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Women Gymnastics: Temple University's Gymnastics Team on Mission to Raise Awareness Through Unity in Diversity

By Angela DelVecchio, 03/13/23, 2:00PM EDT



(Photos by Zamani Feelings for PSD)


PHILADELPHIA-- The Temple University Gymnastics team closed out its season yesterday at the Maryland Five-Team Meet with a score of 196.250. The fourth highest in program history. The Owls finished in third place on Sunday behind the host team Maryland (197.100) and Towson (196.575), but finished ahead of George Washington (195.450), and Yale (192.750).

The Owls have been on a special mission this season to bring awareness and a voice to specific causes near and dear to their hearts.

The Owls hosted its first “My Cause” meet on Thursday, March 2nd at McGonigle Hall. The meet celebrated the student athletes’ beliefs and causes most personal to them.

During the meet against West Chester, Maryland and Towson, the Owls unveiled a new “My Cause” leotard which was designed emphasizing multiple colors corresponding to the specific causes chosen by the individual team members. The back of the leotard featured all of those colors intertwined symbolizing the unity in diversity of the driving passions among the elite gymnasts.

“In discussing the goals within the gymnastics program, the athletics department, and the university, there was a very clear common theme among those three, and that is a strong desire to support individual voices in a way that makes everyone feel heard and seen,” said head coach Josh Nilson. 

“We believe this is the best way to show unity, even though we are all unique, and to amplify individual voices in a way that is in harmony with the university.”

In their own words, members of the Temple Gymnastics team were more than happy to share with Philadelphia Sports the special causes these colors represented to them and how using their platform as a student athlete ignited unity through diversity along with their goals to continue to spread their mission.

CYRENA WHALEN, junior; Bars

CAUSE: “Black Lives Matter because I want to fight to end racial discrimination and encourage others to do the same. Being able to be in the position as a student-athlete to highlight such an important movement, I feel very grateful. I am lucky to be able to use my platform to spark change and create awareness in my community and be a person of positive influence. The “My Cause” meet was an amazing unique way for our team to come together as a whole for a bigger reason than just gymnastics.”

GOAL: “My ultimate goal is to keep showing up as an ally for the black community and speak up when needed. I will of course continue to support my cause and my teammates causes in the future.”


CAUSE: “I choose ulcerative colitis awareness as my cause because it is a chronic disease that my sister struggles to deal with.

I’m grateful that Temple athletics assists in amplifying our voices. Being a Temple student athlete, I feel it’s important to speak out about things and initiate the spread of awareness and knowledge of certain causes. It felt great to compete for something more than gymnastics, and not only support my sister and her illness, but also everyone else’s cause as well. These causes gave me more of an insight into my teammates and coaches life. A lot of people chose causes that were personal to them and supporting those throughout the meet unified us more.”

GOAL: “For this event, my ultimate goal would be that it continues throughout the future of temple gymnastics. Getting to compete for something bigger than yourself is such a great feeling. I will continue to show support toward everyone’s cause, to show I stand with my teammates and coaches as well as anyone affected by each specific cause.”

JULIANNA ROLAND, super senior; Beam/Floor

CAUSE: “For our cause meet, I chose down syndrome awareness because I had an uncle who passed away a couple of years ago who had down syndrome and he has impacted my life in so many ways throughout my childhood growing up and I wanted to honor him in this meet. This event promotes a sense of unity within our team because it shows us what is important to our teammates and gives us ability to learn about and be advocates for the other causes we have chosen to honor.” 

GOAL: “As a student athlete I feel that we have a voice on campus and we have the opportunity to use that voice for good, promote advocacy and show others why the causes that we care about are important.”

ASHLEY GLYNN, freshman; All-Around

CAUSE: “I choose to support Alzheimer’s awareness because I’ve watched the negative effect it’s made on people close to me. As a Temple student-athlete being able to use our platform benefits us greatly to help continue to raise awareness to these problems. I think the cause meet promotes unity within the team by letting us all choose a cause important to us and coming together to spread awareness to all of them by creating a meet bigger than us.” 

GOAL: “My ultimate goal for this event is to spread awareness to not only mine but everyone’s selected cause and I’ll continue to spread awareness to my cause in the future by supporting other events involving my cause.” 

SUMMER RUSKEY, sophomore; Floor

CAUSE: “I chose to highlight “Mental Health Awareness” because I think this affects a lot of people and I don’t want anyone to have to go through things alone.

Being able to express the importance of mental health is important to me. By posting inspirational and motivational things on my own platform, I hope that I am showing my audience the importance of mental health. Everyone has the ability to raise awareness for their causes, and I think this is what promotes unity within the team.”

GOAL: “My ultimate goal for this event is to normalize struggling with mental health and to show that it is okay to reach out for help. I will continue to support this cause in the future by being there for my family and friends whenever they need help.” 

MADISON DORUNDA, sophomore; Beam/Bars/Floor

CAUSE: “I chose to support autism awareness to honor my brother.

It’s important to freely use your platform as a student athlete to bring awareness to these topics, it shows that we all have more going on than just what the eye sees.” 

GOAL: “My goal for this event is to bring awareness to each individuals causes and continue to bring awareness in the future.”

LANIE HYMAN, junior; Vault/Beam

CAUSE: “I highlighted ALS Awareness during the meet because my grandma passed away from it and there is still no cure to this day.

It is so important to be able to use my platform to raise awareness for causes that are near and dear to me. This event promoted a sense of unity within the team because although everyone may have chosen different causes, we still support each other regardless. “

GOAL: “Our ultimate goal for this event was to spread awareness for these causes, which I believe we did. I will continue to support these causes in the future by doing what I can to continue to spread awareness.” 

HANNAH STALLINGS, sophomore; All-Around/Bars

CAUSE: “I represented OCD Awareness as my cause. I chose this cause because OCD has personally affected me over the last few years. While I am grateful to be doing better, I still struggle and have good and bad days. I want to offer hope for those currently struggling. Recovery is possible, and no one is alone. OCD is hard and often very misunderstood. It is even used very passively in conversation. I want to bring awareness to what the disorder actually is and help those who are struggling. 

I am grateful to have this platform as a student athlete to advocate for a cause that is so important to me. This event was special for me and the whole team as we were able to come together and support one another and what matters to each of us. I loved learning about what means so much to each of my teammates and cultivating a posture of advocacy and hope on the team.”

GOAL: “My hope for this event is that everyone in attendance (fans, athletes, coaches, etc.) became more aware of causes that mean so much to each of us and have cultivated a heart of service. I will continue to support OCD awareness by focusing on my own healing journey as well as standing up for misconceptions about this disorder.”

SARAH STALLINGS, sophomore; Bars/Beam/Vault

CAUSE: “The cause I chose to highlight is cervical cancer awareness because my aunt recently passed away from it, and I want to honor her memory. 

I am thankful that as a Temple student-athlete, I am allowed to freely use my platform to promote causes that are uniquely important to me. It creates team unity when each member has this privilege because it allows us to celebrate the diversity of the team and the causes we represent. It reminds us that we can be one united team and still each have different causes, values, and beliefs.”

GOAL: “My goal for this event is to bring awareness to important causes that often do not receive much attention and honor those we know and love (as well as those we don’t know) who have been impacted in various ways. Going forward, I hope to continue supporting these causes by helping to foster an environment of advocacy on the team, as well as humility, where we remember to complete for things bigger than ourselves.” 

BROOKE DONABEDIAN, junior; Beam/Floor

CAUSE: “Autism awareness to support my brother, families, and caregivers

I think it’s extremely important for student athletes to utilize their platforms by raising awareness on things that have meaning to them.”

GOAL: “I plan to keep supporting my cause going into the future and providing that support to families around the world.”

KAYLA DEVEAU, junior manager.

CAUSE: “My cause is autism awareness. I chose this because i am going to be a future educator and have worked with children who have autism. They are so smart and loving and I want to bring more awareness to the cause. 

Being a student athlete is a great way to raise awareness for any cause you want. having a voice that can impact many people is a plus to having this position and create positivity. this team is also so close and when we all come together with each thing we want to represent, we create a different sense of unity.”

GOAL: “I will always be an advocate for autism awareness. i have a concentration in special education and want to help to better give an education to those with disabilities and show that their disability does not define who they are.”

MIA ROSE THACKSTON, junior; Vault/Floor

CAUSE: “Mental health awareness, because of my friends and family that I've seen struggle with it, and it's such an important thing to take care of for everyone.”

GOAL: “To raise awareness for all of the causes that the team chose, and we can continue to support these causes by using our platform as student-athletes to talk about them.”

CHARLIE BEHNER freshman; Vault/Floor/Bars

CAUSE: “Mental health awareness because as an athlete it is important to show support to the mental aspect of the sport. I can use my platform to advocate for the importance of mental health and how many people struggle but do not speak up.”

GOAL: “I will continue to show my support for mental health awareness by educating myself and speaking openly about the issue.”

AMANDA SCHEUERMAN, freshman; Beam/Bars

CAUSE: “Kidney Cancer Awareness in honor to support my dad and his battle. 

As a student athlete this would help promote unity amongst the team because my dad is the one that suffered from it and I can relate with other athletes on the team because their parents or siblings have dealt with similar battles, so it kind of brings unity amongst all of us because we each know how to deal with it emotionally and can talk to each other about it.”

GOAL: “My ultimate goal for this would be to bring awareness to everyone that kidney cancer has affected because it is very common amongst people even though many do not know much about it, but it does affect and disable many people since many people that deal with kidney cancer do lose their kidneys or part of their kidneys.”

ANNA HILL, sophomore; Vault/Floor

CAUSE: “Heart disease in honor of my grandfather.”

GOAL: “To be able to freely raise awareness on causes we care about and bring a sense of community that makes us closer as a team.” 

ANGELINA HOGAN, freshman; Bars/Beam/Floor

CAUSE: “My cause I chose for the meet was mental health awareness and I chose this because I have struggled with this for a long time, and it is a battle that I want to be recognized and for people to know that it is okay to not be okay. 

Being a Temple student athlete has allowed me to use my platform to advocate for mental health awareness because I can let people know that so many people go through mental health problems and there are safe spaces to talk about it.” 

GOAL: “My goal for this event is to spread awareness for those who especially silently struggle, and I will continue to support this cause by spreading awareness and to continue to learn more about mental health awareness.”

MADISON BROOKS, senior; Vault/Bars

CAUSE: “I chose osteosarcoma cancer because a friend is batting it currently and has been for a couple of years. 

We as student athletes have a great platform to speak on current events and stand for things that are greater than us. It lets others know that they are accepted, and people do care about the problems that they are facing. We can be seen as allies with different people and ultimately help with their battle and raise awareness for the cause.”

GOAL: “My ultimate goal is to let people know that they are loved and welcomed. We care about what they are going through, and we stand for something greater. I will continue to raise awareness for many causes and hope to unify people from all different walks of life.”

DANAE WILLIAMS, sophomore team manager.

CAUSE: “Black lives Matter and I choose this cause to stand for racial discrimination 

It is important to be able to use your voice to stand for what you believe in and to be supported from those all around you. Using your platform for these messages allow other to be more aware of the things happening around the world.” 

GOAL: “My goal was to just raise more awareness about my cause, and I will continue to support and stand with all the many different causes happening around me.” 

RENEE SCHUGMAN, junior; Vault/Beam/Floor

CAUSE: “I chose stomach cancer awareness to honor my grandfather who passed fighting it. As a student athlete I think it is really important for us to use our platform to spread awareness. Having a fan base, it is our responsibility to use that as a way to inform others of things we are passionate about.”

GOAL: “My ultimate goal is to continue raising awareness and empathizing with others whole have dealt with the impacts of stomach cancer.” 

LAURYN MORRIS, junior; All-Around/Floor

CAUSE: “I chose to highlight rheumatoid arthritis due to my mom and gram who both have it. I think that being a student athlete and having the ability come together as a team for everyone’s cause unifies us more.” 

GOAL: “My goal is to always stand by my mom for what she goes through every day.” 

SYDNEY SEIBERT, sophomore manager.

CAUSE: “Rheumatoid Arthritis- My mom and aunt both struggle with it, and I’d like to spread awareness. Being involved with athletics at Temple gives us an opportunity to be seen by a larger audience. We can take advantage of this and use our platform to spread awareness for causes of our choice. This event promotes a sense of unity within the team as we are all getting to learn about each other and our causes.”

GOAL: “My goal for this event is to show support for the people I love and bring attention to a not so well-known cause. I will continue to support this cause in the future by sharing posts about the auto-immune disease.” 

During the special “My Cause” meet. The Owls broke the program's vault record with a 49.250.

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

MY CAUSE MEET. PSD photo by Zamani Feelings

Freshman Charlie Behner and sophomore Anna Hill earned their first ever 9.900. Behner tied a freshman record set last year by Hannah Stallings.

Ashley Glynn and sophomore Mackenzie Aresta also earned career-highs. Glynn set a new benchmark high score of 9.875.  Aresta tied her career with a 9.825.

Congratulations to the Temple University Women's Gymnastics team on a great season and for being a positive force for all women athletes.