Gymnasts No. 1 in nation

The Falcon gymnastics team moved to 0-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) with their loss to Division I San Jose State on Friday, but jumped to No.1 in the USA Gymnastics (USAG) national rankings.

According to assistant coach Kathy Siwek, the USAG establishes its rankings in a different way than most other collegiate sports organizations.

"There are only about six Division II [gymnastics] teams in the nation," said Siwek.

Because of this, SPU competes not only with Division II teams but also against several Division I teams. Scores from every meet the Falcons compete in, no matter who the opponent, are used in determining their national ranking.

On Friday, the Falcons prepared to face-off with gymnastics powerhouse and former MPSF champions, San Jose State in front of a cheering crowd of fans.

The seats in Royal Brougham were filled with fans, several of whom were wearing the traditional maroon tie-died t-shirts that the gymnasts make for their fans each year. "It pumped me up," junior Jaynie Reynolds said. Freshman Christie Chinaka added that it was encouraging to see how many people had come to support them.

In their first home competition of the 2005 season, SPU seemed to be holding their own against the Spartans. The Falcons led going into the final rotation, but ultimately San Jose would not be outdone.

"The score was close the whole meet," Chinaka said. With a strong show in the final rotation, the Spartans grabbed the victory from SPU by a mere .35 points, beating the Falcons 190.85 to 190.5.

Although SPU was not the team champion of the night, the SPU gymnasts (SPUGs) did collect quite a few individual honors.

An SPU gymnast was first in three of the four skills. Senior Kari Kelly shared first place in vault with Spartan gymnast Greta Leach; sophomore Debra Huss placed first in the floor exercise and tied for second on beam with Spartan gymnast Leah Bigalow, and Reynolds placed first in the uneven bars and tied for third on vault. Sophomore Sarah Sullivan tied with Reynolds for third on the vault, and freshman Ashley Domres took fourth on the beam.

SPU was a force in the all-around competition as well, with Huss placing second and Sullivan placing third.

However, the Falcons seemed to struggle with falls throughout the meet. According to Reynolds, the falls "probably had some affect," but were not really enough to have a major impact on the final outcome of the meet.

Freshman Maddi Bernhardt, who is out of competition due to a shoulder injury, agreed with Reynolds and said that she felt that the outcome of the meet was not due to any one fall or any one gymnast’s fault.

Although the Falcons were hoping for a victory, they walked away from the meet encouraged. "We worked together as a team," Bernhardt said.

Reynolds said the loss has allowed the Falcons to see the areas that they need to work on. "We need to practice like we want to compete … do a routine in practice that would be acceptable for a judge to see," said Reynolds. Chinaka added that SPU has been having "a little trouble on the beam lately."

The SPUGs are taking both the positive and negative aspects of the San Jose meet and are preparing for their upcoming meet at the University of Washington (UW) where they will be competing against three other teams (UW, Arizona, Minnesota). "We try to improve with each meet. We need to stay focused since there will be multiple teams there," Chinaka said. Bernhardt agreed, adding that SPU would be focusing on "getting more hits, sticking landings and having fun."

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Title: Gymnasts No. 1 in nation | Author: Noelle Diaz | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2005-01-26 | Internal ID: 4301