2004 Gymnastics Season Outlook
Dec. 12, 2003
As head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham enters her 19th season at the helm of The George Washington University's gymnastics team, she finds herself with what may be the deepest group she's ever had. The 2004 edition returns all but one gymnast from 2003 and includes every all-arounder that performed last season. During last year's campaign, the Colonials got off to what they considered a slow start. To remedy that, the gymnasts have started to work on their routines much earlier this year in order to be in peak condition when the season begins on January 18th. Coach Foster-Cunnigham feels that by preparing for competition earlier, the team will put itself in a position to have other teams in the southeast region chasing them for a spot in the NCAA Regionals.
Senior and co-captain Rachel Mann plans to improve on her superb junior season. She didn't miss a rotation for the Colonials last season on the way to qualifying for the NCAA Southeast Regional. Amongst her many accomplishments, Mann tied the school record on the floor exercise with a 9.950 against Maryland. If she can continue to produce routines like that one, she will put the Colonials in a great position to score high, while taking some of the pressure off of her teammates.
Mann will look for help from fellow captain and always solid performer, Lindsay Parks. She will compete in three events this season, balance beam, floor exercise and vault. Parks' consistency allows coach Foster-Cunningham to focus on some of the team's other needs because she knows Parks will be ready when called upon.
The other two seniors on the 2004 squad, Lauren Bernstein and Theresa Miele, also bring a lot to the table. Bernstein is looking to build off of a stellar 2003 season by competing on balance beam, where she is one of the best on the team, floor exercise and vault. Last season, Bernstein tied for fifth all-time with a 9.850 on the floor exercise versus William & Mary and Foster-Cunningham thinks she can do even better than that this year. Miele continues to bring hard work and determination to the team. Her example plays a key role in transitioning her younger teammates into college gymnastics.
The two juniors on the team, Stef Tocco and Meagan Wilson, have a chance to take this team from good to great. Tocco is finally healthy after an achilles injury that plagued her all last season and will perform on uneven bars and vault. Despite her injury, she did produce a 9.850 on the uneven bars against William & Mary and coach Foster-Cunningham expects more of that now that she is healthy. Wilson is focussed on having a monster season for the Colonials. She is going to be an all-around performer and coach Foster-Cunningham expects her to be a real leader. She showed glimpses of her ability last season including a 9.875 on the balance beam that ranked fifth in school history, but she will be expected to do even more now that she will be moving from two events to four.
The sophomore class did an excellent job for coach Foster-Cunningham, but now that they have one year of seasoning, she expects even more out of Erin Aiken, Imogen Dall, Tiffany Jones, Heather Kaufman and Amy Stack. Aiken battled mononucleosis last season and never got in a position to fully help the team. Now that she is healthy, she will contribute as an all-arounder and should be a major factor in the success of the team. Dall, who joined the team midway through last season from Australia, brings a unique style to the team. She is described as being very graceful and should help the Colonials on balance beam, floor exercise and vault. Jones returns after a solid first campaign to perform on balance beam and uneven bars. She led the Colonials on bars five times last season and if she continues to progress, could be the best performer on the apparatus at each event. Kaufman was the only other person besides Mann to perform on every event for the Colonials. Her consistency was a great asset to the 2003 team and should continue on through 2004. She tied the school record of 9.900 on vault on her way to winning the Atlantic 10 Championship last season. Stack performed on every event last season except balance beam, which she will add this season. Besides the beam, she also added more difficulty to her routines, which should make for higher scores and more exciting routines.
The freshmen make up the second straight outstanding recruiting class for coach Foster-Cunningham and should raise the bar by challenging the returnees on every apparatus. Jess Guilbert brings a lot of energy to the team. Her combination of artistic and athletic ability could make her one of the best on the team on beam. She will also contribute on floor exercise and vault. Emily Howarth brings pure power to the vault, which could bring some pop to the vault lineup, one of the areas where the 2003 team was lacking. She could also push for a spot in the floor lineup. Maggie Parrack will come in as an all-arounder and her strong competitive nature should make her successful during her first season. Coach Foster-Cunningham describes her as fluid and graceful, which the judges should appreciate when it comes time to score routines.
With six possible all-arounders and eight others preparing for competition, coach Foster-Cunningham will have a lot of flexibility in her lineups. Thus, she can go with the gymnasts who are performing well at that time, which should result in high scores from the start of the season until they reach their goal of being one of the two teams to advance from the NCAA Regionals to the NCAA Championships.