2008 Husky Gymnastics Preview

Jan. 14, 2008

Entering her second year at the helm of the Washington women's gymnastics program, Joanne Bowers is proud of what the team has already done, but she's even more excited to see what they can accomplish this year. Goals have been set and expectations have been raised. The coaching staff and the gymnasts are ready to push themselves in 2007-08, as the Huskies continue to rebuild the Washington program.

'Last year our biggest goal was changing the culture of effort and attitude,' said Bowers on her first year as head coach. 'When we came in fifth at Pac-10s, it felt like we had won. That was our highest finish in a few years. This year, we're pushing ourselves to do even better. Things are not going to change overnight, but we are all on the same page. Our whole team is excited about rebuilding this program. We have a lot of pride in UW Gymnastics.'

The Huskies return eight letterwinners from last year, but the loss of the three graduated seniors will be felt, especially with two early exits hitting the squad. Junior Katie Boyko had shoulder surgery and could miss the entire season. Washington also lost one of its top returners in senior Natalie Gillan, who chose to leave the team for personal reasons in the fall.

A strong freshman class will help ease the burden on the entire team. 'With graduations last year, we lost a lot of routines,' said Bowers, 'But we have five freshmen that are up to the challenge. They have tremendous work ethic and talent.'

One theme that the Huskies will focus on throughout the year? Improvement.

'We want to be smart, but we also want to push the envelope,' said Bowers. 'We talk a lot about teamwork, and part of that is getting everybody to push themselves to upgrade difficulty but also to feel confident about their routines. As a coaching staff, we want them to go out each time with routines they know they can hit. We want everyone to work hard and keep a positive attitude. We might not vie for a National Championship this year, but our program is headed in that direction. Good attitudes and good work ethic will always lead to improvement, and that's what we're focused on.'

Event-by-Event with the Huskies:

Ashley Houghting

'Last year, we were afraid that vault was going to be our weakest event, but during the season, it became our strongest. We showed a lot of improvement on vault and we're hoping that we can continue that success again this year.'

In 2008, junior Ashley Houghting, who was ranked as one of the top-five vaulters in the nations last year, returns for the Huskies. She won the vault eight times during the season, including a share of the event title at the Pac-10 Championships. Sophomore Cassidy Lance, who specializes on vault, had a strong freshman season, scoring a 9.8 or better in six meets. Her two 9.9s came in critical meets - at Utah and at the Pac-10 Championships.

The Huskies will also look to senior Nikki Waiss and juniors Kristen Omori and Emily Epsten to fill up the rotation. Omori and Epsten contributed last year and are expected to step up this season. Waiss ended the 2007 season with knee surgery, but is making major progress in the fall.

Bowers will also be looking for the freshmen to compete for spots in the vaulting rotation. Early in the practice season, Haley Bogart has already shown dynamic vaulting abilities and will challenge her teammates. Danielle Henderson is coming back from shoulder surgery but could compete on vault before the end of the season.

'Depth on vault worries me more than if we're good on the event,' said Bowers. 'We just need to make sure we stay healthy, because we have a lot of strong performers.'

'Four of our six routines from last year are gone, so we need people to step up,' said Bowers. 'We need to hold our own on bars, and I think we can.'

Seniors Raimey Iselin and Waiss both return and will give the Huskies a strong foundation on bars. Houghting, who stepped into the bar line-up for the final nine meets, will be looking to upgrade her routine.

Freshmen Kristen Linton and Samantha Walior are expected to make an immediate impact on bars, while fellow first-year gymnast Karen Cain is making progress and could challenge for a spot in the rotation.


Kristen Omori

'We have a truckload of people who can compete on beam!' exclaimed Bowers. 'But beam is all mental. All of our gymnasts are talented, but we're working on practicing pressure. We have a lot of depth on beam, and I think the competition in the gym will help us improve the mental part of our performance.'

Juniors Kelly Gilbert, Houghting and Omori all return with experience and should be able to help the Huskies. Senior Jennifer Chang spent the summer working on her beam routine and was set to earn a spot in the lineup, but was sidelined during the fall by illness.

The freshman class has set a high bar on beam, led by Linton, who has a beautiful routine with good lines and could be competing for a spot in the rotation. Bogart and Walior have been working hard and have demonstrated mental toughness in the gym.

Houghting and Omori remain two of the top floor workers and are both looking to add E-level elements in their routines.

Also looking to make a run on floor will be Gilbert, Iselin and Lance, along with freshmen Bogart, Cain, Linton and Walior, who have all been working hard on floor and are continuing to develop.

Iselin and Lance have both overcome major injuries during their careers, and managing their bodies will be the first challenge. Both have made tremendous strides in the summer and fall and could be regulars in the Husky lineup.

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