Feb. 8, 2007
Seeing as how you are about halfway through the regular season, how would you assess your team's performance thus far?
"I am proud of where we are right now. The kids that were injured in the fall are coming back and close to being able to compete. The kids that are competing are doing great, but we are a little hurt with the loss of Kayla Gies. She is a young lady who only fell once on balance beam all of last year, and we are going to miss her. We are working hard everyday to try and find someone to take her place on all four events. Knowing that, you still have Aimee Goheen, who was a regional bar champion, not in the bar lineup. She could easily replace what Kayla did once she is ready. Karmen Pinckney could do the same. Last week, the kids that stepped up and took Kayla's place did a good job. I am really happy with where we are right now."
The Tigers have been ranked 10th for three-straight weeks now. Considering the injuries the team has suffered, what does that say about them to be able to maintain a top-10 ranking?
"It shows that they have been consistent. We are in the top-10 because we have only counted two falls in the first five meets. There are some other teams out there, where if they had a bad meet with a couple of falls, they are still counting a low score. We have been pretty consistent with 195's and 196's."
Your team was privileged enough to begin the season in beautiful Cancun. What was that experience like both on and off the mat?
"It was awesome. The hotel was beautiful, the restaurants were great and the beach was unbelievable. It was a nice way to start because the sophomores, junior and seniors already know what college gymnastics is all about, where it was the freshmen's first experience. Having the meet in the hotel ballroom was very much like what they (the freshman) are used to competing in club, so it wasn't a big change for the freshmen. I think it helped ease them into collegiate competition. It was an experience that was very enjoyable for everyone, and one that we look forward to doing every couple of years."
Julie Dwyer has been one of the top gymnasts for the past two years, but this year she has taken it to a new level (scoring three new career highs and one new school record). What can you credit to that success?
"She has been incredibly consistent over her first two seasons. We haven't changed a whole lot this year as far as her routine construction on beam, bars and vault. She has a new floor routine, but she is basically doing the same tumbling, and with that comes an increase in her level of confidence. Even though she was always consistent and hit, she was always nervous. Now, she is less nervous, more confident and gone out there and done the job. I also think that since she did so well her first two years, she is more well known now and recognized by the judges. They expect her to do very well, and she sometimes gets the benefit of the doubt, which is awesome because we haven't gotten that in the past."
What has a healthy A.J. Mills done for the team this year?
"A.J. is an incredible gymnast. Last year we saw glimmers of that, but she unfortunately had a short landing before the season started. Although she competed in the all around the first two meets, her leg just bothered her too much, and she just did beam and bars the rest of the year. Now she is competing and hitting on all four events. She has won or tied for first on balance beam the last two meets, which no one thought that anyone could beat Julie on beam, and now she has done it two weeks in a row. If she could give Julie a run for her money all year long, that's going to help the team. On vault, she is the only person in the gym that never requires a spot. She goes by herself every single time she vaults. We actually have two different bar routines for her. One that is a little easier and cleaner, and one that has two big releases and is a little bit more risky. On floor, now that she has developed some confidence by hitting several meets in a row, it is fun to watch her everyday in practice. Her freshman year, it was like pulling teeth to get her to do a double-back on the floor by herself. Now she understands the importance of going by herself and gaining that confidence in the gym, which is a great thing."
With six meets remaining on your schedule, what do you expect to see from this team the rest of the way, heading into the SEC Championship?
"I am hoping to see an increased level of performance in the areas of our casts to handstand on uneven bars, and I expect to see and increase in the number of dismounts that we stick. Our tumbling and presentation on floor still needs to improve, and we are working very hard on that. I would like to see Claire Seiffert, Karmen Pinckney and Alicia Lenkiewicz become more consistent daily on vault so that they can step into the lineup and be surrounded by teammates who are confident in their ability, rather than just hoping that they make it. We are very close to being there right now."
Considering that the personnel hasn't changed much from last season, what has been the biggest difference in this year's squad?
"The biggest change and the thing I am most proud of is our consistency on uneven bars. Last year, it seemed like we got off to a great start and hit everything in the first meet of the year. After that, we were falling on bars every meet. This is three meets in a row where we have done seven solid bar routines each time. We have had a little mistake here and there, but no one has jumped down or fallen on their routines. I think the girls are very confident on bars, and when you are on the road and have to start on that event, it's good to know that all the way down to number 10 and 11 are hitting their bar routines in the gym. I think that is what has made us a stronger team, and that is part of the reason why our road scores have been so good."