2003 Washington Gymnastics Outlook

Jan. 2, 2003

Seattle - If you are Washington gymnastics coach Bob Levesque, you knock on wood, cross your fingers and pull out your rabbit's foot when addressing the subject of team health. Injuries and the resulting lack of depth have shot holes in the Huskies' goals the past two years.

Just last year Washington lost Stacy Wong, Tacia LaBatte and Molly Seaman to injuries within the span of the season's first three meets.

Therefore, it is with some trepidation that Levesque talks about the subject when discussing the upcoming season.

'Losing Stacy, Tacia and Molly really took the wind out of our sails last season,' Levesque says.

Washington finished with a 7-13 record and placed fifth at the Pac-10 championships.

The Huskies lose just one senior, Allison Bruce, from last year's squad.

With 10 letterwinners joining six freshmen, Levesque feels the Huskies have a chance to climb back into the ranks of the nation's top programs. With the NCAA West Regional Championship slated for the Huskies' home arena, the timing is right for a comeback.

'This could be the strongest team we've ever had,' Levesque says. 'We don't have as much depth as I would like, but if someone is injured, we can replace them with someone just as strong.'

Wong, the team's only senior, is once again expected to lead the Huskies. She has missed two of the past four seasons due to injuires, including surgery on an ACL last year that forced her out of action.

'Stacy always wants to do as much as possible for the team,' Levesque says. 'I want her to do as much as possible for her sake too, since this is her senior year. She is a good athlete and if she can give us 9.9s or 9.95s consistently, that would really help.'

Returning for the their junior seasons are well-established gymnasts Emily Pritchard, Tanya Powers, Molly Seaman, Amy Metcalf and Gharde Geldenhuys.

Pritchard was a consistent and top competitor for the Huskies in the all-around last season, capturing first place in the all-around at four meets, with a career best of 39.675 against Arizona State. Pritchard also took first on the vault at the Pac-10 Championships at Stanford, with a career best of 9.975.

'We want Emily to maintain her competitiveness throughout the year,' Levesque says. 'She only has half a shin bone in one of her legs because she had a tumor removed before her freshman year. By the end of the past couple seasons she could really feel it. We want her to take it slow so she can keep herself at her top performance level throughout the season. It's been a slow healing process, but she is a top performer.'

Powers saw significant improvement in her scores between her freshman and sophomore campaigns. Levesque feels the tall Texan has more to offer this year's team.

'Tanya has had a real resurgence,' Levesque says. 'She went home after her freshman year and rededicated herself to being a good gymnast. She got in good shape and became more driven than ever. Being tall, it is sometimes difficult for her to do the skills necessary. She works really hard and had improved on the vault and in her tumbling. She will be a consistent all-arounder.'

Powers peaked at the end of the year, recording her career high on floor (9.8250 and all-around (39.250) in the all-around at the Pac-10 Championships. Her all-around score allowed her to finish seventh at the meet.

Seaman, who competed in every meet as a freshman, moved into the role as an all-arounder last year and competed in the season's first three meets before being sidelined with a knee injury.

'Molly is back and that helps us tremendously since she can compete as an all-arounder,' Levesque says.

Metcalf was a regular on bars, beam and floor while Geldenhuys compted on vault during the latter stages of the season.

If there was one positive benefit to losing three gymnasts to injuries last year, it was the fact that several Husky freshmen gained valuable meet experience. Sophomores Carly Dockendorf, Kim Lewis and Courtney Canavan benefited the most by having their careers put on the fast track.

'I was pleasantly surprised by our freshmen last year,' Levesque says. 'Freshmen usually need an adjustment period. They really gelled as a class and the team accepted them quickly. They did quite well.'Dockendorf competed in the all-around in seven of 11 meets last season. She recorded her career high in a dual meet with Arizona State by scoring 39.550. In that same meet, she recorded here career highs scores on the bars (9.925) and beam (9.900). Against Utah, she recorded the highest score ever by a Husky freshman on floor with a 9.975. Dockendorf topped off the season with a second-place finish on vault at the NCAA West Regional championship.

'I expect Carly to compete as well in the all-around as she did last year,' Levesque says. 'She has a new floor routine which is really nice. The beam is her hardest event because of the fear factor that comes along. She has really upgraded on the bars and if she hits that, she will be a top competitor again.'

Lewis impressed the Husky coaches with her work ethic and consistent routines last year. She has improved her overall strength since last year and will provide Washington with a solid scorer this year.

'If I had a daughter, I would want my daughter to be like Kim,' Levesque says. 'She is a great kid. She is honest, works hard, trains hard and always wants to do more to help the team. She is not the most physical athlete. She has to work much harder than someone like Carly who is a physical athlete and could excel at any sport. Kim's attitude and what she brings to the table team wise, makes her a great team player.'

Lewis competed on the floor in 10 of 11 meets for the Huskies last year, scoring a career best of 9.875 against Arizona State.

The last of Washington's outstanding sophomore's Canavan was a solid competitor on the vault and beam for the Huskies last season. She scored a career best of 9.675 in both events in three meets.

'Courtney is always looking for feedback from the coaches,' Levesque says. 'She is conscientious about her conditioning and she has been successful because of that.'

Sophomore Tacia LaBatte, a transfer from Utah, should see her first full season of competition after being slowed by a broken foot last year.

Levesque was surprised by the freshmen last year, but he considers this year's six-person freshman class to be the strongest yet of his 13 years at Washington.

'Jessica Ray just had foot surgery and will not be ready at the start of the season, but she will make a difference by the end of the season,' Levesque says. 'I think she can be a 'Difference Maker' for us this year. We'll just have to see how she competes. You hope for the best after a gymnast comes off an injury, but the reality is that you really don't know until they go out to compete for the first time.

'Christina Pelaez is a powerful athlete and could be one of the real sleepers. Kelly McDonald is the Level 10 National Champion and is the consummate gymnast. She is small and in good shape and will be a gem for this team. McDonald is also training for the 2004 Olympics. She doesn't need as many skills in college to get a 10.0 start value as she would for the Olympics. Most of her routines will be the same as if she is competing in the Olympics. She will be an outstanding all-around performer.'

Bijoya Das, Jenny Ehlers and Carmen Jordan round out the freshman class.

The freshmen are not the only new names on the Husky roster this season. During the summer Heidi Coleman, a top club level coach in western Canada, joined Levesque's staff. One of her former students was Dockendorf.

'Carly raved about her,' Levesque says. 'She is a good choreographer and a good beam and floor coach. I am excited to have her join this program.'

The Pac-10 is one of the most competitive gymnastics conferences in the nation. Washington will host the NCAA West Regional this season, and Levesque is excited that is his team will be able to stay in a familiar environment for the most pivotal part of the season.

Once again, the Huskies will face a schedule filled with top opponents.

'Just competing in the Pac-10 is challenging,' Levesque says. 'This conference is loaded with heavyweights. UCLA is loaded again and I think Stanford and Oregon State will be very strong. Both the Arizona schools will be tough. There's just not a day off when you are at a Pac-10 meet, but frankly, that is the way we want it.'

Levesque also added a trip to Nebraska for The Masters meet.

'That's where the NCAAs are this year so I want to take our team and challenge them to get back on their own. It will be a good experience for us, as young as we are. Having a competitive schedule can only help us, not hurt us.'

The Huskies team goals change for each competition, but consistency and staying healthy will be part of the strategy all year.

'By the end of the year, I expect to do really well on the floor,' Levesque says. 'The bars will be our best event starting out. I want consistency this year. I expect to see a lot of 10s.'

Levesque and his gymnasts are a strong team. Any gymnastics team that stays healthy and consistent will do well, but the Huskies plan on doing better.

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