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Springfield College Records: Gymnastics Team (RG 162)

A photograph of Springfield College gymnast Ricardo Portalatin on the rings. In the photograph Ricardo is pushing his body up into the air with his arms with his legs spread out to the sides. In back of Ricardo is a Springfield gymnastics sign with a spirit, mind, and body triangle attached to it.

Springfield College Gymnastics Team

The early history of gymnastics at Springfield College goes all the way back to 1891 when Dr. Henry F. Kallenberg, an expert gymnast in the German tradition of the Turnvereins, arranged a competitive gymnastic meet for his athletes with the 23rd St. YMCA Leaders Corps in New York City. Gymnasts who participated included James Naismith, the creator of basketball, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Luther Halsey Gulick, and Frank Seerley.  In 1904, John H. Scott (class of 1904) was elected the first captain and manager of the exhibition team, formally beginning the start of the Springfield College gymnastics team. That year they scheduled visits in Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield and Windsor Locks.

Exhibition/Homeshow History

August E. Metzdorf (class of 1905) was named as the team's leader in the 1904-1905 school year. He was responsible for the organization of the first “circus” or Homeshow which took place in May of 1905. Always a tradition to describe the gymnastics activity being performed, the Springfield College Gymnastics team exhibitions had more of a show like feel when preforming on the road for others.  They would recreate this atmosphere when, once a year, they returned “home” and put on a show for the college community, a tradition that continues throughout the history of the Springfield College Gymnastics team.

Perhaps the most famous exhibition team tour was in 1925 when the team performed twenty-six exhibitions in the USA and ten in Mexico. The presidents from both countries honored the team with personal receptions in their respective capitals. The team also performed at many special functions including in July of 1965, when the exhibition team was invited to put on an exhibition in the United States Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. They also performed an exhibition at Shea Stadium, home of the Mets, before fifty thousand fans during the break of a double-header between the Mets and the Cincinnati Reds.

In 1980, the last exhibition team tour took place. After this tour, a moratorium was placed on both the Exhibition Team tour and its annual Homeshow. When finally lifted in 1982, only the Homeshow continued; the days of touring were over. The last major change to the exhibition performances, came in 2005, when an NCAA Division III rule changed to reduce the amount of time athletes could train as a team. Due to the rule, participants in the Homeshow now had to be enrolled in one of four academic courses designed to engage them in various aspects of the show's production; performance, marketing, technical staging, and costuming/choreography.

Men’s Varsity Gymnastics History

The first full-time Varsity Men’s Gymnastics coach was Louis C. Schroeder (class of 1912). He was appointed in 1915. Schroeder was succeeded five years later, in 1921, by Leslie J. Judd; a position he held until 1956. Judd (class of 1921) was a member of the team prior to and immediately following World War I. Judd is widely considered a father of modern Gymnastics. Under his leadership, the varsity gymnastics team attained international fame. In fact, just prior to World War II, the Springfield gymnastic team won the New England AAU Gymnastic Championship eight time (after World War II much of the teams’ collegiate competition ended until Coach Wolcott restarted it in 1956). A true innovator, Judd used dance; including Morris dances, sword dances, and various kinds of national dances from Russia, Spain, the Philippines, and Hungary; numerous types of team drills such as glittering wands, fundamentals of fencing, judo, balancing trios, Indian club swinging, clown acts, among rigorous gymnastics routines in their exhibition performances. Perhaps the greatest contribution Coach Judd made to the team was the world-famous Living Statuary of Youth or the Tableaux. The first tableaux was performed in 1934 in connection with Commencement Weekend and the College’s annual canoe carnival.

In 1955, Frank Wolcott (class of 1952) began coaching the men’s gymnastics team.  Coach Wolcott went on to coach until 1981, finishing his coaching career with an overall record of 94 wins and 52 losses, a winning percentage of .644. While a student at Springfield College, Wolcott was captain of the Springfield College gymnastics team and a two-time New England champion on the pommel horse and flying rings. During Wolcott’s time at Springfield college, his men’s gymnastics teams placed in the top four at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Nationals eleven times and won eight individual national titles, sixty-two All-American Awards, five New England Team Championships which was then discontinued with fifteen individual even championships, two Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Gymnastic Team Championships (with eight individual champions), nine Eastern League Titles, and in 1977 won the NCAA National Men’s Gymnastics Team Championship.

Bob Cargill followed up Wolcott, and coached the team for 1 season from 1981-1982.  After coach Cargill, Stephen E. Posner, an All-American Gymnast from the University of California at Berkeley, was the head coach. He coached the team from 1982 to 2017. Under Posner's direction during his 34 years as head coach (during the 1990-1991 season, Eric Weiskopf took over as head coach), the Springfield College men's gymnastics program produced 171 All-America honors, 23 National Champions, and won three-consecutive USA Collegiate Gymnastics (USAG) Championship from 1991-1993. Some of the gymnasts included Jeff Coelho, Rick Hoag, Ron Spinelle, James Mylnarski, Ty Evans, Jimmy Pezzino, and Ryan Ponce.  In 1995, Rick Hoag was selected to represent Puerto Rico in the World Championships held in Japan.  In 2017, coach Posner was replaced by Matt Davis.

Women’s Varsity Gymnastics History

It was not long after Springfield College became co-educational in 1951 that Leslie Judd invited female gymnasts to perform at the Homeshow and with the exhibition team. In 1954, Leslie Judd and Ruth Evans included women on the parallel bars and trampoline routines. And in 1956, Betty Weisner founded the women’s gymnastics club, an exhibition team that held its own shows and performed as part of Home Show. Finally, with Frank Wolcott and Betty Wiesner '58 setting the pace, in 1958 a small group of girls become a part of the varsity exhibition team. However, they were given the privilege of performing at Winter Homecoming only. The girls became a part of the traveling exhibition team in 1962 under the coaching of Diane Potter. The honor of being the first woman captain of a Springfield College varsity exhibition team belongs to Katie (Wallace) Tetreault, of the Class of 1963.

Women’s gymnastics became an intercollegiate team in the 1963-64 school year, and was coached by Diane Potter until 1968. Two members of that inaugural team made an impact on the greater world of American gymnastics: Linda Metheny won four medals for Team USA at the 1963 Pan-American Games and Kathy Corrigan competed with the 1964 Olympic team at the Tokyo Games. Corrigan went on to become the first female inductee in the Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Arguably, some of the team’s greatest successes came under Mimi Murray, who transitioned from assistant to head coach in 1968. In her first year, the team went 7-0 and hosted and won the first National College Women’s Championship. Murray would coach the team until 1974, amassing a 37-0 record, and was named coach of Team USA for the World Games in Moscow and the USA Women’s Gymnastics Coach of the Year by Champion Athletic Company.

After a series of head coaches in the late seventies, Cheryl Raymond took over the reins in 1980 and coached to 2015, amassing a 187-244 coaching record. One of the highlights of her career was the 1996 NCGA Championship Team that won with a team score of 143.525. In addition to her coaching duties, Raymond has served meet director for several national meets, including the 2000 NCGA Championship and the 1988, 1992, and 1993 USGF National Collegiate Championships. She was also one of the original members of the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Committee. In 2016, Jenn Najuch took over as head coach of the Women’s Varsity Gymnastics Team.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Materials in this collection include newspaper clippings, magazine articles, news releases, manuscripts, scripts (including notecards), printed materials, correspondence, tickets, artwork, posters, memorandums, newsletters, notes, flyers, brochures, programs, schedules and rosters from performances, photographic prints, slides, negatives, film (16mm and various video formats), VHS videos, uniforms and other clothing and memorabilia having to do with the Springfield College Men’s & Women’s Varsity Gymnastics teams, the Springfield College Exhibition Team, and the Springfield College annual Gymnastics Homeshow. Materials date from the 1890s into the 2010s, with the bulk of the materials coming from the 1960s to the early 2000s. There are many documents and manuscripts that talk about the history of the Springfield College Gymnastics Team. These include a thesis written in 1922 by Arthur F. Schaefer, letters and materials written by Gymnastics Head Coach Frank Wolcott, and a 1971 history called the “Joy of Effort”. The history of the Gymnastics Exhibition Team and the Homeshow is told in a booklet that was created for the 100th annual Homeshow in 2009. Of special import to the history of Gymnastics are the published manuscripts titled “Roots of Gymnastics, 3rd edition” written by International Gymnastics Hall of Fame curator, A. Bruce Frederick.

Materials regarding the Men’s Varsity Gymnastics team go all the way back to the start of the program in 1904 and continue through the 2000s. The bulk of the material falls from 1960 through 2015. Statistics and individual/team match scores or results make up the majority of materials within this series. These include packets of scores for the gymnasts & teams who participated in major championship matches such as the EIGL (Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League), NCAA, USAG (USA Gymnastics), New England Championships, and ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference). There are also many programs and brochures for championships and multiple team meets. Other documents include photographic prints and slides of team photographs, individual gymnasts, coaches, and action shots (both staged and not-staged) taken from meets and practices starting in 1904. Of interest, are photographs of Tim Daggett, 1984 Gold Medalist from Springfield, Massachusetts. There are also some 16mm films and VHS video tapes. Most of the VHS tapes contain films from championship competitions beginning in the early 1970s through the late 1980s.

Materials with the Women’s Varsity team begin with the first full entering class of Women at Springfield College in 1951 and continue through the late 2010s, with the bulk of the materials beginning around 1968. Most of the materials are team rosters, team or meet statistics, individual statistics, overall team records, and information on the championships for the EAIAW (Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) conference, DGWS (Division for Girls’ and Women’s Sport), AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women), the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) conference, the NCAAA (including the USFG championships, USA Gymnastics championships, and NCGA championships). Photographs include team photos, individual gymnastics, and action shots (both staged and not staged) taken from meets and practices from around 1974-1975 school year through the modern era. Most of the films are of competitions or dual matches, but there are also many of the championship matches Springfield College participated in over the years. Of importance is a film of the first DGWS Women’s Collegiate Championships in 1969 that was won by Springfield College. Finally, there are also various memorabilia, posters, and trophies, mostly from various championships participated in by Springfield College.

Within the Springfield College Exhibition team materials, including tour performances and the annual Homeshow, materials start in the 1920s and continue through the 2010s. Photographs within the series go all the way back to the 1930s, with the bulk coming from the 1960s onward. Much of the undated photographs have been divided by the type of activity, including Tableaux, clowns, dancing, triple and double balance teams, pyramid building, stacking of gymnasts, performances with parachutes and trampolines, and all the official gymnastics events. In addition to scenes from the exhibitions, photographs include some behind the scene shots and group photos. There are two series of photographs that depict the Exhibition Team during their tours. Additionally, there are photographs from the 1965 World’s Fair performances at Shea Stadium and photographs of Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Blatnik and Tim Daggett during the 100th anniversary celebration performance in 1984. Most of the films are of the Springfield College Homeshow beginning in the late 1970s. Of interest are also a few films of exhibitions and special performances, including a 1979 ESPN performance, 2002 Basketball Hall of Fame performance, and an undated Fleet Center performance. Of importance are various scripts for the program, including note cards with changes made by MC of the shows Art Linkletter. Finally, there are materials from other exhibition performances, including at the 1965 World’s Fair, and the 1966 Montreal Expo. These exist alongside posters, flyers, schedules, memorabilia, and planning documents on the exhibition team tours.