The GW gymnastics team placed fourth in Saturday’s NCAA Regional Championships at Penn State University, failing to earn the school its first-ever bid to NCAA Nationals.
By capturing the top two spots in the northeast region, Nebraska and Michigan advanced to the National Championships, which will be held next week in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
GW, heading into competition off its fifth-straight Atlantic 10 title, posted a 192.675, which is a drop from last year’s 194.675. The team struggled on the bars (47.90) – sophomore Rachel Mann led the team in 14th place (9.675). Mann said she was pleased with how her team performed given the difficult competition GW faced.
“I don’t think we were disappointed,” said Mann, who also placed 30th on the vault (9.625) and 15th on the floor exercise (9.750). “Our goal was to place in the top two, but we finished where we should have. The teams that placed ahead of us performed better.”
Nebraska (195.925) won the region by narrowly edging Michigan (195.600), which was led by U.S. Olympic gymnast Elise Ray. Ray tied Alexis Maday of third-place finisher Iowa for the top all-around score (39.450). Ray won the vault (9.925) and beam (9.900), and placed fifth on the bars (9.775) and floor (9.850). Iowa placed third with a 195.475, followed by GW and host Penn State, which scored 192.225.
The Colonials knew prior to the meet that they had a tough task ahead, facing three teams in their northeast region ranked in the nation’s top 25: No. 5 Michigan, No. 8 Nebraska and No. 16 Iowa. Mann said No. 26 GW felt it was up to the challenge.
“We were ready for this meet,” Mann said. “This is what we were preparing for all season long.”
GW seniors Kelley Banks, Jessica Mantak, A-10 Performer of the Year Devin McCalla and Jamie McNally ended their impressive careers without earning the elusive national bid. Banks finished 22nd on bars (9.600), 25th on the beam and 33rd on floor. McNally finished 30th on vault (9.625) and 19th on floor (9.725).
McCalla finished her GW career with an all-around score of 38.750 and placed 10th on vault (9.800), 34th on bars (9.400), 19th on beam (9.700) and fifth on floor 9.850. Mantak, who was the Feb. 18 conference Performer of the Week, closed out her career with a 38.175 in the all-around, placed 20th on vault (9.675), 17th on bars (9.650), 38th on beam (9.150), and 23rd on floor (9.700).
Saturday’s defeat marks the end of one of GW’s strongest gymnastics teams. GW has won a conference title each year since McNally, Banks, McCalla and Mantak began competing four years ago. The Colonials have qualified for regional competition three times and last year finished the season 17th in the nation.
The team finished this season 19-14 and looks ahead to next year when Mann will be expected to lead the team along with lone senior Melissa Suter. Although GW will lose some valuable gymnasts, next season’s goals will remain the same: win A-10’s, qualify for Regionals and earn a bid to Nationals.
This article appeared in the April 8, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.