By Andrew Yourell, Staff Writer
Before a Lundholm Gymnasium crowd of over 1,000 spectators, the Wildcats celebrated Academic Excellence Night, honoring the faculty and staff that help the ‘Cats in and outside of the classroom. Chief among the honorees was Provost Lisa MacFarlane, who would be stepping down at the end of the academic year to take over as principal at Phillips Exeter Academy.
The 24th ranked Wildcats gave MacFarlane a warm send-off, improving their record to 5-1 on the year as they took down Temple University by a score of 194.150-189.225. The Owls dropped to 1-5 on the season, as the UNH team swept the top-3 spots in the vault and floor, and took gold and silver in the uneven bars and beam. Senior captain Erika Rudiger led the charge, taking the runner-up spot on the uneven bars and winning the meet’s finale, the floor exercise.
“We had some struggles here and there, but as a team we got better because we picked it up, we fought through the mistakes, and that really builds your team up,” Rudiger said.
While she praised the team, she remained analytic of her own performance, acknowledging that she didn’t stick her landing on the uneven bars.
“Floor was definitely the best for me tonight,” she continued. “I really got in the zone and hit my set and showed off my floor routine. Which I haven’t hit so far.” Her 9.850 score was hard-earned after an electric performance to wrap up the meet.
Joining Rudiger with event wins was sophomore standout Meghan Pflieger — who won the vault and the meet’s all-around with scores of 9.850 and 38.9, respectively. Her senior co-captain, Kayla Gray, won the beam with a 9.800. Freshman Makenzie Kerouac, edged out Rudiger on uneven bars with a 9.800.
Head coach Gail Goodspeed was happy with the performances that she saw, but not necessarily with the end result of the meet.
“We have 24 routines that we actually count in the competition and we hit 22 of those 24, so that’s pretty good,” Goodspeed said,
She also expressed how the team’s 194.150 was, to her eyes, a low score considering the fact that the team had only two falls through the entire meet.
“We made mistakes that we could fix,” she admitted. “But primarily, it really was very tight officiating.” She referenced some changes to the rules that have gone into effect this year, and how every meet has been different, depending on the judges and how strictly they enforce and score the new rules.
She also said that, from a mental standpoint, when the first score of the first event came up low, she noticed the ladies tightening up and worrying about not making mistakes, as opposed to focusing on a good performance.
“Temple did a great job,” she added. “That’s where they’ve been. They’ve got some good athletes at the end of their lineup…we have good athletes right from the start.”
With the snow impacting their normal practice routine and a return to the classroom limiting the practice times they enjoyed over break, Goodspeed admitted that there was work to be done going forward, but also stressed that that is okay, considering the reason the gymnasts are at UNH is for an education first.
Next week the Wildcats play host to West Virginia, Towson, Brown for the UNH Invitational. The meet will take place February 8 at 1 p.m. The meet will also serve as the Wildcats’ “Stick It for the Cure” meet to raise awareness and money to battle breast cancer.