The city of Colorado Springs, Co. is not typical recruiting ground for College of William and Mary athletic programs, despite being home to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s headquarters. But after women’s gymnastics Head Coach Mary Lewis’s squad graduated a powerful senior class last season, they had to cast their recruitment net a bit farther west.
The strategy paid off when a visit to the area yielded freshman gymnast Kristin Milardo, who was honored last week with the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year award. The freshman finished in a tie for third in the all-around category at the ECAC Championships with a score of 38.525.
“We needed an all-arounder this year, especially after we had two [all-arounders] graduate last year,” second-year Assistant Head Coach Jamie Weinfeldt said. “She’s the only one on our team that competes in all four events, which means she had some big shoes to fill, but she’s had a great season.”
Milardo became the third member of the women’s gymnastics team to collect the ECAC honor, joining Lynn Dameron ’93 and Tricia Long ’08. Long graduated last year after a distinguished four-year career, opening the door for Milardo to contribute right away.
However, having talent does not necessarily guarantee a gymnast a spot on a collegiate-level team.
According to Weinfeldt, Milardo had to visit the College and form a connection with the squad. Luckily for Milardo and the College, a relationship blossomed.
“Every athlete we look at may possess the skills to become a great gymnast, but I could tell that [Kristin] especially had a good rapport with the team,” Weinfeldt said.
Milardo quickly assimilated with her future teammates and committed to the College after her visit.
Seven months into her first year, Milardo enjoys the newfound camaraderie.
“This team takes you under their wing,” Milardo said. “All 16 of us eat every meal together. Coach [Mary] Lewis is great, she’s like a second mom.”
As there is no true “off-season” in gymnastics, the team trains together during both semesters in addition to individual training during the summer.
Despite the fact that the College is halfway across the country from her home in Colorado, the 1700-mile trek does not phase the freshman. Growing up, she took frequent trips with her family to Hawaii, Mexico and England. Nowadays, the family has a different travel itinerary.
“My mom tries to fly out here once a month. She came to our two home meets, and she’s planning to go to Raleigh [N.C.] next weekend,” Milardo said.
Milardo plans on competing in Raleigh at the NCAA regional championships. She is only the fourth Tribe freshman to make it to what Weinfeldt equated to “the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament,” where she has the chance to play Cinderella.
“She’ll be going up against Olympians [next Saturday], but she still has nothing to lose,” Weinfeldt said.