie Burns, ID Magazine Editor-in-Chief

Just last year, Simpson announced the addition of a new varsity sport and the community’s jaws dropped. That sport was gymnastics for both men’s and women’s teams.

Head coach Colin Payne for the men’s team and Emily Barrett Payne for the women’s moved from Knoxville, TN to have their dreams of coaching become a reality.

“Being able to bring another program to the state of Iowa, another Division III program was just really exciting and obviously a lot of work, but a really great opportunity to do that,” E. Payne said.

“I just saw this as the best possible opportunity I think I’ll ever get to give back to the sport to come in and get my hands dirty and do the work and start a brand new program,” C. Payne said. 

On the women’s side, Payne explained that her top goal for her team is to create an atmosphere that brings everyone together as one. 

“My overall goal is to build a strong team culture. Some of the big characteristics that I’ve talked to them about are our leadership, character, teamwork, integrity, things of that nature,” E. Payne said. 

Both coaches have participated in gymnastics since they were eight years old. Ever since then, their love and passion for the sport have never left their side.

“I loved my time as a college gymnast, and I’ve always wanted to get back into it, and this opportunity presented itself,” she said.

“Not a lot of kids were involved in the sport like I was. Breaking my mom’s furniture and doing flips on them after watching the Olympics. My mindset has been that way ever since,” he said. 

Both coming from the East Coast, first-years Michelangelo Villani and Camden Bontempo are on the men’s side of the program. With the new program about to take off, Villani is excited to make his first steps onto the college mats at the team’s first competition.

“The thrill of competing, especially for a college team, is something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life,” he said.

When it comes to competing at the college level, Bontempo said he has always dreamed of this moment since he was seven years old. 

“I’ve always had the goal since I started going to competitions when I was young to compete for a college team and be the best I could be,” he said. 

Even though the program is brand new to the athletic department, Villani explained that the coaching staff will be able to guide them in the right direction once the season starts.

“We all trust in our coaches and know that they have a plan to make this program work. We have been portraying a progressive mindset, and we are learning more and more about what starting a new NCAA program actually takes, and this process is fun and interesting,” he said.

Regarding the season, C. Payne is excited to see the process of the program come into play when the season officially starts.

“I’m just excited to see the process. I got into coaching because I love the daily grind with the athletes being in the gym. I’m also just really excited to watch everything unfold and watch these guys come together as a team and see how they grow,” he said.

E. Payne said she is looking forward to the team coming together, even though connections are building quickly already.

“I’m excited seeing them just work together as a team. It’s already starting to happen, which is really exciting. They’re very enthusiastic and practice cheering each other on so I’m really looking forward to seeing them come together during the season.” she said.

Both teams will be hosting two competitions in Cowles Fieldhouse during the spring. 

C. Payne and E. Payne explained they are excited about the upcoming season and seeing the community coming together to support their new program.