Centenary Gymnastics Scores Big in 2004
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Freshman Kristina Menne Fuels Surging Ladies-

Shreveport—For the Centenary Ladies gymnastics team, the 2003 season was one that ended in disappointment. Sure the team set several school records, had three individuals selected as All-Americans, and advanced for yet another trip to the USAG Nationals, a feat that has come to be expected of the talented Ladies. But it was at the USAG Nationals where the disappointment set in.

Only a few moments into the first rotation at the 2003 championship event, senior Tasha Rogers injured her knee on a tumbling pass in her floor routine. The injury sent the Centenary team into a somber state knowing that Rogers was to compete in three events that evening for an already thin squad.

“Tasha was our leader, and when she went down it was a devastating blow,” said coach Bill Hardy. “We regrouped and gave a courageous effort, but everyone was shocked and the team never fully recovered from it.”

As Hardy plugged in substitutes that rarely competed in various events to fill the void created by Rogers’ injury, the Ladies still found themselves within striking distance of advancing to the finals. Yet, even with an admirable show of teamwork, which included already injured Tara Mitchell’s willingness to lose her redshirt season by filling in on the bars, Centenary fell out of the top four day-one qualifiers at the last minute.

Despite losing five seniors off last year’s team and performing all year long in 2004 without the benefit of a single senior on the roster, the current version of the Centenary gymnastics team has accomplished things that others could not.

The Ladies finished their regular season ranked first in the USAG Collegiate standings for the first time in recent memory with a regional qualifying score of 193.435. Centenary also placed at the top of the team rankings on the balance beam and the floor exercise. The hard-working girls set school records on the vault with a 48.425 against LSU and on the balance beam with a score of 49.325 versus Auburn.

Building off the sour taste left in their mouths at the conclusion of the 2003 campaign, the eight young returners from that team have stepped it up a notch with another year of experience to help current newcomers Kristina Menne and Jesse Angus fit right in. Without any senior leadership, the newcomers would be asked to perform as if they had been a part of the team longer than just four months.

Menne has responded well to the task of performing like a senior in her debut season. With the lack of upperclassmen to rely on, Coach Hardy is thankful that Menne has welcomed the role.

“Kristina has met or exceeded every expectation I had for her coming into this season. She has definitely filled a huge void for us and I think she can continue to improve in the future,” said Hardy.

Menne has accomplished several individual milestones in only her first season with the Ladies. She currently owns the top mark in Centenary history on the uneven bars after posting a 9.950 against Auburn and holds the all-around top score with a 39.275 recorded against LSU. Her consistent bar routines have landed her a spot in the NCAA Regional to be hosted at LSU on Friday, April 2nd.

Menne’s trip to the regional will mark the first time a member of a Centenary gymnastics team has ever attended the prestigious gathering. She placed 12th in the region on the bars to earn the invitation and will serve as an alternate in the floor exercise and the all-around after ranking 15th and 13th in the respective events.

As if that wasn’t enough, there is even more that the freshman from Pearland, Tex., has accomplished this season. Her regional qualifying score of 9.865 on the bars ranks her first in the USAG division, as does her 9.900 average on the floor exercise. She narrowly missed the same honor in the all-around, finishing second with a 39.055.

Tara Mitchell, fresh off that redshirt season in 2003, has provided Hardy with a talented one-two punch. Mitchell was the former owner of the Centenary bars and all-around records that Menne surpassed over the last several months. She was recently named to the Midwest Independent All-Conference team along with Menne and ranks first in the USAG division with an average beam score of 9.835. She is also tied for ninth on the uneven bars.

Junior Kaela Meinert and sophomore Sarah Racioppi have also contributed heavily throughout the year. Meinert ranks fifth on the beam among all USAG participants with a RQS of 9.780 while Racioppi is close behind in sixth with an average of 9.770.

Junior Jennie Jackson has continued to lead by example by executing solid routines on the bars and floor. She ranks in a tie for ninth in the USAG standings along with teammate Mitchell on the bars with an average score of 9.770. Jackson and Meinert were also rewarded for their commitment in the classroom with Midwest Independent Academic All-Conference citations.

Freshman Jessie Angus and sophomore Sarah Ball also received the Academic All-Conference honors after posting a fall grade point average above the minimum 3.25 required for the award. Angus competed all season long on the bars, beam, and floor for the Ladies while Ball has been used as an all-around performer for the last several meets.

While the accolades have been numerous for the 2004 Ladies, there will still be a feeling of disappointment if the team fails to advance to the finals in this go around of the USAG Nationals on April 8-10 in Denton, Tex.

“We set goals this season and have met all of them so far,” said Hardy. “Our last goal is to make it to the USAG finals and have a shot at winning. I think this team is the best yet at Centenary and we have a legitimate shot at the national title.”

The Ladies all remember what happened at nationals last year and are unified on making sure that history does not repeat itself on their trip to north Texas in two weeks.