January 19, 2007

Gymnasts Open Season at Invite

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This Sunday the gymnastics team, which returned to Cornell for practice on Jan. 9, will kick off its 2007 campaign at the George Washington Invitational in Washington, D.C.

Although this meet will serve as a warm up for Cornell, it will be a useful opportunity for the freshman class to become familiar with collegiate competition. Since the meet occurs before the official start of this semester’s classes, the entire team will be allowed to travel to Washington, D.C.

Throughout the semester, the Ivy League imposes a travel limit of 16 people, a rule that tends to restrict the number of freshmen who get to compete. This experience is important for the freshmen because of how different collegiate gymnastics can be from high school competition, where individual performances seem to outweigh that of the team.

“In college you are an individual, but it is a team effort,” said assistant coach Melanie Dilliplane. “Your teammates are pulling for you and it is more exciting. Once the freshmen catch that bug they learn to be a part of the team quickly.”

The invitational this weekend will also show both the gymnasts and the coaches what needs to be done to achieve their ambitious goals. After winning the Ivy League championships and placing third in the ECAC last season, the team’s success last year has only fueled its determination to perform even better this season.

In addition to defending an Ivy League title, the team aims to conquer teams like Rhode Island and Towson as well as take first place at the collegiate national championships in February.

“This year we have a shot at beating everyone. Our team has really taken the step up to that next level,” Dilliplane said.

Sunday’s line up includes All-Americans such as senior captain Kari Kucera, juniors Colleen Davis, Megan Gilbert, and Leslie Gregory, and sophomore Sari Tepper. Each of these athletes will be focusing on the their performances as well as acting as leaders and role models to their younger, inexperienced teammates.

Unfortunately, senior Randi Bisbano will be absent from the lineup for the rest of the season. Bisbano, one of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of the Cornell gymnastics program, ruptured her Achilles tendon in practice over winter break and will not be able to compete at all in her senior year. The loss of Bisbano as a competitor is a difficult blow to a team who will be missing a talented gymnast and experienced leader.

Despite this disappointing setback, the team is approaching Sunday’s meet and the upcoming season with a winning attitude.

“What makes this weekend and this season so exciting is that there is always the possibility of winning,” Dilliplane said.