April 4, 2011

Standridge Competes as Solo Gymnast at NCAA Regionals

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The Cornell women’s gymnastics team experienced a strong regular season, highlighted by the program’s first-ever ECAC championship, and now looks to expand that success into the postseason. Over the weekend junior Melanie Standridge competed at the NCAA Regionals in Ann Arbor, Mich., on beam for the Red; however, Standridge lost her balance and fell off the beam, resulting in a final score of 9.300.

“She would have been between a 9.800 and a 9.900 had she not fallen,” said head coach Paul Beckwith.

Standridge arrived at the gym in Michigan for warmups around 3:45 p.m., but did not compete until close to 8 p.m. This long break before competing may have contributed to Standridge’s underperformance and thrown the Cornell star off her game. Although Standridge was obviously disappointed with her performance, her coach had positive words for the day.

“It was a great experience for her,” Beckwith said. “She still has … this weekend.”

The No. 3 ranked team will travel to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. for Nationals in the upcoming days. The Red will leave on Wednesday, practice on Thursday and then compete in team preliminaries on Friday. Team finals will be hosted on Saturday, with the weekend coming to a close with individual finals on Sunday.

The meet will have a different structure than those most typical to the Cornell gymnasts. There are two sections of competition with one in the morning and the other in the evening. For a team to advance to the finals on Saturday, it must finish in the top two places in a section. The Red is competing in the second session against the first seeded team. Also, in order for an individual gymnast to compete on Sunday, she must place in the Top-5 in her event.

The Red is excited for the opportunity to continue to compete in the national spotlight.

“We definitely have a shot at winning this meet,” Beckwith said. “We aren’t the favorite but we have a shot.”

To demonstrate how well the Red has done this year, freshman McKenzie Sato looked back at season highlights and explained what the post-season may hold for the gymnasts. Sato explained how week after week there was success after success on the gymnastics team — much of it coming out of all the hard work that occurred during practice. Aside from the weekly team and individual achievements, the highlight of the season came recently when the team won its first-ever ECAC championship.

“My favorite moment so far this season [was] when we were all sitting together at the awards ceremony at ECACs,” Sato said. “We were all so nervous to hear the official results of the team results and then hearing the announcement that we had won.”

The team plans to take the momentum it gained through winning the ECAC tournament and carry it on to Nationals.

“We are looking forward to Nationals,” Sato said. “We are hoping to give our best performance of the year.”

Original Author: Karen Schillinger