UNH Insider: Gymnasts aim to take care of ‘unfinished business’

  • University of New Hampshire junior Emma Winer competes at the Whittemore Center on Jan. 18 during a UNH quad meet win earlier this season. Winer and the Wildcats host the East Atlantic Gymnastics League championship on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Whittemore Center. UNH has finished runner-up at the event for four straight years. Courtesy/ UNH Athletics

UNH Insider
Published: 3/22/2019 2:33:22 PM

They proclaim it on their T-shirts, broadcast it on their 2018-19 team schedule poster and even spelled it out, one letter per student-athlete, at practice Thursday afternoon.

This season’s mantra for the University of New Hampshire gymnastics team is stressed twice on the blue office door of Gail Goodspeed, who is wrapping up her 40th season as the program’s head coach: “Unfinished Business” reads the message on the poster and printed again on a piece of paper.  

“It’s entirely about this weekend,” said senior standout Danielle Mulligan when asked about the motto.

This weekend is the East Atlantic Gymnastics League championship, hosted by the Wildcats on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.

The ’Cats figure it’s their time to win an EAGL title. They have been runner-up in the EAGLs each of the last four years, to three different teams. Now, it’s time to take care of that unfinished business.

“This is the last time competing on campus for our seven seniors and it’s real important to them to celebrate a conference championship,” Goodspeed said. “This is one of the most talented teams we’ve ever had and it has the potential to win this meet. We’ve seen the other teams and we’ve watched video of all of them and this team has as much talent as anybody. It’s a matter of focus and staying in the moment and doing the job at the time.”

Defending champion North Carolina State is the top seed for the EAGL championship, UNH is second and George Washington is third. North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Towson round out the event.

“Any one of the teams can step up on that day and win it,” Goodspeed said. “I think it should be a really great meet and I think it’s up for grabs. North Carolina State’s probably a slight favorite, but we have the advantage of being at home. I think it’s really wide open.”

The Wildcats use Lundholm Gymnasium, across Main Street, as their home gym most of the season.

Goodspeed said her team wasn’t sure what to expect going into selected events last year and earlier this year at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats performed well and embrace the opportunity to compete there again after finishing second to No. 8 Kentucky in a quad meet at the Whitt late last season and winning a quad meet in the building in January that included Pittsburgh and Temple.

“It’s a big-time atmosphere,” Goodspeed said. “It’s awesome for the fans and we love being in the Whitt. We have a family kind of atmosphere and the children don’t have to be climbing through the bleachers. There are chairback seats and the viewing is great. People can move around and watch the events they want to watch from as close as they want to get.”

The Whitt features a videoboard, a wide concourse, ease of concessions, comfort and more.

“It’s become our second home,” Goodspeed said. 

The Wildcats are 2-for-2 in EAGL championships in the Whitt so far. They won their first conference championship in the arena in 2003 and won it again in 2014, the last time it was held in the building.

Mulligan and fellow seniors Nicole O’Leary, Danielle Doolin, Courtney Bondanza and Erin Carroll lead the Wildcats into the championships and will compete alongside juniors such as Emma Winer, and Riley Freehling and Ava Watkins, as well as sophomore Lauren Diggan and freshmen Hailey Lui and Hannah Baddick. 

Mulligan is ranked tops in the league in both uneven bars and balance beam and is second in all-around.

“She’s been fantastic all year long,” Goodspeed said. “She’s done a great job.”

While Mulligan and Co. may be targeting the unfinished business of winning another EAGL title, the nice thing is the team has already accomplished a lot this season and that takes the pressure off going into the league championships: UNH’s scores through the regular season have already qualified the Wildcats for the NCAA regionals. 

“We don’t have to get a score to get into the NCAAs,” Goodspeed said. “We don’t have that added pressure. We can just focus on this meet and not think about the next one. We can just go in and have a fun experience at the Whittemore Center. They can come out and be aggressive and attack and just do their jobs.”

(Allen Lessels can be reached at Allen.Lessels@unh.edu or on Twitter @UNHInsider)

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