Drive, dedication, make gymnastics’ seniors careers memorable

Though possible championship appearance cancelled, seniors still proud

Kyle Morrison, Staff Reporter

A woman holds on to a bar and swings while upside down
Sienna Brane, a senior physiology student, competes on the uneven bars in her final home meet. (Marissa Lordahl)

Seattle Pacific University gymnasts Sienna Brane, Darian Burns, Miyuki Matsune, Lena Wirth and team manager Zahra Lawal, had their 2020 season tragically cut short by COVID-19.

These seniors were a key part of a team that was attempting to send SPU to their first nationals appearance since 2016. 

Sierra Brane is a 5’4” senior from Snohomish, Washington, and specializes in the bars, beam and floor events. Brane’s best year came in 2018, when she averaged a score of 9.64 on bars, tying her for the third best score on the team. Brane was awarded academic honors this year, as she was placed on the Mountain Pacific Sport Federation All Academic team.

Darian Burns is a 5’3” senior from Decatur, Georgia, and competes in every event, specializing in the all-around competition. Burns is leaving SPU as one of the most decorated athletes in SPU history. 

She is the owner of two national championships, one in 2017 for the floor competition and one in 2019 for the all-around competition. After the gymnastics season was canceled, Burns was announced as a first team all-American in the vault, uneven bars, floor exercise and in the coveted all around competition. Burns was also named the Division II gymnast of the year, an award she takes great pride in.

“Being named the Division II gymnast of the year, that was probably the best, greatest accomplishment ever,” Burns said over zoom. “Especially considering how the season ended for us, that was a nice way to close out what was a good career of mine.”

a gymnast stands with her arms in the air
Senior Miyuki Matsune regains her balance after landing a backflip on the beam. (Jacky Chen)

Miyuki Matsune is a 5’4” senior from West Covina, California, and competes in the bars, beam and floor competitions. Matsune finished strong as she was on pace to have the best year of her career this year. Matsune had the 12th best score on the balance beam in the USA gymnastics division, a mark that earned her second team honors on the USAG balance beam all american team. Matsune achieved this honor in 2017 as well, and both years were testaments to toughness and will for greatness. 

“Both those years I got All-American on beam I had an injured hand,” Matsune said over zoom. “My sophomore year, I got All-American on beam, I had actually fractured my left hand, so I was competing only beam with one hand.” 

Lena Wirth is a 5’1” senior from Roseville, California, who specializes in the vault and the balance beam. Wirth’s best year on the balance beam came in 2018, when she finished 39th in the USGA overall with a score of 9.645. In the balance beam, Wirth was on pace for her best year this year as she was 17th in the USGA with an average score of 9.73. 

Zahra Lawal is a former SPU gymnast who suffered a career ending injury which cost her a senior season. Lawal was, instead, given the role of team manager this year so she could finish her college career with her teammates. 

Lawal’s best year as an SPU gymnast came in 2018, when she had the 56th best vault score in the USAG with a score of 9.52.