2004 Husky Gymnastics Outlook
Dec. 29, 2003
Last season the Washington gymnastics team posted five of the top 10 scores in the program's history, including a school record of 197.600 in a three-way home meet. Along the way the Huskies posted a 21-11 record and just missed a trip to the NCAA Championships after finishing third at the NCAA regional.
This year's team hopes to build upon that success, but with a twist.
'We want to be more consistent,' says head coach Bob Levesque. 'If you look at our scores, we were very up and down. We were all over the map.'
The Huskies posted three scores over 197.000 at home but had problems bettering a mark of better than 195.000 on the road.
'We hit our routines at home and did not on the road,' Levesque says. 'This year we would like to start out around 195 and stay there and then consistently go up during the season.'
Washington will have eight returning letterwinners and five freshmen to accomplish that goal. Gone from last year's team is Stacy Wong, who is the school record holder in the all-around (39.725) and beam (9.975) and letterwinners Courtney Canavan, Jenny Ehlers, Gharde Geldenhuys, Christina Pelaez and Tanya Powers.
'We are going to be thin, so we're going to have to approach some meets with a Plan A and others with a Plan B,' Levesque says. 'It is going to be important to stay healthy.'
The Huskies already suffered one setback this season when off-season wrist surgery sidelined senior Amy Metcalf for the start of the season. She has appeared in all but one meet during her three-year career. Metcalf was expected to compete on floor, bars and beam but likely be limited to beam at the start of the campaign and possibly floor later in the year.
Four gymnasts figure to handle the bulk of the routines for the Huskies.
Senior Emily Pritchard won six event titles in 2003 despite being sidelined for two meets due to kidney stones. Pritchard owns Washington's third best all-around score (39.675) and set career marks on bars (9.975) and floor (9.925) as a junior.
'Competing with kidney stones was remarkable,' Levesque says. 'Emily has demonstrated a lot of toughness during her career and we know we can count on her this year. I think she could be our top all-arounder this season.'
Junior Tacia LaBatte made a strong comeback in 2003 after suffering a foot injury during her sophomore campaign. LaBatte posted four career bests scores at Utah against her former teammates including a 39.350 in the all-around.
'I think Tacia is going to surprise a lot of people this year,' Levesque says. 'I think she could be a sleeper on the national scene. She's ready to come into her own this year and get some big scores. Her beam routine is getting much more consistent and she's upgraded her level of difficulty to do a double-back dismount. Her vaults are improved and her floor routine is something.
'Emily and Tacia will really push each other and that is going to help us tremendously.'
Junior Carly Dockendorf gives Washington a third solid all-arounder. All she did last year was become the first Husky gymnast to record three perfect 10s in a single season. She did it twice on floor and won the Pac-10 title on bars with a perfect routine. Dockendorf won the NCAA Regional in both bars and floor.
Dockendorf led the team in 2003 with 12 event titles including five victories on floor. An exceptional athlete, she is also a pole vaulter for the Husky track team.
'Carly's attitude is awesome,' Levesque says. 'She's going to have another great year for us. She is such a great athlete there really isn't anything she can not accomplish. She can win any meet on bars and floor and has a lot of skill on the beam.'
Sophomore Kelly McDonald gives the Huskies a fourth all-around threat. She scored a 39.675 in the Huskies' final home meet of 2003 that stands as the third-best mark in school history. McDonald won seven event titles during the season and had scores of at least 9.950 on every event except for beam where she still managed a pair of 9.9s.
A troublesome heel injury may handicap McDonald's ability to compete on floor in the early portion of the season.
'She really contributed a lot for us last year and with a year behind her I think Kelly can add even more to our team,' Levesque says. 'I think she is capable of hitting more of her routines on a consistent basis. That would be a big plus for us.'
Junior Kim Lewis was a regular on bars and floor for Washington last season, scoring career bests of 9.875 on both events. She figures into the Husky lineup again this season and may play a more prominent role on beam.
'Kim does not have all of the great physical attributes but she more than makes up for it in her work ethic,' Levesque says. 'She sets a great example to our younger gymnasts to what you can accomplish if you come to the gym everyday ready to work.'
Senior Molly Seaman could be Washington's replacement to Wong as an anchor on beam. She missed the second half of the 2003 season due to a knee injury but is expected to be back in the lineup this year for beam and floor.
Bijoya Das could also factor in the lineup. She will push for a spot on the beam lineup. Das was limited last season to a single-meet appearance due to an elbow injury.
Among the five freshmen, Chelsea Bakken has the greatest chance to contribute and she could even see time as an all-arounder.
'I noticed in our intrasquad meet that she really turns it on for competition or when she has to perform in front of people,' Levesque says. 'I really like that in her character. Floor will be her best event, but she could certainly factor into our lineup in any of the other positions.'
A leg injury may force Nicole Waiss, an excellent vaulter, to redshirt the season while Tori Quandt could help the Huskies on vault and floor. Darcee Schiller is accomplished in all four events while Erika Knapp figures into the mix on floor and beam.
'I think we'll be strong on floor and vault but maybe down a little bit on bars this year,' says Levesque while evaluating the overall talents of his team. 'The skills we are doing and the routines mix very well. I think we'll start out the season better than we did a year ago and then see if we can accomplish our goal of staying consistent with our scoring and gradually raising our level.'
Levesque is counting on the experience factor of his veterans to make up for the fact the team is thin in some areas.
'It is an intangible that you cannot teach,' he says. 'Experience makes them hungry and makes them understand what is going on, how to get there and how to pull everyone else along at the same time.
'They know it is a very thin line between being really successful and really hurting because you didn't meet your goals,' he says. 'I remind them of that everyday.'
It is a consistent message for a team striving for consistency.
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