Flippin’ Storm: Gymnastics open inaugural season


Katie Burns

Both of Simpson College’s gymnastics teams’ competitive seasons are officially underway.

by Caleb Geer, Editor-in-Chief

Both of Simpson College’s gymnastics teams’ competitive seasons are officially underway as the spring semester has begun. Each team has competed in two meets so far, the most recent being the men’s virtual meet on Jan. 15.

Since each team is mainly composed of first-years, the men’s team head coach, Colin Payne, and the women’s team head coach, Emily Barrett Payne, recognized the importance of establishing the athletes’ confidence early on.

“We just wanted to see what they were capable of with no pressure, and then they went out and killed it,” E. Payne said.

After getting their nerves out of the way, each team has begun working on fine-tuning their routines and performances. Both coaches said that though scores from their second meets don’t show it, the student-athletes improved even with classes resuming last week.

In an inspiring story from the women’s team, freshman Emma Tolbert who had a major shoulder surgery last August, won her second-straight floor title at Chow’s Winter Classic in Des Moines on Jan. 14. At the same meet, freshman Avery Ingram was the all-around champion.

“Little gymnast me would be pretty proud of that,” Tolbert said. “It’s been really fun for me, especially as our last two meets have been everything we’ve all wanted them to be, and I don’t know that we were really expecting that.”

The nature of the sport having judges has made it difficult to measure growth. “An unfortunate side effect of subjective scoring is you don’t always see the improvements reflected in the scores,” C. Payne said.

While the teams have continued to improve, C. Payne acknowledges the setbacks the teams have faced this year. He said getting the teams’ equipment on campus did not go smoothly. 

Within a week of the men’s first meet, the team’s captain, junior Sammy Shafransky, broke his leg. Luckily, it hasn’t been all bad for the men as they won their first event title at their virtual meet against William and Mary with the vault.

“We’re starting to get into a rhythm, but unfortunately, we’re probably a month behind where we should be,” he said.

The virtual meet for the men, in which the team can only compete in two during a single season, also had its issues. While it eliminated the need to travel, the meet went far slower than it should have, C. Payne said. However, he did admit the meet’s slowness allowed the team and Simpson College itself to experience the first home meet in a more laid-back way.

As the teams face more established programs, such as the Division I level teams, which are far more prevalent in the sport, getting caught back up will be crucial. Even though the women’s team has only faced Division III programs so far, Tolbert acknowledged they were more established but also added that it hadn’t put a damper on the Storm.

“They’re all more established, and we’re still holding our ground with them,” Tolbert said. “Some of the parents at our first college meet didn’t know we [women’s team] were all freshmen until we told them, so they were pretty impressed with that.”

The young program looks to get busy the next few months with the men traveling to Annapolis, Md. to compete in the Navy Open on Jan. 21 against the likes of the Army, Navy, Ohio State and Penn State while the women prepare to travel to compete against UW-La Crosse on Jan. 22. 

The teams have a double-dual against Greenville on their schedules slated for Feb. 11, which will be the first time both teams compete simultaneously in Cowles Fieldhouse.