DURHAM, N.H. – Few gymnastics programs in the country can claim that they have advanced to the NCAA Regional competition every year since its inception. The University of New Hampshire is one of those programs. That's why, in 2002,the 'Cats once again expect "All Eyes on Us."
In 2001, the 'Cats proved they are truly "A Class Act." UNH recorded new team highs in all four events and recorded the third highest team score in UNH history with a 195.275. The year end record was a strong 16-3-1 and in post season the team placed fourth at the EAGL Championships and advanced to the Northeast Regional, where they finished fourth in one of the most difficult regional meets in the country. UNH was topped by the Big Ten Champions - U of Michigan (third in the Nation), the Pacific Ten Champions - Stanford(eighth in the Nation), and a strong LSU team. The regional meet score of 194.225 was the highest regional mark in UNH history and was strong enough to end the season with a ranking of twenty-second in the Nation.
Suzanne Poretz was named EAGL Gymnast of the Year and advanced to the NCAA Championship as an individual qualifier in the all-around.
This season, a youth movement will be afoot in Durham. Despite the loss of seniors Poretz, Rose Kosowski and Wendy Wheaton, UNH appears to be a force to be reckoned with once again, returning the last two EAGL Rookies of the Year. An eight-member freshman class also arrived on campus this fall eager and ready to write the next chapter of Wildcat gymnastics history.
Head coach Gail Goodspeed has just two seniors on the 16-person roster, Katie Revis (Putnam Valley, N.Y.) and Bethany Wagner (Bound Brook,N.J.). The duo will serve as co-captains this season for the Wildcats.
Revis has etched her name in the Wildcat record books, as she recorded a 9.9 on the floor in a meet against Brown and Bridgeport last season, good for fifth all-time in Wildcat history. She will be a strong leader on balance beam and floor exercise. A member of the 9.5 Club, Revis was also named to the EAGL All- Academic Team in 1999.
Wagner, an All-EAGL selection in 2000 on vault, will be looked to in that event again in 2002. She will compete a front handspring front salto with a half twist for the first time. Last season, she established a new career high on the floor, netting a 9.85 in home meets against Rutgers and Towson. She is training hard for an all-around spot this season with increased difficulty on uneven bars and balance beam.
The junior class boasts the last two EAGL Rookies of the Year in Jen Dickson (Salisbury, Md.) and Michelle Harley (Collegeville, Pa.). Harley garnered the award in 2000, while Dickson claimed rookie honors in 2001 after being injured for most of her freshman season.
Dickson, who also earned EAGL All-Academic honors last season, will be looked to this season as one of two returning all-around performers, along with Harley. Last season Dickson had a personal best of 38.95 in the all-around in her first full season of competition. She received the team's most improved award from her peers and contributed the most total points to the team in the 2001 season.
Harley, who was named EAGL All-League for the second-straight season in 2001, is New Hampshire's top returning all-around competitor. She tied with Poretz last season for the final all-around spot at the NCAA Nationals, with Poretz advancing based on the tiebreaker. Harley is a top candidate to advance this season as well. Her personal best all-around is a 39.05, which ranks fifth in the all-time UNH records. She also holds personal bests of 9.85 on all four individual events. Her academic accolades are strong as she was named as a member of the District 2000-2001 Verizon Academic All-America Fall and Winter At-Large team, a NACGC/W Academic All-American, an EAGL All-Academic member, and a recipient of the UNH Academic Athletic Achievement award.
Erin Malinak (Pittsburgh, Pa.) is the third member of the class of 2003. She received the team's Most Inspirational Award last season and often helps motivate her teammates. A 2001 EAGL All-Academic selection, Malinak will be slowed at the start of the season due to shoulder surgery over the summer. She could move into the line-up on bars, beam, and floor when she fully recovers. Her unique skills on bars make her a standout on this event and she holds a 9.8 as a personal best score.
Like the junior class, the sophomore class also consists of three members, Crystal Beak (DeWitt, N.Y.), Brie McNamara (Haymarket, Va.) and Tara Phillips (Houston, Texas). All three had an impact as freshmen and will be counted on to maintain the high standard set by the graduating seniors.
Beak put her name solidly into the UNH record book, scoring a 9.9 on the beam in UNH's win over Towson on March 3. That places her second all-time, behind Cara Lepper's perfect 10.0 in 1996. Beak is looking strong in the all- around in early season training and could be one of the top performers this year. Her form and execution is exquisite and she leaves little room for the judges to take deductions.
Phillips will also vie for an all-around spot. Her strengths are in vaulting and the uneven bars but don't count her out on beam and floor. She is a strong competitor and could move into the all-around.
McNamara will be looking to build upon a 2001 season that saw her post scores of at least 9.7 on vault and floor. She competes a strong front handspring-front salto with a half twist on vaulting and will strengthen that event for the team. She could make an impact on the other events with continued training.
UNH also welcomes one of its largest freshman classes in recent history in 2002. Eight newcomers will compete for the Blue and White this season. Twins Lindsay and Vanessa Berrios (Long Pond, Pa.), Candice Carbone (Woburn, Mass.), Kimberly Cosci (Babylon, N.Y.), Vanessa James (Malden, Mass.), Rachel Murray (Pittsfield, Mass.), Jayne Propert (Bradley Beach, N.J.) and Michelle Totz (Whitby, Ontario) will all look to make an impact in their first year as Wildcats.
As usual, New Hampshire's schedule features some of the top squads in the country. After opening the year at Rutgers January 10, UNH's home opener is January 19 against Rhode Island. Other home meets include the UNH Invitational against Cornell and Temple, Penn State, Alaska, and a tri-meet with Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Yale.
After ending the regular season at Auburn, the 'Cats travel to Towson March 23 for the EAGL Championships. This will again be a very challenging meet that all eight teams have a chance to capture.
The top 18 teams in the country will be seeded into six NCAA regional meets on April 6, 2002. There will then be three slots filled from within each region to make a total field of 6 teams. Five all around competitors (who are not on a qualifying team) and one individual specialist per event (minimum RQS of 9.4) will come from within the region. The NCAA Northeast regional will be held at Penn State, Oregon State hosts the West meet, Denver hosts the North Central, the South Central is at Arizona State, the Central at LSU, and the Southeast meet is at West Virginia.
The NCAA National Championship will be held from April 18-20 at the U of Alabama. It will feature the top two teams from each of the Regional meets, the top two individual all-arounders who are not part of an advancing team, and any individual Regional event winners who are not part of a team or the all-around qualifiers.