New challenge for Towson gymnastics

On Colleges

January 07, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Towson State opens its gymnastics season next weekend in a new league and missing some familiar competitors.

Gone are four All-ECAC performers: Wendy Chalmers, Joy Rudy and Karen Sturek graduated and Carrie Leger ended her career because of back problems. They helped the Tigers to their eighth ECAC championship in nine years, pushing coach Dick Filbert's record at Towson to 234-38-1 in 12 seasons.

And there are more changes in store for Towson, which has made nine straight appearances in the NCAA Southeast regional. It's now a member of the East Atlantic Gymnastics League, composed of teams from the North Atlantic, Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences.

"It's a little scary," Filbert said, "but we needed something a little more challenging at the end of the year."

Not everything about the season will be unfamiliar, though. There are five letter winners coming back; the best are senior Sari Lehmuskallio and junior Erin Shanley, who were outstanding in last season's regional meet.

Lehmuskallio, a native of Vantaa, Finland, tied the Towson record in the vault with a 9.90 score. Shanley set a school record with a 9.925 on the uneven bars, the highest score ever recorded by a Towson gymnast in any event. A week later, she won the vault competition at the National Invitational Meet in Missouri with a 9.875. Both gymnasts were named to the USGF's national collegiate team.

Lehmuskallio won the ECAC beam championship with a meet-record 9.85, and established school single-season records with a 9.717 average in vault and a 9.652 average on the beam. She'll be out another month because of an illness, though, and Filbert doesn't know what to expect from her when she returns.

"She's someone you depend on to score a lot of points," said Filbert, who has four freshman and only two seniors among his nine competitors. "And Erin is a super talent who's easily good enough to go to the national championships as an individual."

Among the other returnees are senior Pam Johnson, who is healthier than she has been the past three years and should help in all four events, and sophomore Katherine Creswell, the ECAC's Rookie of the Year.

The Tigers lost junior Julie Guthrie to a knee injury over the summer. Her strength was on the bars, an area of concern for Filbert.

Filbert said the Tigers appear to be strongest on the beam, and most improved in floor exercise, where all four freshmen are superb tumblers. As usual, Towson has a difficult schedule, which includes home meets against Kentucky, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

Tibbs quits UMBC team

Sophomore center Nikki Tibbs has left the women's basketball team at UMBC for personal reasons. She was expected to compete for a starting job this season, but averaged only 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds in six games.

Tibbs, 6 feet 2, didn't accompany the team to La Salle for a tournament on Dec. 28-29. The Retrievers lost twice to lower their record to 2-6, then were beaten at William and Mary, 72-40, last Wednesday.

She appeared in all 27 games last year, starting twice, and averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds. She had career highs of 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against Coastal Carolina in the Big South quarterfinals.

"She wants to take care of her education first," said coach Kathy Solano.

Tibbs' playing time this season had been reduced by the emergence of 6-foot freshman center Monica Logan, who went into Wednesday's game as UMBC's leading scorer at 8.3 points.

Transfer Smith lifts Loyola

Last week's arrival of Anthony Smith to Loyola's basketball team came at the right time with the loss of freshman forward Blanchard Hurd and sophomore guard John McDonald. Hurd (Milford Mill) is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and McDonald left school.

Smith sat out last season after transferring from Duquesne, and wasn't academically eligible to play at the beginning of this season.

The 6-foot-5, 185-pound junior can play either guard or forward. During the Otis Spunkmeyer Classic on Dec. 28-29 in Oakland, Calif., he scored 31 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in his first two games as a Greyhound. He had 14 points and nine rebounds in Thursday's 80-78, double-overtime win over St. Joseph's.

"He's the best athlete in the program," said Loyola coach Brian dTC Ellerbe. "He's not on scholarship. He's actually paying his way, so he's got a lot more incentive. He adds another dimension to the team."

If only Ellerbe could have everyone together at once. "You get one, you lose one. It's like we keep trading. We haven't played a game yet at full strength," he said.

Miscellaneous

Navy forward Adria Schneck was named Patriot League Player of the Week after averaging 23.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in three games. She then scored 32 points on 13-for-16 shooting from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds in Navy's first loss, 78-63, at Loyola Marymount. . . . Navy forward Josh Height was chosen Patriot League Rookie of the Week after averaging 9.7 points and seven rebounds in three games.

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