2005 Season Outlook
Jan. 7, 2005
A new era begins for George Washington in head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham's 20th year directing the program as the Colonials begin their first season as the newest member of the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) in 2005. Following 17 successful seasons as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, in which GW did not finish any lower than second at the conference championship for 11 straight years, including five consecutive titles from 1998-2002, the Colonials have finally found a home after two years of competing as an independent. Ten letterwinners return for GW from last year's squad, which posted 16 victories; it's most since back-to-back 22-win seasons in 2001 and 2002. But the ultimate goal is clear for the Colonials in 2005, after narrowly missing out on qualifying as a team for the NCAA Southeast Regional the past two seasons. Although a challenging schedule awaits, as five of the eight schools in the EAGL qualified for their respective NCAA Regional championships one year ago, the Colonials boast enough talent from top to bottom to make a return trip to Regionals for the first time in three years.
Strong leadership and experience is evident at the top for GW with the return of senior co-captains Stefanie Tocco and Meagan Wilson. As the only two seniors on the squad, Foster-Cunningham will look to each to not only lead by example in competition, but outside the gym as well. Wilson capped a very consistent season last year by representing the Colonials on the balance beam at the NCAA Southeast Regional, where she finished tied for 18th. She showed flashes of brilliance last year on beam, as evidenced by her personal-best 9.900 showing at Towson. Wilson's unique style and personal flair in her routines solidifies her place as one of top gymnasts on beam in the region.
While Wilson carries the torch for the Colonials on beam, Tocco will be looked upon to provide scoring prowess on uneven bars. Finally enjoying a full season injury-free last year, she equaled her career-best on bars with a 9.850 on separate occasions at NC State, and against Temple and Rhode Island in the regular-season finale. Tocco performed in all 11 meets as a junior and her impact as a strong, positive role model on the team will propel GW's ascension to the top all season long.
Leading the way for the junior class will be Erin Aiken, who along with Wilson, also qualified individually for the NCAA Southeast Regional last year. Aiken had a breakout sophomore campaign in which she broke classmate Heather Kaufman's school record on vault with a score of 9.950 at the Nation's Capital Cup at the Colonials' Smith Center, and established personal-bests on bars, balance beam, and floor exercise, while also posting a season-high 38.650 all-around mark. Foster-Cunningham feels Aiken is poised for an even brighter season in 2005 and her hard work and dedication over the summer have put her in a position to do so. Kaufman was one of just two all-around performers for GW last year and will once again fill that role this season. The Austin, Texas, native and assistant co-captain adds strength at every event for the Colonials and is one of the squads most reliable performers. Tiffany Jones will serve as GW's other assistant captain and earned her title by not only being an outstanding competitor, but also the team's strongest vocal leader. Uneven bars and balance beam are Jones' brightest events, while her mental toughness is a steadying influence on the entire squad. Amy Stack returns with increased expectations on vault, after recording a personal-best 9.875 last season against Temple and Rhode Island to rank as the eighth-best performer in school history. In addition to being a leader among the vault squad, Stack will also strengthen the Colonials' uneven bars and floor exercise events. As one of the team's most dazzling performers, Imogen Dall beams with artistic ability. She will likely contribute in two events this year, primarily focusing on vault and the floor exercise.
The Colonials sophomore class of Jess Guilbert, Emily Howarth and Maggie Parrack made tremendous strides each week last year as freshmen, and will once again prove instrumental to GW's success this season. Guilbert, who returns polished after a summer filled with hard work, is a dynamic performer who has shown the special ability to captivate her audience on any given performance. She has improved her skills in nearly every facet and her presence will be felt in three events: vault, balance beam and floor exercise. Guilbert's best performance came on beam last season at William & Mary where she scored a 9.875 to rank as the Colonials' 12th-best performance all-time. Parrack, meanwhile, performed in all 11 meets a year ago and enters her sophomore campaign as one of GW's most seasoned competitors. She will focus on vault and bars, while floor exercise should be her top event as evidenced by her 9.875 against Air Force last year, which ranks among the top 15 best performances all-time. An extremely powerful and quick performer, Howarth will be looked upon as one of the leaders on the Colonials' vault squad, as well as contributing on beam. She recorded a season-high 9.825 on vault against Temple and Rhode Island in the season finale to help GW score 49.050 as a team and equal its all-time best mark.
Even though GW lost a great amount of talent from its graduating seniors, Foster-Cunningham is ecstatic about what this year's freshmen class brings to the table. Gillian Coleman, Carolyn Marckesano, Abbey Myles and McKenzie Parrack represent outstanding talent and potential in every category, with each adding their own unique flair. Coleman is expected to work all-around and could have a significant impact on both beam and floor exercise events in her first collegiate season. She was named Boston Globe Gymnast of the Year twice during her prep career, while her attributes as a performer include terrific style and grace, as well as phenomenal dancing abilities. Marckesano, described as a powerhouse brimming with potential, will display her strongest qualities on vault. She is a strong competitor and her bright outlook should prove to be contagious. McKenzie Parrack is the younger sister of teammate Maggie, but her calm and mature demeanor should prove a vital asset in her debut campaign on the collegiate scene. McKenzie's stellar focus has caught the attention of Foster-Cunningham, which she feels will land her an immediate spot in the lineup on beam, bars and floor exercise. Myles has rekindled her passion for the sport after spending last year with the GW cheerleading squad. She possesses excellent technique with superior difficulty and will likely make her biggest contribution on bars.
The Colonials face one of their most challenging schedules in school history in 2005, but that was the intention from the outset as the goal is to raise team standards from one week to the next as the season progresses. With the increased level of competition, Foster-Cunningham expects the team to be prepared for the kind of intensity it will see at the highly competitive EAGL Championship, hosted by NC State on March 25 in Raleigh. GW exhibits the cohesiveness as a group to make a splash in its first year in the EAGL and if the squad can continue to work together, the Colonials will realize their goal of returning to Regionals with everyone making a significant contribution.