PISCATAWAY, N.J.- The University of New Hampshire women's gymnastics team, which is the returning EAGL Conference champion, appears to have picked up where it left off in 2003-winning meets. The Wildcats opened the 2004 campaign on Saturday afternoon with a 194.25-193.35 road victory over the Scarlet Knights. UNH improved to 1-0 in what was the opening meet for both teams.

UNH fans will recognize many of the top performers for the team this season. All-arounder and co-captain Jen Dickson (Salisbury, Md.) also picked up where she left off in 2003, placing first in two events and finishing second in the all-around. Had it not been for a fall on beam as she performed a new routine, she would have led the meet. However, UNH did not lose first-place in that category as sophomore all-arounder Amanda Hall (Bremerton, Wash.) took top honors with a 39.1, followed closely by Dickson to complete the one-two punch (38.725).

The coaching staff is also pleased to see the healthy return of sophomore Mariana Pena Trestini (Valencia, Venezuela), who struggled through some nagging injuries in 2003. While she did not participate in the all-around, she, like Dickson took top honors in two events. With plans for her to compete in the all-around in upcoming meets in 2004, this trio looks to be as strong as any in the conference.

The team began on bars and it was Trestini taking top honors, recording the highest score of the meet in any event with a 9.875. Dickson was also strong on bars, placing fourth overall with a score of 9.80. Head coach Gail Goodspeed felt the UNH routines were good enough to win but the Wildcats were edged by Rutgers (48.625-48.6).

On the vault it was Dickson posting the high score of the meet with a judgement of 9.75. UNH took the top five spots in the vault with junior Vanessa James (Malden, Mass.) placing second (9.725) and outstanding newcomer Jamie deMello (Milton, Mass.) finishing third (9.70). UNH won the event by a wide margin (48.55-47.525).

"We were awesome on floor", said Goodspeed as she watched her Wildcats take five of the top six spots and defeat the home team (48.95-48.4). Leading the way once again was Dickson, who placed first with a score of 9.825. She was followed by freshman Heather Moore (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.), another impact newcomer, who checked in with a 9.8 for second place.

The only event that kept UNH from cracking the 195 mark as a team was beam, where the squad hit on just three of its six routines. However, the three gymnasts for UNH who did hit took the top three spots in the event. Pena-Trestini won it with a 9.85, followed by Moore and Hall, who each recorded 9.825s to tie for second.

"This was a good competitive meet for us," said Goodspeed. "We've said all along that this was going to be a good team and they proved that today under some pressure. "It was especially encouraging to see strong performances in our exhibition routines, which means we will be able to make some choices when we decide on lineups. I think this team can be as good as we had hoped."

The Wildcats will be the host of their first home meet this Friday, Jan. 16 when they entertain Missouri. The meet begins at 7 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium.

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