UNH WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS TEAM OPENS 2006 SEASON JAN. 7 AT RUTGERS
Amanda Hall

DURHAM, N.H.-The University of New Hampshire women's gymnastics team has been training hard and will look to build on last season's success as the squad embarks on its 2006 campaign with a season-opening meet at Rutgers on Sat., Jan. 7. The meet is set to begin at 1 p.m.

Ranked #18 in the nation in 2005, the Wildcats will utilize a great mix of experienced student-athletes and exciting new additions. Hosting the NCAA Northeast Regional Gymnastics meet at the Whittemore Center was a highlight of the 2005 season and the team responded at home with a season-best performance of 194.7, good enough for third place in the region and just one spot off the NCAA National qualification placement. The 2005 qualification to the NCAA Regional meet marked the 24th consecutive time that the 'Cats have qualified and competed in NCAA post-season competition.

The Wildcats ended the year with an 18-13 record. Key wins were recorded over Missouri, NC State, Rutgers, Yale, Rhode Island, Cornell, Illinois State, Towson, Western Michigan, George Washington, and Kentucky.

Three returning individual team members excelled in 2005 and were recognized with various impressive honors and awards. As a junior, Amanda Hall (Bremerton, Wash.) received the prestigious "EAGL Gymnast of the Year" award, as well as being named first-team on vault, bars, floor exercise, and all-around and second-team on balance beam. Classmate Mariana Peña Trestini (Valencia, Venezuela) was first-team All-EAGL on balance beam and second-team on floor. In addition, sophomore Jen Jones (Billerica, Mass.) was second-team in the vault.

"Leading the Way" in 2006 will be an outstanding senior class including Amanda Hall, Peña Trestini, and fifth-year senior Lindsay Berrios (Long Pond, Pa.), who received an additional year of eligibility due to a knee injury in her freshman outing. This class has the experience and talent to do it all. Hall has had an outstanding career to date and has continued to improve over the summer. She was voted this year's captain and is ready to cap off her career in style. Hall holds seven of the top 10 all-around scores with a 39.475 best. She is already ranked seventh in career total points (1494.35) contributed to the team with an entire season remaining and has numerous scores in the top 10 on every event. Hall and Peña Trestini share the UNH all-time mark of 9.975 on floor exercise. Hall's vault (pike Quervo) is one of the most dynamic vaults performed in collegiate gymnastics and she was the 2005 EAGL vault champion. Her consistency on all events has improved and she has upgraded her skill level and has emerged as one of the best all-around gymnasts in the country. Peña Trestini, one of two assistant captains, is in great shape to once again be in the spotlight for UNH. In addition to sharing the floor exercise record (9.975), she also is tied for the top uneven bar score with a 9.975 and ranks in the top 10 on beam with a personal best of 9.9. She is training a Yurchenko layout ½ and if she can become consistent with this higher level vault, she also could be one of the top all-around competitors in the country. A new routine on floor exercise will again be fun to watch as her smile, energetic choreography and performance style will draw everyone in. Lindsay Berrios has always been one of UNH's best beam workers with beautiful lines and rhythm and will continue this role. She has also been steady on uneven bars and has been working hard to upgrade her routine. The team and coaching staff are excited to have her back on floor exercise. All eyes are drawn to her performance on floor as she is fun to watch and has upgraded her tumbling passes. Watch for "super senior" Berrios to be a strong force on three events in 2006.

The junior class will be sharing some of the leadership roles as Jones, Jaime deMello (Milton, Mass.), and Heather Moore (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.) will be heavily counted on to achieve their full potential. Jones was elected as an assistant captain and will be one of the top vaulters. Her Yurchenko layout ½ vault "fires up" the team energy. Jones has also expanded her abilities on balance beam and floor exercise. deMello has had her best pre-season and should make a big impact on this year's team. She has class and style as one of the top balance beam performers. Her vault of handspring front pike ½ adds variety to the vaulting event as more gymnasts are selecting the round-off entry Yurchenko vaults. deMello should challenge for a spot on floor exercise and is only a skill or two away in preseason to make the bar team. She can score high on every event and is a key player in this year's success. The potential is there for an outstanding year. Moore is working to return to her first-year form. A difficult sophomore year due to illness set her back, but she has the potential to once again be a solid performer for UNH. As a top all-around in her rookie campaign, she competed a dynamic full-twisting Yurchenko vault, a strong uneven bar routine with a reverse hecht, one of the most consistent beam routines, and a powerful floor routine. If she can get back to that level, she will once again be an integral part of the competitive success.

The sophomore class is now "seasoned" to collegiate competition and experienced the ability to successfully compete with some of the best in the nation at last year's NCAA regional meet. The team performance at the regional meet was a spark to motivate this class to help take UNH gymnastics to new heights. Beth Bronson (Jacksonville, Fla.) performed well on bars, beam, and floor last year and should again be strong on these events. Her beam routine has continued to improve and she has improved her form on bars where she performs a dismount named after her. The "Bronson" is a straddle cut on the high bar to a bounce back double twisting salto. Zoë Magiros (Parsippany, N.J.) broke into the vaulting line up last year and should again compete a strong Yurchenko layout ½. Training a new release move on bars should increase her opportunities on this event once she is consistent. Injury set backs have slowed her down slightly in preseason, however, her strong work ethic should bring her back quickly. Magiros has improved on beam and shows explosive power on floor. She will be performing a new floor routine and this exciting improvement on all apparatus will allow her to compete for a spot on every event. Fairen Plummer (Louisville, Ky.) had shoulder surgery late in the summer and dedicated herself to strong conditioning. She may join the lineup as the season progresses as she has made great use of her "down time". When she is cleared by her doctor she should be on a "fast track". The coaching staff is optimistic for her to return full force to the floor exercise squad and possibly to vault, bars, and beam as well. If she can complete her recovery this season, she will bring great team energy and performances to the team. Rebekah Porter (Valparaiso, Ind.) trained all summer and is one of the strongest athletes on the squad. She competed on bars and floor in 2005 and could challenge on every event as a sophomore. Her beam routine has improved dramatically and she has the power to be a great vaulter. As a top student-athlete with a solid work ethic, Porter will be a strong leader on the 2006 team. Katelyn Schenkel (Pittsford, N.Y.) is a beautiful gymnast to watch with clean lines and form that lead to high scores in collegiate gymnastics. Her greatest impact should be on the uneven bars where her reverse hecht is the highest release skill on the team. Schenkel has potential on vaulting (working a Yurchenko lay out ½) and on balance beam. She is also working to escalate her abilities on floor exercise. Kim Suarez (Wappinger Falls, N.Y.) is a newcomer with first-year eligibility, but sophomore academic status. This will be a learning year for Suarez and she has shown the dedication and work ethic to improve her skills for future consideration. Her personality and team spirit are necessary ingredients for team success.

The first-year class highlights three accomplished student-athletes who should be strong forces immediately. They are talented and motivated and are looking forward to competing as Wildcats. Justine Turner (Salem, NH), one of New Hampshire's best Junior Olympic level athletes in recent history (Level 10 Nationals in 2005, 2004, 2001, 2000, and 1999), comes to UNH with a combination of high-level skills and national experience. She placed third all-around in the JO 2005 regional meet. As a Salem high school competitor she was all-around state champion in 2005 and first on vault, beam, and floor, and second on bars. She was also 2004 and 2001 New Hampshire state champion and placed second on vaulting at the 2004 Jr. Olympic Nationals. She excelled at the high school championship in 2004 and earned the state championship title that year as well. Turner was also Region Six JO Champion in 2001. She trained with Tony Retrosi and Cori Cunningham at Atlantic Gymnastics in Portsmouth, N.H. Turner is a powerful athlete who can perform exciting, dynamic skills on all four events. Her best events are vaulting and floor where her power is evident and she competes with the highest skill level on the team. As a New Hampshire resident, Turner is likely to have her fan club at most UNH meets. Melissa César (Valencia, Venezuela) competed on the Venezuelan National Team from 1996 to 2005 and is reunited with Wildcat senior Mariana Peña Trestini. She was National Champion in 2005 and placed second on bars and beam. César has a great deal of high-level experience and she competes an international style and skill level that will be a great addition to a talented class of student-athletes. Her uneven bar work is world class and her routine will be one of the best in the country. César has that rare combination of elegance and explosive skills that make gymnastics a joy to watch. She is a definite contender on all four events, and could challenge the best in the nation as an all-around gymnast. Lindsay Kovary (Huntington Station, N.Y.) has competed as a Level 10 USAG National competitor for Region 6 since 2002 and won the all-around at the Senior A Regionals in 2004. Kovary, a member of the Exper-Tiess Gymnastics club team also competed at Walt Whitman High School where she placed second at the high school National Championship in 2005. As a 2004 high school competitor she placed first in floor and broke the county all-around record at the 2004 Suffolk County high school finals. She is a talented and highly motivated student-athlete with a great deal of experience and a drive to succeed. Kovary has great tumbling skills on floor and should break into the lineup on vaulting and beam. As one of the hardest-working student-athletes in the gym, she should have a great career at UNH.

The team will have a number of challenges in 2006. Back-to-back away meets at North Carolina State and North Carolina on the same weekend, followed by another tough road trip vs. Michigan and Michigan State will once again see the Wildcats competing against the nation's top collegiate gymnastics schools. Home meets with Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, and Bridgeport will be held at Lundholm Gymnasium. The Fox Run Invitational will feature Minnesota, Yale, and Temple for some spectacular collegiate gymnastics at the Whittemore Center. The team will also travel to Rutgers, Texas Woman's, and West Virginia to complete the regular season meets. The 2006 EAGL Championship will be held at Rutgers University and all of the conference teams have once again recruited top student-athletes and feature strong returning gymnasts.

The Wildcat team goal is to qualify to the NCAA Regionals in the top 18 and have an opportunity to be seeded into the NCAA regional meet. The ultimate goal of the year is to qualify to the NCAA Championship at Oregon State from April 20-22nd

UNH fans will have their first opportunity to see the Wildcats at home on Sunday, Jan. 15 vs. Rhode Island. The meet is set to begin at 1 p.m.

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