The 1999 GW women’s gymnastics team could be summed up with one word – youth.
Never have the team’s prospects rested so heavily on such young shoulders. Overall, five of the team’s 13 gymnasts are freshmen and six are sophomores. However, GW gymnastics head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham does not foresee the lack of experience causing problems.
“All the incoming freshmen come from incredibly strong gymnastics clubs,” Foster-Cunningham said. “All have competed at the national level, and more importantly, all are hungry to win at the collegiate level.”
Hungry is definitely the right word to describe the team’s goals. Team members said they should repeat as Atlantic 10 Conference champions. After that, most mentioned the NCAA regional and national championships. All thought the newcomers would be key contributors to the team.
“It’s kind of an honor to have such great freshmen on the team,” said Erica Lewy, the only junior on this year’s squad. “This is definitely the most talented team I’ve ever been on. I think we have a chance to finish higher than we ever have before.”
The newcomers are led by Devin McCalla, who last year was ranked second in the nation in high school gymnastics. She also was the top-ranked gymnast in the country during the 1996-’97 season. Other freshmen include Jamie McNally, a four-year New Jersey State Vault Champion; Kelley Banks, the 1998 Iowa State All-Around Champion; Maggie Suhanovsky and Jessica Mantak.
They will be joined by six returning sophomores, including Darden Wilee, last year’s A-10 Most Outstanding Rookie Performer. She holds the second highest all-around score in GW history. Also returning are Stacie Evans, who was named to the A-10 all-conference team last season, Lindsey Ferris, Amanda Forrest, Stephanie Goldsmith and Becca Gruber.
The captain for this year’s gymnastics team is the squad’s only senior, Meena Lakdawala, who is fully recovered from a ligament injury that prematurely ended her season last year.”I am still in a little bit of pain, but I expect to be full strength by the end of the season,” Lakdawala said.
Besides talent, team members said they have an advantage over the opposition because of their strong ties as athletes and friends. All agree that the sense of camaraderie they feel will help them toward their ultimate goal – bringing the NCAA Gymnastics Championship to GW.