March 9, 2007

Gymnastics Hosts RivalTemple

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Last year at this time, the Cornell gymnastics team traveled to Philadelphia, PA and won a decisive victory over its rival — the Temple Owls. That dual meet sparked the beginning of the Red’s deep run into Nationals, which was the best finish in program history. With five returning All-Americans and a solid core of freshman, the Red hope that tomorrow’s regular season home finale with Temple will foreshadow even more postseason success.

Cornell returns to the friendly confines of Teagle Hall after a month-long road trip, where it improved its regional qualifying score to 188.61. This superb average is good enough for a No. 2 ranking, Cornell’s highest ever in the current ECAC standings. The Red is sandwiched between top-ranked Towson, who just barely squeaked out a victory in last month’s Big Red invitational, and tomorrow’s opponent, Temple.
[img_assist|nid=21999|title=Flexibility|desc=Senior Kari Kucera does the splits in her floor routine in the Red’s win over Cortland on Feb. 3.|link=none|align=left|width=76|height=100]
“Historically, we have always played Temple really close.” said assistant coach Melanie Dilliplane. “It will be a tough meet but I definitely think we can win.”

Prior to last season, almost every meeting between the Red and the Owls was decided by less than a fraction of a point. The teams usually see each other a handful of times each year, yet neither team ever dominates the rivalry.

The Red finished ahead of Temple earlier this season at the Towson Invitational but the Owls have been performing well lately. Temple easily beat Rhode Island last Saturday with a total team score of 188.60.

Tomorrow’s match will also honor seniors Kari Kucera, Christina Baez, and Randi Bisbano as part of the senior night festivities. Cornell was a mildly successful program when this group came in as freshman and they are now leaving it with its highest ever ranking in the ECAC.

“This is one of the most decorated senior classes I have ever coached in my time here,” said Dilliplane.

Co-captain Kucera is an All-American in the floor competition, where she has performed tremendously for four years. This year, however, she is also the Red’s top scorer in the beam event and holds the school record for that event (9.850).

“Kari has the potential to be an All-American again this year, in both the beam and floor,” said Dilliplane.

Baez is a four-year starter for the Red on beam and a three-year starter on vault. She has been a consistent contributor to the squad with personal best scores of 9.75 in the beam and 9.45 on the vault.

“She has always been a really solid beam performer,” said Dilliplane. “She takes the hard position of stepping in when needed.”

Randi Bisbano, Cornell’s most decorated gymnast ever, has sat out her senior season with an Achilles injury. Her accolades range from being named a top-10 freshman athlete by the Sun to All-American honors in the beam, bars, and all-around performance. She currently holds the floor and all-around records with scores of 9.925 and 39.10, respectively.

“She’s been helping coach practice since her injury,” said Dilliplane. “Everybody knows what she has done for this program. Just having her in the gym is a good boost for us.”