April 14, 2010

Gymnastics, Returning All-Americans Look to Defend National Championship

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The women’s gymnastics team — perhaps the best-kept secret in Cornell sports — already has achieved a co-national championship, and will now look to win the USAG title outright beginning today at Nationals in Denton, T.X. Last year, the team earned a share of the championship with Bridgeport. “To win back to back would be amazing,” said junior Maddie Pearsall. “Last year we tied with Bridgeport so we’re looking especially to come out over them. We’ve beat them once this year so we know we can do it.”  Preliminary team competitions will be held today with eight teams and 12 other athletes who qualified as individuals from non-qualifying teams. Finals will be held Friday with the top four teams competing. The top five individuals in each event from Thursday’s competitions will compete Saturday in the individual event finals to determine the USAG Collegiate National Champions. The qualifying teams are the top eight schools in the nation that award eight or fewer athletic scholarships for gymnastics.  This year’s teams include Rutgers, Temple, Air Force, Seattle, William and Mary, Bridgeport, Texas Women’s and Cornell. Cornell made history last year as the first-ever non-scholarship school to win the USAG title. However, competing against other schools that offer scholarships doesn’t seem to bother the Red.  “Competing against other scholarship schools is difficult, but all of our team members are just as good as their gymnasts and have even greater drive knowing that we are a non-scholarship school,” said junior Kerri Lavallee. “As much as they intimidate us being scholarship schools, we intimidate them being reigning nationals champions. We are walking around Texas with that confidence right now.” After graduating only three seniors, and winning the ECAC Championships, the Red looks to be in prime position to repeat.  “We finished with seven All-American awards last year. We are of course hoping to win outright this year,” said head coach Paul Beckwith. Returning All-Americans for Cornell include Pearsall (floor), Lavallee (vault), seniors Brittany Howse (floor), Molly Parker (bars) and Emily Lenk (floor), and sophomore Melanie Standridge (beam). According to Beckwith, juniors Emily Santoro (floor, vault), Danielle Scott (beam) and Gabriella Sanguineti (bars), freshman Sara Hein (bars, vault) and sophomore Bethany Neczypor (bars) all have a shot at the finals as well. Despite the high expectations, Howse suggested that the team would not fall victim to the pressure that goes along with a chance at back-to-back championships.“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure, but more like motivation to prove that we deserved it and can do it again,” she said.

Original Author: Jimmy Xi