Gymnastics Set to Open 2006 Campaign
Jan. 12, 2006
While the George Washington gymnastics team faced many challenges last season, such as making the transition to the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) and featuring a relatively young lineup in every event, the main focus of the squad in 2006 is to challenge each other throughout the season to reach new heights. In head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham's 20th season at the helm of the gymnastics program, GW made its debut in the EAGL and went on to finish the year with 17 overall victories, a fifth place showing at the conference championships and qualify three gymnasts for the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships. With a year under its belt in the competitive EAGL conference and a staff bolstered by the addition of volunteer assistant coach Justin Watson, GW returns 11 letterwinners, including all three gymnasts whom competed at the NCAA Regional meet and two-of-three All-EAGL performers from a year ago. Armed with a lineup that features an abundance of talent and experience combined with the addition of a spirited freshmen class, the Colonials know they have what it takes to realize their goal of qualifying for the NCAA Southeast Region-als as an entire group.
At the top of the leadership group for the Colonials last year were two seniors who undoubtedly had a significant impact on the team's success. In 2006, that number is doubled to four experienced, multi-talented seniors. At the head of the pack is senior co-captain Erin Aiken. Aiken earned second-team All-EAGL honors last season on vault, floor and in the all-around. She also competed in the all-around in all 13 meets and will once again lead the Colonials' contingent. Aiken, who set a new career-best on floor with a 9.825 last season, is fresh off a junior campaign in which she was just one of three Colonials to compete individually at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships, marking her second straight appearance. Serving as the squad's other co-captain will be senior Tiffany Jones. Jones had a solid junior season for GW in which she competed in every meet on bars and beam, posting season-high marks of 9.8 on each apparatus. For her efforts, she earned second-team All-EAGL honors on bars, and Jones also performed in three meets a year ago on vault. Her increased work over the summer will likely earn her a full-time spot in the lineup for 2006.
Senior Amy Stack is on target to close out her collegiate career with possibly her best season. She was one of the Colonials' most consistent performers on vault and bars having competed in every meet as a junior, and was also an important part of the floor lineup. Stack, who made her first appearance at the NCAA Regionals last year on vault, worked hard over the summer to put the finishing touches on her routines and will continue to impact the squad on vault and bars, while also contributing on floor. Rounding out the senior class is Heather Kaufman. Kaufman performed on beam and floor in all 13 meets for GW last year and made her first appearance at the regional championships as well, where she placed 19th overall in the all-around. Even though she competed in the all-around in seven meets for the Colonials last season, Kaufman will focus this year on three events: vault, bars and floor.
The junior class is highlighted by a pair of gymnasts, Jess Guilbert and Maggie Parrack, who will shoulder three-events, and an outstanding specialist on vault, Emily Howarth. Guilbert, who looks poised for a breakout campaign, will compete on vault, beam and floor and has upgraded her routines on vault and beam to help elevate the level of difficulty. Last year, she was a consistent force in all three events having competed in every meet. Parrack looks to remain healthy all year after an ankle injury sidelined her most of her sophomore season. Her biggest contribution to the team will likely come on bars, owning a personal best of 9.85 set as a freshman. Parrack has looked strong and consistent since the close of last season, having competed in GW's final six meets on bars, including the EAGL Championships. She will also be featured in the lineup on vault and floor. Howarth, meanwhile, will continue to be one of the Colonials' strongest representatives on vault after a sophomore season in which she performed in all 13 meets in the event. She has also made strides on beam and will look to be a part of the lineup full time.
Carolyn Marckesano, McKenzie Parrack and Abbey Myles headline the Colonials' sophomore class. Marckesano was in the vault lineup from the outset last season and posted a season-high of 9.725. She also made great strides in the floor exercise as the season progressed and cracked the lineup for the final five meets, including the EAGL Championships. She performed well posting a season-best 9.775 in her first meet and only scored below a 9.65 once during that stretch. This year, Marckesano will provide a spark in three events, as she will also be in the lineup on beam. McKenzie Parrack and Myles, meanwhile, did not perform in a meet for GW last season, but both will be expected to produce this season. Following a year of conditioning, Parrack, like her older sister, is expected to make an impact on bars and also contribute on floor, while Myles adds talented depth to the lineup on both bars and beam. The Colonials did suffer one significant loss in the pre-season when sophomore Gillian Coleman -- one of GW's most consistent performers as a freshman and an EAGL co-Rookie of the Week award winner -- went down and was lost for the year due to a knee injury.
Like the old saying goes, `You're only as strong as your last competitor.' Foster-Cunningham feels like the Colonials are in a pretty good place with the addition of four gifted freshmen, each expected to elevate the lineup in their own unique way. Bree Plotsker will be one of three Colonials and one of two freshmen to compete in the all-around. She is best described as an intense competitor, quick, very aggressive and all business when it comes time to perform. She will boost the depth of the squad and the level of difficulty she boasts in her routines. Kristen Simpson is expected to be in the lineup in three events for GW: vault, balance beam and floor exercise. She is blessed with great power and is a very strong tumbler on floor excercises. The level of difficulty she brings to the table on vault is expected to boost the entire lineup in the event. Erin Quigg is also expected to compete in the all-around and her best events include vault and floor exercise. As a gymnast who Foster-Cunningham feels possesses the perfect balance of strength and beauty, her positive impact will be felt in several events. Closing out the group is Cammie Jones, the younger sister of senior co-captain Tiffany Jones. Cammie Jones will be looked upon to make the biggest contribution in her debut season on bars. She has an aura about her routine on bars which suggests she is in perfect control, highlighted by very fluid and smooth swings where nothing seems too difficult.
Employing the same philosophy as last season, the Colonials' 2006 schedule is set up to impose new challenges from one competition to the next. The Colonials will open the season on Jan. 12 hosting their annual GW Invitational at Charles E. Smith Athletic Center, then hit the road before facing NCAA Regional participant Kent State at Smith Center on Feb. 12. Kent State is just one of seven schools GW will face this season who qualified for their respective NCAA Regional Championships. Having the Colonials take on the likes of EAGL members North Carolina, NC State and New Hampshire, along with perennial regional championship participants Iowa, Denver and Central Michigan, GW's schedule is without a doubt one of the toughest it has ever faced. But with the clear-cut goal of qualifying as a team for the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships, the rigors of a challenging schedule will get the Colonials ready to make a run at the EAGL title and a spot at the regional championships.