February 5, 2008

Red Dominates Penn in First Home Meet

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With spirit that could rival Cornell’s cheerleading squad, the women’s gymnastics team lined up to shout, “When we say Big, you say Red!” during the last event in Teagle Hall on Saturday afternoon, and they could not have been more accurate. Everything about this year’s team is big, and this weekend was no exception. The Red rolled through its first Ivy competition with a final score of 189.75 to Penn’s 183.825. Not only did the Red boast a significantly larger margin of victory than the 1.65 point win over Cortland last week, but 189.75 is the highest score the women have posted all season. In fact, it was good enough to boost the squad’s national ranking up four places to No. 5 amongst national scholarship schools.
“We made very few major mistakes, and our score puts us about three weeks ahead of where we were last season,” said head coach Paul Beckwith, the 2007 US Collegiate Gymnastics Coach of the Year.
“I think we just knew that it was about time that we got our stuff together,” said freshman Irene Leung, whose stellar 9.75 performance on the vault made her the fourth-highest scorer on vault in school history. She also earned the top overall score for the Red.
“We have so much talent on the team that getting a [189.75] was easy, it was just a matter of everyone doing what they can do,” Leung said.[img_assist|nid=27289|title=Head over heels|desc=Cornell won its first meet against an Ivy League opponent Saturday, beating Penn 189.75-183.825.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
While Leung’s victory on the vault was the only individual win Cornell secured, all four team events were claimed by the Red. The women’s incredible depth was evident as senior co-captain Megan Gilbert and sophomore Brittany Howse tied Marissa Rosen of Penn for second place in the vault, with all three scoring a 9.525. Senior Leslie Gregory and freshman Maddie Pearsall both took second place in the uneven bars with scores of 9.45, and junior co-captain Stacey Ohara and freshman Kim O’Donnell finished second and third on the balance beam with scores of 9.55 and 9.50, respectively.
One particularly important element of last weekend’s competition was the familiar setting. Competing at home for the first time this season raised confidence levels and introduced a sizeable crowd of fans.
“Being at home really helped; it was a lot more relaxed and nice being on our own equipment,” Leung said of her first meet experience in Teagle Hall. “Some of my friends came and painted their stomachs for me: I-R-E-N-E with an exclamation mark. Having your friends there in the stands and finally being able to show them that this is what I do five days a week when I’m not in my dorm was really cool.”
“I am really pleased. It’s hard starting on the road, so it was nice to be at home and against another Ivy,” Beckwith said.
In the final event of the day, being at home was particularly advantageous for carrying out a spirited Cornell tradition.
“We choreograph into everyone’s routine a moment where you just point at the team and they scream ‘Red!’ It’s our tradition, we do it every year,” Leung explained.
The squad’s talent emerged again in the floor exercise as Gilbert took second with a 9.65, followed closely by Pearsall in third with a 9.625 and junior Elyse Gottschalk in fourth with a 9.60.
“It was a great meet, and we felt really, really good about it,” Beckwith said. “The team now has the confidence to carry them straight through the season.”