April 11, 2012

GYMNASTICS | Veteran Squad Heads to Nationals

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Twelve members of Cornell’s gymnastics team will travel to Bridgeport, Connecticut this weekend to compete individually in the USAG Women’s Collegiate National Championships.

The event is designated for members of the top eight teams in the country that award seven or fewer scholarships to competing athletes. This year, Penn is the only other Ivy school to send athletes.

Historically Cornell has been very successful at the national level, winning the competition for the first time in 2009. However this year is the first time since 2000 that Cornell has not made it to the competition as a team.

Yet the Red is still confident in its ability to perform this weekend. Of the 12 athletes competing, a majority of the team has had previous experience competing at the national level.

“Having so many people go is exciting for us,” said junior captain Ashley Maher. “There are some new faces … but 10 of us are all upperclassmen, we’ve all been before.”

Sammy VanderPutten and Maia Vernacchia are the two freshmen competitors for Cornell. VanderPutten will participate on vault and floor, and Vernacchia on beam.

While maintaining a team atmosphere during training, the gymnasts will also have the  opportunity to hone their individual skills at the meet.

“Now it’s more of an individual sport,” said junior captain Sarah Hein. “You really have to show your hardest skills … it’s a different mindset because it’s about individual performance. Because most of us are only doing one or two events, we really have to go out there and give it our all.”

It is expected that the talent on the team will carry some of the athletes through to the final round of competition, according to Hein.

“There are a couple of us who have potential to make finals,” she said. “Any given person that qualified has the opportunity to make it.”

April 12 is the date of the preliminary rounds, after which the top five in each event will compete on April 14.

Cornell has two defending champions that will be competing this weekend: senior Melanie Standridge on beam, and sophomore Melanie Jorgensen on bars. Maher will also be competing on bars, and Hein will compete on vault.

“We’ve had a full week of practice [since the last competition],” Hein said. “It’s been time to really focus on the little details. It’s all about perfection … focusing on that one routine and perfecting every little detail.”

According to Maher, the team is coming off of some strong showings late in the season.

“The two best meets of the season were our last two,” she said. “The energy is really high and everyone is excited. Training has been great, and we’re really able to fine tune things.”

Original Author: Rebecca Velez

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