Jul. 22, 2014

Feature: Model of excellence

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January 27, 2014

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A rope hangs from the ceiling in Kaplan Arena’s gymnasium. Halfway between the ceiling and the floor is a pair of rings, and it’s these rings that have been so instrumental to senior gymnast Landon Funiciello.

The two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association All-American holds the William and Mary record on rings and parallel bars. Funiciello, though, would rather describe a rope circuit than boast of his accolades.

Starting at the base of the rope, Funiciello and his College teammates climb to the halfway point where they switch to the rings to complete a particular routine. After the routine finishes, the gymnasts climb to the ceiling, back down to the rings, perform another routine, and then climb down to the floor. All too eagerly, Funiciello explained the variations of the circuit: duration cycles, speed trials and weight vests topped the list.

Alongside rope circuits, Funiciello’s skill and dedication to his sport have propelled him to the upper echelon of collegiate gymnastics. Funiciello’s rings routine placed him a 10th of a point removed from a national championship a year ago. Oklahoma’s Michael Squires won the event.

“It’s definitely something I think about when I work out. I guess maybe a friendly rivalry … a bit of a rivalry, yeah,” Funiciello said of Squires.

Despite the intricacies of gymnastics, Funiciello says captaining the Tribe has been the most difficult — and rewarding — experience of his career.

Senior gymnast Landon Funiciello came within a tenth of a point of an NCAA championship in 2013. COURTESY PHOTO / TRIBE ATHLETICS

Senior gymnast Landon Funiciello came within a tenth of a point of an NCAA championship in 2013. COURTESY PHOTO / TRIBE ATHLETICS

“It’s definitely been challenging. I’ve been doing gymnastics for awhile, so the working out part and getting better as a gymnast is something I’m used to,” Funiciello said. “The leadership role is different.”

As a captain his junior year, Funiciello benefitted from the leadership of fellow two-year captain senior Daniel Potemski and graduate Kris Yeager ’13. Funiciello took note of leadership characteristics and learned how best to address the team. Still, leadership has presented its challenges.

“It’s a little bit strange, to me at least, to be a teammate and still be a part of the working team, but also to be able to lead and direct them,” Funiciello said. “To me, they’re just my teammates, the guys I work out with everyday.”

While Funiciello seeks the balance between teammate and captain, his teammates applaud what Funiciello has done thus far, awarding Funiciello with the Rock Award.

“[It’s] basically the person who can be counted on consistently from week to week,” Funiciello said of the recognition.

Funiciello’s leadership doesn’t stop when he leaves Kaplan Arena. The College’s gymnastics team recently collected 2,953 pounds of canned goods for the local FISH food bank; over the past six years, the program has collected approximately 14,500 pounds of food.

“I think it’s really important; I think it’s good to do community service as a team and to get the name out there,” Funiciello said. “I think it’s good to have a good image and help any way we can.”

A kinesiology and health sciences major, Funiciello looks to continue serving communities after graduating. In the past 40 years, 30 of the College’s gymnastic alumni have gone on to medical school, a route Funiciello will follow. While awaiting more decisions, Funiciello has already been accepted into State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University.

“It’s been a long and tough process, but gymnastics definitely helps. Time-wise, it makes you really focus and use your time wisely. It also teaches you to not be afraid to fail and to just go after something,” Funiciello said. “I feel like as long as I work as hard as I can and do my best, whatever the result is, is good enough for me because that’s all you can expect from yourself.”

As Funiciello looks forward to life after graduation, he knows there is still work to be done in the gym. Having competed and won in the elite levels of collegiate gymnastics, Funiciello now wants to see the College win the Colonial Athletic Association and advance to the NCAAs as a team.

Funiciello performs at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg, Va. COURTESY PHOTO / TRIBE ATHLETICS

Funiciello performs at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg, Va. COURTESY PHOTO / TRIBE ATHLETICS

“Now, the most exciting thing is getting the whole team there. I haven’t gotten the chance to go to NCAAs with everyone,” Funiciello said. “I think that’d be really exciting. That would be the most exciting accomplishment at this point.”

Even with an emphasis on team excellence this season, Funiciello still longs for the national title on the rings. Having come so close in 2013, another title run isn’t out of the question.

“You have to compete three days in a row. For rings, especially, three days in a row is hard. It takes the difficulty of just doing your routine well and adds the difficulty of doing it well three times in a row,” Funiciello said. “By that third day you definitely don’t feel as well as you did the first day.”

Regardless of this season’s outcome, Funiciello holds a place in College history.

“There have been some really good gymnasts who have come through,” Funiciello said. “At least I’ll be there after I graduate, at least for a little while.”

Come next year, don’t be surprised to find a plaque with Funiciello’s name on the wall behind the rope hanging from the ceiling. It’d only be fitting.

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Chris Weber

Chris Weber

Sports Editor Chris Weber '15 is an English major from Spotsylvania, Va. Follow @chrisweber18 on Twitter.

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