The team is focused on improving every week and peaking at the right time ahead of conference championships.
By Kristen Mitchell
After a lifetime of training and battling two season-ending injuries as a George Washington University gymnast, Alex Zois is ready to leave it all on the floor as she gears up for the last few weeks of her competitive career.
Ms. Zois, B.S. ‘18, a first-year graduate student working toward a certificate in emergency management in public health, said she and her teammates have been working hard all season to peak at the right time. They hope to take home the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championships trophy this Saturday and become the first GW gymnastics team to qualify for NCAA nationals.
“We’re really striving toward these goals,” Ms. Zois said. “I can see the drive in every single person. It shows in practice, it shows in meets. I think we just have that focus that we need, and I think we’ll be right where we need to be.”
The team has been focused on reaching small goals and pushing toward a total score of 196 for all four events—vaults, bars, beam and floor. The team achieved this goal during a meet at Towson University over the weekend, scoring a season-high 196.025. Every week, each student-athlete recommits to improvement by identifying which quarter of a point they’re going to secure with stuck dismounts on beam and completely vertical handstands on bars. Head Coach Margie Foster-Cunningham calls this “doing simple better.”
Working toward these goals as a team has helped keep the student-athletes motivated, but knowing she will hang up her leotard for good in a few short weeks has given co-captain Ms. Zois extra motivation to keep pushing her limits.
“I know at the end of the year I will be a retired athlete, so even if it’s really hard I try to tell myself this is the last year that I get to be at practice, that I get to put a leotard on, and I get to compete,” she said. “You are trying to accomplish something, and there are going to be hard days, but those are what make you better.”
Alex Zois (right) fist bumps one of her teammates during a meet. The student-athletes look each other in the eye to signify their commitment to working hard and performing confidently on every apparatus. (Courtesy of GW Gymnastics)
Ms. Zois injured her ACL—a ligament in the knee—warming up before her first competition as a first-year student-athlete. Because she sat out that season, she was awarded an additional year of eligibility. When a knee surgery last March forced her to end the season early, she knew she had more to prove and chose to return to the team as a graduate student.
As an all-around athlete, Ms. Zois competes on every event, and recently scored a career-high 9.925 on vault. Ms. Zois earned a career-high all-around score of 39.425 at Senior Night on March 1. She matched that all-around score again at Towson on Sunday.
“That’s the difference between going out and making a routine and really performing it,” she said. “When you get a 9.8 or 9.9, there’s a wow factor to the routine.”
As one of two fifth-year student-athletes on the team, Ms. Zois is a natural leader. She works hard to keep a positive attitude and help the team stay motivated to achieve its goals. Her injuries have helped her build resilience, and those experiences have positioned her well to help her teammates who go through similar trials.
Ms. Foster-Cunningham said Ms. Zois has mastered the art of being a teammate. While the gymnasts face another team in competition, they are also competing against each other for a spot in the lineup and event titles. Ms. Zois is always genuinely happy for her teammates’ success and embodies their “All Team” motto.
“She’s an ideal teammate and leader, and we’ve been very blessed to have her for a fifth year,” Ms. Foster-Cunningham said. “This is a young team, we have a lot of very gifted freshmen and sophomores. We needed this gifted leadership, and we’ve got it with Alex Zois. She is just incredible.”
Ms. Zois has been training as a gymnast since she was five years old. The Crofton, Md., native says adjusting to life outside of daily practices will be a big change.
“I will miss it a lot, but I know that at the end of the year I will have given everything I could have given to it physically and mentally,” she said. “It will be bittersweet, but I will be ready to turn the page and go into the next chapter of my life.”
Ms. Zois plans to take a gap year to study for the MCAT. She hopes to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon. She encourages her teammates to take advantage of every opportunity to compete and train for the sport they love.
“Even if it’s a tough day at the gym,” she said. “Just remember why you are there.”