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Gymnastics Player of the Year: Erica Hufnagel of Hampshire Regional

Erica Hufnagel of Hampshire Regional has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Gymnastics Player of the Year.

Erica Hufnagel of Hampshire Regional has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Gymnastics Player of the Year. Purchase photo reprints »

Hampshire Regional gymnast Erica Hufnagel may only be a sophomore, but you wouldn’t guess it by the way she handled herself and the leadership responsibilities placed on her shoulders by her coach and teammates.

You might also not guess at her relative inexperience in the sport after how consistently well the Raiders’ best gymnast performed this season, culminating with a score of 8.70 and a first-place tie on the balance beam at the Western Massachusetts championships in November.

Hufnagel’s exceptional production this season has led her to be named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Player of the Year.

“It’s an honor, and I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I’m pretty proud of how I’ve done this past season.”

Hufnagel, who competed on the beam and floor exercise exclusively throughout the season, took home two other first-place floor finishes in 2012, as well as a pair of second-place finishes on floor and a third- and second-place finish on beam.

“I started gymnastics when I was 13, and I’ve just been practicing beam and floor since then,” Hufnagel said. “Those have always been my strongest points.

“My goal was to beat my past scores in floor and beam and to just, overall, improve my routines and do well in all my meets.”

Hufnagel also excelled as a leader away from the bright lights of the gymnasium mat. Hampshire gymnastics coach Chelsea O’Hara described Hufnagel as someone the entire team looked up to and didn’t hesitate before the season to name the underclassman a co-captain.

“She’s very hard working, and she’s always there for the team,” O’Hara said. “She’s a well-rounded student and athlete. Other girls go to talk to her when they need something, and she helps me a lot with things, too.”

Hufnagel didn’t shy away from her role as a team leader.

“I really enjoy helping out my teammates and helping them learn new skills and improve their routines,” she said.

Though she hasn’t competed in competitive gymnastics for as long as many of her teammates and competitors, Hufnagel began to lay the foundation of her success early in life as a dancer.

“I’ve been dancing since I was really young,” she said. “So, that helps out a lot on floor.”

O’Hara agreed that Hufnagel’s background provided her with unique insight when it came to gymnastics.

“Because she’s a dancer, too, she actually does a lot of choreography for the girls,” O’Hara said. “If anyone is stuck on their routines, she helps them out with that, too.”

Hufnagel has two more years of eligibility left to further refine her craft. O’Hara would like to see her star pupil grow on the balance beam, and Hufnagel, too, is looking forward to diversifying her routines in the future.

“I really want to work on bars and vaults so that by senior year I can compete as an all-around,” she said. “I’d like to place on floor (at WMass), too, and eventually place as an all-around gymnast.”

FIRST TEAM

Samantha Dame, sophomore, Gateway Regional

Madison Graham, senior, Gateway Regional

Aleesha Grochowski, sophomore, Gateway Regional

Sarah Holt, Hampshire Regional

Nick Hoskin, Hampshire Regional

Erica Hufnagel, sophomore, Hampshire Regional

Ellerie Winser, freshman, Hampshire Regional

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