Despite winning its fifth- straight A-10 Title in 2003, the GW gymnastics team failed to make the NCAA Southeast Regional, something it had done in 2002. The team remained competitive with regional powerhouses University of Florida, Maryland and University of North Carolina, but the Colonials suffered through injuries and too many mediocre performances, particularly on the vault apparatus, and ended up out of postseason contention.
After losing only one gymnast from last season and adding three promising freshmen, including Emily Howarth, who is particularly talented on the vault, GW head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham said the Colonials have a good chance of making it back to regionals this spring.
“I think this is one of the deepest teams we have ever had,” Cunningham said. “But I think we’ve improved the most on the vault, which was our biggest weakness last season.”
For much of last year, Colonial gymnasts lacked routines that satisfied the highest difficulty ratings, which meant even a perfect routine would not garner a perfect score. But Cunningham said the team has been working on more difficult routines, which should result in higher scores.
Leading the way in 2004 is senior co-captain Rachel Mann. A standout as a junior, Mann was the only Colonial to go to the Southeast Regional in 2003, where she placed 14th overall.
“My goal is obviously to return to NCAA Regionals, and I hope this year the rest of my team comes with me,” she said.
While Mann was the top performer almost all of last season, impressive performances late last year came from then-freshman Heather Kaufman, including her individual victory at the A-10s. Her emergence should mean this year’s squad will not have to rely solely on Mann.
Junior Stefanie Tocco is finally healthy after a sophomore season during which she was plagued by an Achilles tendon injury. Even with the injury, Tocco competed in every meet last season, including a career-best performance against the College of William and Mary. Tocco, now fully healed, will be a force for GW on the uneven bars.
Increased depth and talent bodes well for the Colonials, but with essentially the same schedule as last season, the competition will remain tough. GW faces Florida and North Carolina again, as well as the University of Georgia, the top three teams in the region last season.