The news of COVID-19 causing the cancellation of the Red’s season would come in an email, hitting the inboxes of gymnastics team members on Friday, March 13 around 3 p.m. — right in the middle of a practice that would ultimately become their last.
Cancellations of all U.S. collegiate sports came as one of the many consequences of the harmful coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.
Cornell University, along with canceling classes for the two weeks until spring break, also followed suit in the NCAA’s decision to end all of the sports for the remainder of their seasons.
Coaches Paul Beckwith and Melanie Hall reluctantly announced to the team that their season would promptly be over after that practice, and that they would not recommend training to resume until fall 2020.
This came as an utter shock, to seniors especially. Most of the team’s athletes have been gymnasts since the age of three or four, and realizing that such a core part of their lives was now over proved heartbreaking.
One of these seniors, Evelyn Patient, voiced some of her emotions about the abrupt end to her final season: “… as a senior, it’s difficult to come to the reality that everything is over… We’re trying as much as we can to stay…as a big family.”
Making matters more difficult, while there are many other adult or semi-professional leagues for other sports — like soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey and football — for a collegiate gymnast, their senior year is typically their last.
As Hall pointed out, “you can’t play gymnastics after college, and for most of these kids, their entire life has been gymnastics.”
Hall noted that, during most traditional seasons, the last two weeks of training post-Nationals are often a time when seniors get to try out events or routines they never practiced for competitions.
As a result, when the coaches announced halfway through the team’s practice on March 13 that it would be the last for the athletes, one senior Samantha Henry took full advantage of the freedom to do as she pleased.
Henry had never done bars throughout her four years at Cornell due to an injury, but she decided to try it out on the last possible day, given she no longer had to practice for any competitions.
According to Patient, the gymnasts “all had a lot of fun at practice. [They] threw skills [they] don’t normally throw because it was the last hoorah.”
Even though the team will likely not return to the mat for another five months, in the meantime, the gymnasts have been impressively motivated to continue training and working out during this quarantine period.
While gym closures nationwide has made it slightly more difficult than usual to do their traditional workouts, Hall said that the athletes have gotten creative, going “on a GroupMe thing and doing conditioning together.”
The team is limited by specific NCAA and Ivy League rules about how often and how many hours a week they can work out during this “off-season,” but the gymnasts have tried to maintain their fitness throughout a quarantine period defined by uncertainty.
“We’ve been sending daily workouts and posting post-workout selfies. It [adds] accountability to keep us all in shape,” Patient said.
Although the gymnasts’ season ended in a heartbreaking way, the team acknowledges it was the only option given the current pandemic. Despite the devastation among seniors about the potential end of their gymnastics careers, many are hoping to practice in their home gyms and learn the last few skills they’ve had on their bucket lists.