Gymnasts score their best, but UNC is better

The GW gymnastics team posted its best season-opening score ever at the Smith Center Sunday with a 192.500 total. But it was still not enough to topple No. 20 University of North Carolina, who won the GW Invitational for the second straight year with a team score of 194.800. The Colonials finished second out of six teams, with Temple, University of Pennsylvania, College of William and Mary and Cornell University following behind, respectively.

North Carolina sophomore standout Courtney Bumpers dominated the competition, posting the highest scores in three of the four events, including a perfect 10 on the floor, the first perfect score ever recorded at the Smith Center.

Though the team eclipsed by North Carolina, GW head coach Margie Foster Cunningham said she was pleased with the Colonials’ effort.

“I’m very happy with our team’s performance so far,” she said. “We were far more prepared than last season and it showed.”

Unlike last season, in which the Colonials relied heavily on co-captain Rachel Mann, Sunday’s performance was a complete team effort. GW posted the second best team score despite the fact that it did not have one athlete compete in every event, nor did any Colonial finish in the top two in any event.

Senior Rachel Mann’s third-place finish on the uneven bars and sophomore Tiffany Jones’ third-place finish on the balance beam highlighted GW’s individual performances.

Earlier in the competition, Jones put up an impressive 9.550 in her first collegiate vault. But as a team, GW did poorly on that apparatus, which was their primary weakness last season.

“Our vault routines were watered down,” Cunningham said. “I know that both in execution and difficulty, we will get better.”

GW’s freshmen were a bright spot, as they made an immediate contribution in their first collegiate event. Emily Howarth proved her worth on the vault, recording a team-high 9.725, which was good enough for fourth place overall. Fellow freshman Maggie Parrack also impressed the crowd of 621 in the arena, producing promising routines on both the bars and floor.

“Maggie’s a terrific competitor and people should expect to hear a lot from her in the future,” Cunningham said.

On the floor, GW’s veterans led the way. Junior Megan Wilson posted the team’s highest score, a 9.825, which was the fourth best result. Seniors Mann and Lindsay Parks tied for fifth with scores of 9.800.

The Colonials’ strong performance proved to be an afterthought, as a packed Smith Center watched Bumpers put on a show. Sophomore Tar Heel, who last year became the first UNC gymnast to make the NCAA Tournament, lived up to her billing Sunday, as she won the meet easily.

Bumpers posted the best scores in the vault, beam and floor and had the third highest score on the uneven bars, all adding up to a dominant 39.475.

The Colonials now face a long road trip beginning next week at the University of Kentucky, where they will face the Wildcats and Auburn University. GW’s next home meet is not until Feb. 11, when the Colonials host local rival Maryland.

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