There were moments of doubt — moments when the trepidation became nearly unbearable for the members on the UAA gymnastics team.
For the past 21 months, the Seawolves were in limbo, operating in uncertainty after the Board of Regents voted in September 2020 to discontinue the program along with hockey and Alpine skiing.
But that doubt washed away Wednesday when the school announced the gymnastics team had reached its fundraising goal of $888,000 and would be permanently reinstated.
“It’s just so much relief,” said UAA gymnast Brooklyn Kopsack. “I mean, we’ve worked so hard for the past two years and it was a long time coming. So it just feels super great.
“We’re going to be able to put 100% of our effort and focus into gym and school. But just having that burden lifted with fundraising is going to be so nice, especially the first year we just spent so much time doing fundraising.”
Last summer, the gymnastics program met the threshold of $444,000 raised for 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 initial deadline was Feb. 15, 2021, but that was extended by the board.
“There were definitely some low points,” UAA gymnast Marcela Bonifasi said. “We were like ‘What are we going to do next year?’ Have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C? In February 2021 when we found out we had that extra year, that was like the moment I felt the most relief because we were given so much more time and we were really motivated that we could do it. But before we knew that, that was the definitely the lowest point. We thought that there was no chance just because we thought we had to have the $888,000 by that Feb. 15 deadline. And that was just impossible.”
Both the hockey and Alpine skiing teams had reached their fundraising goals last year, leaving the gymnastics team as the last of the three to save themselves from the chopping block.
Bonifasi and Kopsack will both be juniors on next year’s team, a squad that has been bonded by the process.
“It definitely brought us together,” Bonifasi said. “We went 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 spearheaded the fundraising effort since the onset.
“I’m very competitive,” she said. “So I was like, no, absolutely not. You’re not taking us down. You’re not cutting 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-altering opportunity by competing with the UAA team.
“I was recruited up here, I was brought over here by then-head coach Paul Stoklos and I’m still here,” she said. “I’m thinking OK, how different would my life be? If UAA gymnastics didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t do the hobbies that I do. I wouldn’t do the job that I do. I mean, even before this job, I was a commercial pilot. I am still a commercial pilot, but I actually used to work as a commercial pilot. And that’s something that I wouldn’t do in Germany either. So it’s like all these things where I was like, ‘Wait, this is so special. I’m not gonna let it go.’”
The removal of the athletic programs came as the university system saw a number of programs like theater and sociology discontinued during major cuts to the university system’s budget in early 2020.
The Seawolves hockey team earned reinstatement in late August 2021, raising over $3 million to meet its fundraising goal. UAA didn’t compete in Division I hockey in the 2021-22 season, but the Seawolves are resuming play for the 2022-23 season.
The UAA Alpine ski team reached its goal relatively quickly — although it had the lowest fundraising figure to achieve of the three programs. The Seawolves ski team reached its fundraising figure of $628,000 in fewer than five months and was reinstated in mid-January 2021.