April 8, 2004

Gymnasts Compete at USAG Nationals

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At the end of one of its best seasons ever, the gymnastics team is ready to get down to business.

The 2004 USAG Collegiate National Championship starts today in Denton, Texas, with the Red looking to use the momentum it gathered after its best ever finish in the ECAC Championship three weeks ago. While Cornell is ranked sixth going into the meet, the competition will be much closer than normal this year.

“It’s tighter than ever before,” said head coach Paul Beckwith. “This is the first time we’ve ever been where there weren’t two or three teams who would obviously be in finals. I think any team at the meet has a chance at making team finals.”

Making team finals — a feat it has yet to accomplish — is the Red’s main goal this year. Looking at the numbers, it is a very possible achievement. The top seed, Centenary College, enters the meet with an average score around 193. The Red is averaging 191.900, but set a school record a month ago with a 193.475 at the Ivy Classic.

“Temple, right below us, has a 191.7 [average],” Beckwith said. “Looking at the higher scores, Centenary had a 195. But the scores vary a little bit around the country, and Southern scores are typically a little higher.”

The rest of the competition presents a unique challenge for the Red. Rounding out the eight-team field are Air Force, University of California-Davis, Southern Connecticut, Seattle-Pacific, and the host team, Texas Women’s University. Besides Temple, Cornell has yet to see any of its competition. But knowing Temple may be enough for the Red to gauge its chances.

“We know we’re just dead even with them,” Beckwith said. “Temple made it to the finals last year. Anything is possible.”

The championship begins today with the team preliminary competition. From that, the top four teams will move on to team finals tomorrow. Also, the top eight individuals in each event today will earn All-America honors and advance to the event finals on Saturday.

Last year, the Red had only one gymnast — junior Shellen Goltz — compete for an individual medal. She very well may repeat that performance on beam, but she will be unable to perform the new bars routine that would have placed her among the top gymnasts in the country due to an injury.

“Her injury keeps her from doing an alternate routine that will break her into the lineup,” Beckwith said. “She’ll be ready for next year.”

Along with Goltz, the Red have several other chances to place people in the top eight. Senior Rachel Goldberg has done so before and remains one of the team’s top threats in the vault. Freshman Randi Bisbano will look to cap off her first campaign by putting in a strong performance in the floor exercise. She is the current school record holder on floor with a 9.925.

The key to the Red’s success, however, lies in its bars team. Junior Meghan Miller is the undeniable anchor. She has been the most consistent performer among all of the events this year, and she is coming off her third straight ECAC uneven bars title. After finishing ninth last year in the event, Miller will be eager to add to her ever-growing trophy case.

“The past two years, I’ve peaked at ECAC’s and then gone downhill and been burnt out at nationals,” Miller said. “I really want to keep it up this year. That’s my goal.”

Perhaps she can propel the Red to victory in the process.

Archived article by Dan Carroll
Sun Staff Writer