February 23, 2007

Gymnastics Squad Set for Ivy Classic

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Throughout the season, gymnastics coach Paul Beckwith has been focused on improving and being in position to win a league title. Cornell has had Sunday’s Ivy championship circled on the calendar since it won the silver-plated trophy last February.

The event’s name is actually the Ivy Classic because only four of the eight Ivy schools have a gymnastics program. Among those four schools, Penn — this year’s host — has been Cornell’s closest competitor in past tournaments. The Red squeezed by the Quakers at last year’s Classic by just .2 points for the win. Total scores from both squads this season have been remarkably similar, as both have flirted with the benchmark score of 190 each weekend. At last weekend’s Towson Invitational, Cornell and Penn placed second and third, respectively, with scores of 189.5 and 187.7.
[img_assist|nid=21613|title=Put your hands up|desc=Ashley Stewart runs in the Red’s 187.375-184.550 win over Cortland St. on Feb. 3.|link=none|align=left|width=51|height=100]

The other two Ivies competing in the Classic are Yale and Brown. Although neither program has been able to replicate scores similar to Cornell this season, both teams have solid teams and a history of placing well at the Classic.

Brown freshman Alicia Sacramone won the world championships in the vault and floor exercises. This year, she was voted the “Most Powerful Gymnast in the U.S.”

“Sacramone brings a lot of national recognition to the Ivy League, but this weekend is about team performances, not individual,” Beckwith said.

The Red will ride a wave of momentum into Philadelphia. The Red has improved its score in every consecutive event and increased its average by 3.5 points since its dual meet with Rhode Island on Jan. 27.

“We have to treat this Sunday like any other meet and not let the pressure affect our performance,” said junior Colleen Davis. “Our recent performances have given us a lot of confidence.”

Davis has led the team in the vault exercises all year and recently placed third overall at the Towson Invitational. She was also influential in the Red’s Classic victory last year with her victory in the vault competition.

Freshman Amanda Chirlin and classmate Brittany Howse both placed in the top-6 of the balance beam at Towson. Beckwith hopes junior Megan Gilbert will be healthy and able to impact the vault this weekend. Gilbert — a three-event competitor — has been out of the lineup for two weeks with a sprained big toe.

“Coach Beckwith puts the trophy in the middle of the gym during practice for extra motivation” Davis said.

The trophy represents the rich history of gymnastics in the Ivy League. Since 1977, Cornell University has been etched into its base six times.

“The Classic trophy has been on display in the Athletic Director’s office all year and we would like to return it on Monday morning,” Beckwith said.