Following a series of out-of-town jaunts to face top national competition, the gymnastics team returned home last Sunday for the Big Red Invitational in Ithaca. The Red’s season-high team score of 186.85 was enough for second place at the five-team meet and poised the gymnasts for the arrival of a talented West Virginia squad this Sunday. After a somewhat rocky start to the season, the Red is looking to build some momentum against the Mountaineers, especially with the Ivy League Classic approaching next weekend.
“I think the season started a little rough,” said two-time All American sophomore Randi Bisbano. “But everyone is getting their scores up and working as a team.”
Cornell (1-1) will look to Bisbano and senior Larissa Calka to turn in another strong performance against the Mountaineers. At the Big Red Invitational, Bisbano, Calka and sophomore Kari Kucera led the floor team to a 48.3 score, another season high.
The young vaulting squad also hopes to build on last weekend’s success, having posted three individual scores of 9.4 or higher. Freshmen Megan Gilbert and Colleen Davis each recorded 9.5 scores, while fellow rookie Madison Kucker contributed with a mark of 9.4.
“Last year, vaulting was by far our weakest event,” said head coach Paul Beckwith. “This year, the freshmen have made a huge difference. Each meet we can expect to have three or four gymnasts hitting in the 9.3 to 9.5 range.”
The impact of the freshmen provides the Red with a renewed consistency in every event.
“[The freshman] are doing really well getting used to the collegiate atmosphere,” said Bisbano.
West Virginia (3-3) boasts a balanced all-around squad and returns 11 letter-winners from last season’s 20-6-1 team. Senior Kari Williams, the anchor of the Mountaineer’s No. 15 vault team, posted a 9.975 score on the vault in her last meet. The Mountaineers are coming off a victory over Ball State and a close loss to Penn State last weekend.
“This is one of the biggest teams we have seen in the last few years,” Beckwith said. “We are going to show them that we are going to be really competitive and make them want to come back.”
Despite the squad’s even record, West Virginia is averaging a team score of 193.37 this season. Cornell’s average team score thus far is 185.54, but the number may be somewhat misleading. The Red has been plagued this season by a rampant lowering of scores throughout the Northeast region, an effort by gymnastics judges to curtail recent scoring inflation.
“The judges are judging a whole lot tougher in this part of the country,” Beckwith said. “Our scores do not really reflect how well we have been doing.”
The Red will also face a daunting challenge on the bars from Mountaineer senior Jessica Bartgis, who has won four straight events. Against Ball State, Bartgis scored a 9.825 on the even bars. Sophomore Cheryl Goldenfield solidifies the West Virginia beams squad, having notched a 9.8 mark during her last competition.
The Red will be in action again on Feb. 26 at the Ivy Classic in New Haven, Conn.
“It would be really nice to do well this weekend going into Ivy’s next weekend,” Bisbano said.
Last season, Cornell finished in fourth place at the Ivy Classic despite setting three team records and three individual records. Bisbano won her first Ivy Classic title at the meet.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor