There was a point when Kylie Reese thought she was the problem. It turns out, she was a part of the solution.
Reese, the lone senior on the UAA gymnastics team, came to Anchorage after the program folded at her previous school, Seattle Pacific.
She arrived in Alaska to find her new program may be facing a similar fate.
“When I had the opportunity to come here, I figured why not take the leap of faith,” said Reese, a Eugene, Oregon native. “I knew the program had some struggles but I didn’t know it was cut until the day I landed here.”
Reese found herself on a team fighting to survive with no guarantees of a continued existence. The team was cut in September 2020, but the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents gave the Seawolves a chance for reinstatement for the 2021-22 season by raising $440,000. The team completed that goal and is now in the midst of raising another $440,000 for permanent reinstatement.
“When it originally happened, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, is it me? Am I the problem?’ ” she laughed. “I came from a cut program to a cut program. Everyone goes through hardships and this team has gone through more hardships than the typical team but it’s really brought us closer together and it’s made us a family.”
Head coach Marie-Sophie Boggasch said the gymnasts have earned everything they’ve got. The Seawolves wrap up their regular season Friday when they host Air Force at Alaska Airlines Center at 7 p.m.
“This team really earned this season,” she said. “They helped so much with fundraising. We fundraised. Nobody else did. It was about having that opportunity for these student-athletes to go out and have this season and compete and get the experience than it ever was about the scores this year. It was a good starting point knowing our situation but I don’t view it as a building block because this could be our last season.”
Reese has continued to develop as a gymnast since she arrived at UAA. She has become the team’s most consistent all-around gymnast and has even become a top competitor on the bars for UAA.
“She was an integral part of saving this team and she deserved this opportunity to go out with her teammates,” Boggasch said. “She has outdone herself. She was a specialist at SPU and she’s now competing all-around. She’s the person who competed the most all-around for our team this year. It’s incredible to watch her journey from a specialist to an all-around staple.”
Reese credits the team and its training programs to her advancement.
“I really do attribute it to this program,” Reese said. “At SPU, I was trained really well and I was a specialist and it was a bit up and down with injuries but once I came here the coaches have me in the best shape of my life. To be able to compete all-around in my final year, it brings me to tears because I didn’t think I’d ever even compete. The amount of growth I’ve seen in myself, person-wise and an athlete the last two years is going lead me farther than my gymnastics career.”
The UAA team is stocked with 11 freshman, but junior Rachel Decious is another gymnast who brings experience to the Seawolves. Boggasch said Decious is a true senior but will take an extra year of eligibility from the washed-out COVID season as her fifth year in 2022-23.
“This is pretty much a new team,” Decious said. “It’s been really nice, leading them on and helping them know what it is to be Seawolves.”
Decious, like Reese, has charted the best scores of her career this season including a new bar routine.
“I was missing the dismount,” she said. “I’ve been working on that since my freshman year so it’s crazy to be able to debut that this year.”
The team has until the end of June to raise the necessary funds for permanent reinstatement and Boggasch said the team is still trying to raise the final 15% of that sum. The team has set up the website to help the fundraising efforts.
“Every single dollar counts,” she said. “Last year it came down to maybe not the last dollar, but a few hundred bucks. It’s nerve-wracking to have to deal with it in-season. Your $2, your $5, your $10 matter. I’d obviously hoped to be done by now but I prioritized the season over everything with fundraising because the season is coming to an end this month and we’re going to have another three months of fundraising left.”