Gymnastics Preview:Mix of ages could position gymnastics for success

Fourth straight Atlantic 10 Championships, a ranking of 17th in the country, three A-10 All-Conference performers and the conference Coach of the Year. Only one team on campus can boast these statistics, and that team is hungry for more.

After all its success last season, the GW gymnastics team wants one more accomplishment this season: a first-ever appearance in the NCAA National Gymnastics Championships.

Last year’s team, which finished fourth at the NCAA Regionals, only graduated one senior, A-10 Performer of the Year Darden Wilee.

With five upperclassmen and eight underclassmen, the Colonials have the right mix of veteran experience and young talent to accomplish their goal.

Perhaps the biggest key to this season, in which the Colonials are 5-1 following a weekend loss at the University of Maryland, will be how well the youngsters perform. Sophomore Rachel Mann, named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week three times last season, leads a group of five sophomores and four freshmen. At last weekend’s GW Invite, Mann led GW in second place on the uneven bars.

Freshmen Amber Melvin and Meagan Wilson have a shot at becoming the team’s third all-around performer, and head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham is looking for sophomore Lindsay Parks to have an outstanding season.

“They have to impact the program right away,” Foster-Cunningham said. “They have to raise us from the top up, and they know that.”

Foster-Cunningham believes the success her team experienced last season has only made them hungrier.

“Once you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, you can’t squeeze it back in,” Foster-Cunningham said. “These girls know how to win. We are not going to be mediocre. People are starting to look at us and they see we are getting better.”

The team’s four senior captains – Kelley Banks, Jessica Mantak, Devin McCalla and Jamie McNally – will set the tone for the team. McCalla, who finished last season ranked the 15th-best gymnast in the country, is favored to win the A-10 All-Around title.

The Colonials must face a tough schedule, pitting them against top teams including West Virginia, Michigan State and Bowling Green.

The Colonials got off to a good start in their quest for wins and respect after they came from behind to win the GW Invitational. After Friday’s loss at Maryland, which dropped the Colonials to 5-1, GW looks to rebound this Saturday against the universities of West Virginia, Kentucky and Massachusetts.

Despite their record-breaking season last year, the Colonials still want to gain more respect not only in the national rakings but also on campus.

“A lot of people don’t associate GW with gymnastic championships,” McCalla said. “And they won’t until we do it. They want to see it.”

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