February 9, 2007

Gymnastics Faces New York Rivals in Big Red Invite

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On the eve of Valentine’s Day last year, the Cornell gymnastics team challenged school records, posted career highs on the scoreboard and won 2-of-4 events on its way to the team’s best finish of the season. The Red hopes to repeat some of its superb individual performances of 2006 and win the Big Red Invitational for the first time in five years this weekend.

Cornell will play host to Ithaca, SUNY Brockport, Bridgeport and ECAC rival Towson University in the 12th annual Big Red Invitational. Towson returns to East Hill as four-time defending champion of the event and the current No. 1 ranking in the ECAC.
[img_assist|nid=21261|title=Faster than you.|desc=Racing her own reflection, Brittany Howse sprints towards the vault during the women’s gymnastics team’s 187-184 win over Cortland St. in its first home meet of the season last Saturday.|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=70]
“Towson will certainly be the team to beat this weekend,” said Coach Paul Beckwith. “They have been averaging around 191, but I believe we can score in that range. It will take a huge performance from everyone.”

The Red will not only look to dethrone the Tigers, but also claim the unofficial New York State championship in collegiate gymnastics. After downing Cortland last week, Ithaca, Brockport and Bridgeport are the only teams standing in the Red’s way of claiming the state crown.

“This is the first year in a while since we’ve seen all the teams in the state,” Beckwith said.

Senior captain Kari Kucera is coming off a dominant effort against Cortland, where she won the floor exercises and took second in the beam exercise.

“I’m looking for Kari to step up in the bars competition, where we have been plagued by injury all season long,” Beckwith said. “Most of all, we need a solid team performance so we can score within our goal.”

Sophomore Jennifer Yee and freshman Molly Parker — top finishers in last weekend’s bars competition — are among those who hope to ride their momentum into tomorrow.

The nine freshmen in the lineup add an element of depth that has bailed the team out a few times this year. Once again, the Red’s depth will be put to the test, as many of the gymnasts are currently battling injury and sickness.

“The flu virus hit the team earlier this week and took the energy out of many of the girls,” Beckwith said.

As opposed to the usual two-event showcase of most gymnastics meets, this weekend’s competition will run four events simultaneously. This intensified atmosphere might be a reason for the Red’s past performances in its invitational.

“It’s hard to maintain peak performance for the entire 11-week season,” Beckwith said.