November 19, 2003

Tumblers' Depth Provides Balance

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After a record-setting performance at last year’s ECAC championship meet and entry into its second consecutive USAG Collegiate National Championship, the gymnastics team looks to keep the momentum rolling as it prepares for the 2004 season.

Though the team lost three gymnasts from last year’s squad, the seven freshmen joining the squad will help provide the depth that the Red has lacked over the past few years.

“We have the best recruiting class that we have ever had,” said head coach Paul Beckwith. “Competition within the team for spots is great.”

Randi Bisbano, an all-arounder, leads the newcomers this year after finishing seventh on beam in the USAG Level 10 National Championship last year. She will be joined by Hayley Gutman and Lindsay Puhl, who were both alternates in the championship. Since the championship takes the top six gymnasts from each region, it is impressive for Cornell to have three participants from the event.

“Randi Bisbano is our top freshman all-arounder,” said Beckwith. “She’s the highest-placed person to ever come to Cornell from that meet.”

In addition to the seven talented freshmen, the Red will be returning 11 of its athletes from its record-setting 2003 squad. Leading the way are senior co-captain Stefi Daehler and junior co-captain Andrea Mavro. Daehler anchors the floor lineup and will look to beat her personal best score of 9.875, while Mavro provides consistency on bars and vault.

Another member of last year’s bars lineup, which was one of the best in Cornell’s history, is junior Meghan Miller. She won her second ECAC title in the event, just one of many achievements the team accomplished last year.

“The highlight of the year was our bars team, who broke the school record three times,” said Beckwith. “We didn’t lose anyone.”

“Meghan Miller is in Copenhagen this semester,” Beckwith continued. “We’re not expecting her to have progressed a lot. But if she hasn’t lost anything, she will still be the leader for us on bars.”

Junior Shellen Goltz earned All-America honors last season after posting a 9.600 in the finals of the beam competition to finish in a fifth place tie at the USAG Nationals. Classmate Larissa Calka returns as an all-around force. She is among the Red’s top-five all-time performers in every event, with a career high of 37.9 in all-around.

Sophomore Cathy Schnell looks to capitalize on a tremendous freshman year in which she was the Ivy League bars champion and ECAC Rookie of the Year.

Calka has also been working hard to improve her routines.

“I’ve been upgrading a lot of my floor tumbling passes,” said Calka. “Our freshmen coming in are so good that we have to one up our own level.”

While the Red set a school record of 192.600 to finish fifth at ECACs, much of its season had been marred by injuries and less-than-stellar performances.

“We had a rocky start,” said Calka, “but I thought we really finished it off well.”

Four major injuries provided the setback for a team that failed to score above a 190.000 in any meet before ECACs. Goltz was sidelined from every apparatus except uneven bars after injuring her foot before the first meet of last season. Goltz returned near season’s end in time for a run to the USAG Nationals. Junior Andrea Sharkness is recovering from shoulder surgery and hopes to be back starting on floor and vault. Senior Katie Nicklas will not be competing in her final year after breaking her foot on beam last year. Added to this list of injuries is junior Allison Betof, a starter in each event last year, who is coming off of a recent ankle surgery.

Even with so many injuries and two gymnasts studying abroad the Red’s recovery progress is well underway.

“The team has been working so hard this fall,” said Betof. “We are going to be so ready, more ready than we have ever been. Everyone is really looking good already, and we don’t start the season until January.”

The Red has trouble hiding its excitement. With the Ivy League championship to be held at Cornell this year, and the USAG Nationals coming in 2005, everyone is looking forward to putting the new team chemistry to the test when the Red starts its season at the George Washington Invitational on Jan. 18.

“I’m just really excited about this season,” said Goltz. “I think it’s going to be one of the best that we’ve ever had. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Archived article by Dan Carroll