George Washington Gets Strong Contributions From Impressive Junior Class

George Washington Gets Strong Contributions From Impressive Junior Class
Photo: George Washington Athletics
George Washington entered the 2017 season with an experienced group of gymnasts, including a seven-member junior class. Three of those juniors--Cami Drouin-Allaire, Jillian Winstanley​, and Liz Pfeiler--have been mainstays in the Colonials' lineup this season. Both Winstanley and Drouin-Allaire have competed in the all-around in all five meets this season. Pfeiler has also competed in each meet on the uneven bars and balance beam.

The rest of the junior class--Sara Mermelstein, Madeline Seilbold​, and Alex Zois--has also contributed this season. Brooke Bray, who transferred from Auburn before the 2017 season, has not broken into the lineup yet but provides plenty of depth on balance beam, floor exercise, and vault.

The Colonials are no strangers to facing top competition. They're hosting their annual Pink Meet on Friday night against East Atlantic Gymnastics League rival Pittsburgh, the Big Ten's Maryland and Iowa, as well as William and Mary. Last season, George Washington traveled to Oklahoma to compete at the Perfect 10 Challenge, which featured Big 12 power Denver and eventual national champion OU. The experience is something that the Colonials have carried into this season.

"We competed against Oklahoma at the Perfect 10 Challenge, and we had a really successful meet there," Winstanley said at the start of the season. "So I think that seeing how we can perform on big stages like that and carry that into this year and know that we are capable of competing against these big schools, I think that will be important to carry through to this year."

So far this year, George Washington has proved to be a solid team and is currently ranked 20th nationally. The best event for the Colonials has been the balance beam. The lineup has featured Drouin-Allaire, Winstanley, and Pfeiler in all five meets.

Pfeiler has been incredibly consistent with all five of her scores hitting 9.800 or better. Three out of her last five performances have been a 9.875. Drouin-Allaire has posted four scores of 9.800 or better, including a season-high 9.875 at the Metroplex Challenge on Jan. 28. Winstanley has three scores of 9.850 or better, including a season-high 9.900 in a quad meet on Jan. 14.

Those three plus fellow juniors Mermelstein and Zois form the core of a balance beam lineup that is ranked seventh in the country.

It isn't just the experience that this class brings that makes it special.

"I would say that we're all just really fierce competitors," Winstanley said. "I think being such a big class we're also really tight-knit, which is great. Once we get into a pressure situation, that's where we all thrive. I think that's what really sets us a part from other teams. We're hungry to be in that pressure situation in that tough position to get us where we want to go."
Drouin-Alliare, who was the 2016 EAGL Gymnast of the Year, has been a standout in the all-around. She went to the NCAA championships in 2015 as an individual and looks to bring that experience to her team.

"With the experience I had my freshman year going to nationals and then overall I think I am moving into more of a leadership role and just trying to use what I've experienced to help the rest of the team out," she said.

The Colonials finished the 2016 season ranked 27th in the country and finished fifth at the Athens, Georgia, regional. They put up a 195.550, which set a new program-best in postseason competition. This year, the team has set an even bigger goal: making it to the NCAA national championships as a team in April.

"We're ultimately trying to go to regionals this year and succeed there," Winstanley said, "but we've also got nationals on our mind where we really think we can be one of those teams that are up there on the big stage."

Pfeiler adds that while there is a long-term goal, the short-term goal is more simple.

"I think we have a lot of potential to make it really far this season, especially nationals," she said. "But really the most important thing for us is to take everything one step at a time, attack every moment as if that was the last one."

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