Gymnastics Season Preview: Beam
Jan. 4, 2012
SEATTLE - Under strong leadership by upperclassmen, balance beam will be the event with the most depth for the Huskies this season, as all thirteen gymnasts on the roster will be able to compete on beam. The increased depth will create a battle for a spot on the beam lineup for the GymDawgs.
"Last year we improved this event so much by not counting falls each meet," head coach Joanne Bowers said, "but this year we are hoping to take the next step and improve the scores."
The addition of assistant coach Elise Ray this season also has and will continue to add a lot of improvement to this event.
About Ray, Bowers said, "Our new assistant coach, Elise Ray, is working wonders with this event. Elise was a national champion on this event in her day and really seems to understand the mindset it takes to compete beam."
Ray is an Olympic bronze medalist and also placed eighth in the all-around, highest by an American, at the 1999 World Championships in Tianjin, China. After the Olympics, Ray competed under Coach Bowers at Michigan where she placed second on beam at the NCAA Super Six finals. There, she also won a gold medal on the beam in 2002. She was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in August 2011.
Junior Paige Bixler (Rowlett, Texas) will build upon her success on beam from last season and will be a key leader in this event for the Huskies. Last season, she competed on beam in every meet and won two beam titles on the year, versus Cal with a 9.800 and versus ASU with a 9.825.
She had a season best 9.850 on beam at the Pac-10 Championships, tying for seventh, and posted a team-high score (9.800) on beam in the Quad Meet last season, placing second overall.
As a freshman, Bixler won her first event title on the beam with a 9.925 versus Seattle Pacific, the highest score for a UW gymnast on the event since 2007 and a record for a UW freshman.
"Paige is ready to be our new anchor, [the person who comes at] the end of the lineup," Bowers said. "She has a great deal of difficulty and beautiful presentation."
Vaccher (Eugene, Ore.) had a strong freshman season last year, advancing to NCAA Championships in the all-around, tying for 19th with a score of 39.075. At Nationals, she tied for 23rd on beam in her session with a 9.700. At NCAA Regionals, she led the team in several events, including the beam, on which she scored 9.775. In her first ever collegiate meet, she tied for the Husky lead on the beam with a 9.725 at the season-opening Pac-10 Showcase. At the Pac-10 Championships, she tied for second on the event with a career high 9.900.
Whitney (Mesa, Ariz.) competed on beam for the first time in her career last season, posting a 9.650 at the Quad Meet. She scored her career high on the event, a 9.875, at the Pac-10 Championships last season, tying for fifth place.
Akaogi (Cupertino, Calif.) competed on beam twice last season before earning a medical redshirt and missing the rest of the season with a torn Achilles. In the Pac-10 showcase, she tied for 13th with a team-high 9.725 on beam. She then earned a 9.625 eighth place finish in the home opener versus Boise State, Illinois State, and Seattle Pacific, before facing injury later in the meet. In her previous two full seasons, she posted strong beam scores as a sophomore and set a career-high 9.850 on beam at the NCAA West Regional as a freshman.
"[Aliza, Megan, and Hatsune] are looking good in pre-season [practice]. They have a good bit of experience competing and should be ready to go," Bowers said.
"Others that have worked hard to improve and will be fighting for a spot in the lineup are [juniors] Lauren [Rogers], Phoebe [Tham], and Kylie [Sharp] and [senior] Ruby [Engreitz]."
Rogers (Plains, Pa.) competed on beam for the first time in her career last season, only competing in the event in two meets, but has worked hard this summer in hopes of joining the lineup.
Tham (North Vancouver, B.C., Canada) and Sharp (Herriman, Utah) have not previously competed on beam but also have been working hard in the offseason in hopes of competing in a new event this year. Previously, Tham has only competed on bars and floor and Sharp has competed on vault, bars, and floor.
Engreitz (Kirkland, Wash.) competed on beam nine times last year as part of all-around competition. She led the team on beam with 9.775 in her first all-around competition of the season vs. perennial powerhouse Oklahoma. She also posted a career high 9.825 on beam at the Pac-10 Championships.
Fechter placed fourth on beam at the 2009 Kansas State meet.
McCartin was an Elite Qualifier and placed first on beam at the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup during the 2010 Elite Season. She also was the JO National Champion, finishing first on beam, during the 2009 Level 10 season.
"The dance and the little details are really improving during practice," Bowers said, "and I expect this to be a strong event for us this season."