Did Wendy Weaver stumble onto some radical new training method for gymnasts?
A Towson State senior from Newark, Del., who has defied sports medicine and gymnastics custom, Weaver's career in the sport is about to come to a merciful conclusion. It's been 11 days since her most recent ailment, a sprained ankle that is the latest in a list of more than two dozen injuries she's sustained in the past 10 years.
Before heading for Gainesville, Fla., and the NCAA Southeast Regional, which begins today, Weaver shook her head and wondered aloud how she's been able to sustain the form that has her expecting to qualify for the April 24-25 NCAA championships as an individual if the Tigers don't make it as a team for the second time in three years. Her 1992 season has included personal best marks in every discipline and a school record in the all-around.
"It's strange," said Weaver, the Eastern College Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Year. "Every time I get hurt, it seems like I come back stronger."
Weaver missed six meets with a foot injury as a freshman in 1989. The next year she scored a school-record 38.375 points in the regionals to lead the Tigers to their first NCAA Division I championship meet. Before last season, she suffered a severe injury in her left shoulder that limited her participation.
Despite more slips, falls and visits to the X-ray room at St. Joseph's Hospital across from the Towson Center, Weaver is having another record year. On March 15, she raised her school record for the third time this season, to 39.20. In a sport in which friendly judging is crucial, it came on the road, no less.
"Basically, I was just hoping to give the team a few points here and there this year," Weaver said. "Things changed at our invitational [Feb. 16]. I had two falls on the beam, and even with that score [8.75], my all-around was 37.95. That got me thinking, and I had to re-evaluate where I was. I never thought I would do as well this year as I did as a sophomore, but here I am."
Weaver is in position for an happier ending to a story that she would have put a stop to earlier were it not for Dick Filbert, the Towson State coach.
"She wanted to quit many times, but I wouldn't let her," Filbert said. "She's glad I kept after her, because it's something she wanted to do very badly. She likes the status gymnastics has given her, deserves it and didn't want to give it up."
The Tigers, ranked No. 11 in the nation after winning their sixth straight ECAC title, might have enough depth to gain one of the seven at-large berths in the 12-team NCAA field. Otherwise, Weaver can qualify as an individual in the all-around or in a separate event.
"We've watered down her bars routine because of the shoulder injury, but we didn't even think she'd do that this year," Filbert said.