Every Monday during her team’s season, UNH head coach Gail Goodspeed checks the NCAA gymnastics standings. This season, the Wildcats have been a fixture in the country’s top 25, and they’re currently ranked No. 2 in the country on the balance beam. But that isn’t why Goodspeed is urging UNH students to come out to the team’s meet against Southern Connecticut State University on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Even with the wear and tear of several meets forcing several UNH gymnasts to take it easy in training this week, the No. 22 Wildcats against a Division II program won’t be a marquee matchup. But Saturday night, the Wildcats are pledging to the fight against cancer in their annual “Stick It For A Cure” meet.
“We donate for every stick,” Goodspeed said, referring to a stuck landing, when a gymnast lands without moving her feet. “The money is donated to [the Wentworth-Douglass] Seacoast Cancer Center in Dover.”
Goodspeed expressed hope that UNH students, faculty, staff and Durham community members would come out to support the team’s fundraising effort in the meet. UNH is encouraging attendees to wear pink, and Goodspeed said that the event is an opportunity for the team to support those battling, survivors and those who have passed away from any form of cancer.
For one of UNH’s star gymnasts, the meet’s importance hits close to home.
“My freshman year summer, she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer,” junior Meghan Pflieger said, referring to her former club coach, Danielle Cerminaro. Cerminaro credited gymnastics with helping her to detect her cancer early in an interview with New York-based WKTV, a CBS affiliate.
“We’re so close, being in the gym all the time with her,” Pflieger said, expressing her shock at receiving the news. “You have such a strong relationship with her, so to hear she’s diagnosed with breast cancer, it was just kind of like, ‘Why her? Really?’”
Pflieger, an All-Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics League gymnast and one of the conference’s top all-around performers, credits Cerminaro with teaching her the strength needed to compete at the collegiate level.
Cerminaro’s early detection helped the coach in her battle, and she is now in remission, according to Pflieger. But the meet is still an important way for the talented gymnast and her teammates to show their support for all those still fighting and those who have lost their battle.
“It just means a lot for us to have this meet, just because you’re doing it for somebody that’s so important to you,” she said.
In addition to the fundraising efforts, the Wildcats will also be celebrating the Valentine’s Day holiday with a “date night” theme. The team will be raffling off a Valentine’s Day prize pack consisting of a one-night stay in Portsmouth’s Hilton Garden Inn, two ski passes to Shawnee Peak and a Thirsty Moose gift card.
While the gymnasts’ performances and a Valentine’s Day celebration would be reason enough to attend any meet, Pflieger stressed how important a big crowd at Saturday’s meet is to the team.
“Out of all the home meets that we have, this is one of our most important ones. It’s for a cure, it’s for a cause,” she said. “Any student: I would choose this meet. Wear pink, come out. Just be able to support our fighters and survivors.”