June 23 – There were times of doubt – times when the apprehension became almost unbearable for the members of the UAA gymnastics team.
For the past 21 months, the Seawolves have been in limbo, operating in uncertainty after the Board of Regents voted in September 2020 to halt the program as well as hockey and alpine skiing.
But that doubt disappeared on Wednesday when the school announced that the gymnastics team had reached its fundraising goal of $888,000 and would be permanently reinstated.
“It’s so relieved,” said UAA gymnast Brooklyn Kopsack. “I mean, we’ve worked so hard over the last two years and it’s been a while to come. So, that’s super awesome.
“We’re going to be able to put 100% of our effort and focus into the gym and school. But just having that burden lightened with fundraising is going to be so nice, especially the first year we spent so much time fundraising.”
Last summer, the gymnastics program reached the $444,000 raised threshold for a partial reinstatement that allowed the team to compete in the 2021-22 season. The Seawolves had until the end of this month to raise the other half of that figure for permanent reinstatement.
The original deadline was February 15, 2021, but this was extended by the board.
“There were definitely weak points,” said UAA gymnast Marcela Bonifasi. “We were like ‘What are we going to do next year?’ Do you have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C? In February 2021 when we found out that we had this extra year, it was like the moment when I felt the most relief because we had been given so much more time and we were really motivated to be able to do it. But before we knew it, that was definitely the lowest point. We thought there was no chance just because we thought that we had to have the $888,000 by the deadline of February 15. And that was just not possible.
The hockey and alpine ski teams met their fundraising goals last year, leaving the gymnastics team as the last of the three to save themselves from the chopping block.
Both Bonifasi and Kopsack will be juniors on next year’s squad, a team that has been bonded through the process.
“It definitely brought us closer,” Bonifasi said. “We’ve been through so much. All we had was to lean on each other and that made our bond so special.”
Head coach Marie-Sophie Boggasch, a former UAA gymnast herself, had led the fundraising effort from the start.
“I’m very competitive,” she said. “So I was like, no, absolutely not. You don’t bring us down. You don’t cut us.”
Boggasch, who was born and raised in Germany, said her participation changed the course of her life. She didn’t want to close the door on other athletes to have a life-changing opportunity competing with the UAA team.
“I was recruited here, I was brought here by then head coach Paul Stoklos and I’m still here,” she said. “I think OK, how different would my life be? If UAA gymnastics didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t be doing the hobbies that I do. I wouldn’t be doing the job that Yes. I mean, even before that job I was a commercial pilot. I’m still a professional pilot, but I was actually working as a commercial pilot. And that’s something I wouldn’t do in Germany either. like all those things where I was like, ‘Wait, this is so special. I’m not going to give up.'”
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The abolition of sports programs came as the university system saw a number of programs like theater and sociology halted during major cuts to the university system’s budget in early 2020.
The Seawolves hockey team was reinstated in late August 2021, raising over $3 million toward its fundraising goal. The UAA did not participate in Division I hockey in the 2021-22 season, but the Seawolves are returning to play for the 2022-23 season.
The UAA Alpine Ski Team achieved its goal relatively quickly, despite having the lowest fundraising figure to achieve of the three programs. The Seawolves ski team reached its fundraising figure of $628,000 in less than five months and was reinstated in mid-January 2021.