STATE COLLEGE, PA-The University of New Hampshire women's gymnastics team, behind strong all-around efforts by senior Cara Lepper (Southington, Conn.) and junior Suzanne Poretz (Alexandria, Va.), placed sixth among a field of six teams at the NCAA Region 5 Championships at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University.
Michigan was the winner of the NCAA Regional with 196.55 points, followed by Penn State (195.925), Florida (195.875), Rutgers (192.375), Pitt (191.85) and then UNH (191.2).
The Wildcats,who have earned spots in the NCAA Regionals 19 consecutive times under head coach Gail Goodspeed, went into the meet ranked fourth out of six top squads from the region.
The top two teams of the meet (Michigan and Penn State) advanced to the National Championships held at Boise State on April 13-15.
TheWildcats opened the meet on balance beam and finished with a team total of 48.45. Leading the way was Lepper with a team-high score of 9.825. Also finishing strong for UNH was Poretz with a mark of 9.70.
Following a bye, the Wildcats returned to action in the floor exercise and several miscues may have cost the team, as it finished with a team total of 47.60. Leading the way once again for the 'Cats was Lepper with a team-best mark of 9.725. Also putting together a solid routine was sophomore Katie Revis (Putnam Valley, N.Y.) with a judgement of 9.7. At the end of the second rotation, the Wildcats sat in fourth with a two-event total of 96.1, ahead of Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
Vault was up next for the 'Cats, who would need to be perfect to get back among the top two teams. Michigan was leading the way with 98.625, followed by Penn State at 97.9.
UNH recorded a 47.95 as a team on the vault and checked in with a three -event team total of 144.0 points. The last vaulter for the Wildcats was freshman Michelle Harley (Collegeville, Pa.) and she did not disappoint as she led the 'Cats with a mark of 9.7. Junior Wendy Wheaton (Rockville, Md.) also performed well with a 9.6 vault as did Poretz with a 9.65.
While UNH had fallen behind the top three leaders (Michigan, Penn State and Florida), the bars would be the deciding event that would determine the team's finish at the NCAA Region 5 championships, as the bottom three teams jockeyed for final positions. All three were at 144 with the final rotation remaining.
Poretz was strong on bars with a 9.725 for the 'Cats as was junior Rose Kosowski (Whitesboro, N.Y.) with a 9.55. The highest finish for UNH was in 1994 when the Wildcats won the meet.
The Wildcats completed the regular season with a 12-5 overall record and recently placed sixth in the EAGL conference championships with a team score of 194.55. One of the biggest highlights of the squad's successful campaign was a 194.70-193.80 home victory over Penn State on Jan. 16.