The Gustavus Adolphus College women’s gymnastics team enters the 2008 season with optimism as 11 letterwinners return to the squad including national championship qualifiers Laura Hansen and Christine Askham. Coach Kris Glidden and her squad have their hopes set on qualifying for the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association National Championships as a team after missing the national meet last year. The Gusties open their season on Saturday, January 12 with a dual meet at the University of Wisconsin — Whitewater.
Coach Glidden will build around key returners Christine Askham (Jr., Arvada, Colo.) and Laura Hansen (JR., Inver Grove Heights, Minn.). Askham, who just returned from a semester studying in Costa Rica, will perform on floor exercise, uneven parallel bars, and the vault. A two-time NCGA Championships qualifier in floor exercise, Askham ranked second on the team in average floor score last year at 8.98. She will be one of the few veterans on the floor this year as the Gusties graduated three of their top five floor competitors from a year ago including All-American Nicole Gergen. Hansen, a bars specialist, who also competes on the beam, has been the Gusties top performer on the bars for the past two years. A two-time qualifier for the NCGA Championships, Hansen finished 17th at the NCGA Regional with a score of 8.90 and 20th at the NCGA Championships with a score of 9.25. She will also be a key contributor on the balance beam.
Others expected to contribute in multiple events include junior Jessica Dolan (Milroy, Minn.), sophomore Christina Sorenson (Worthington, Minn.), junior Aryn Bell (Eden Prairie, Minn.), sophomore Laurel Urquhart (Great Falls, Mont.), junior Jaime Tsurasaki (Apple Valley, Minn.), junior Jennifer Berglund (Plymouth, Minn.), and senior Kelsie Droogsma (Elk River, Minn.). Dolan contributed regularly on the vault and floor last year and will be added to the balance beam rotation this year. Coach Glidden recognized Dolan as the most improved gymnast on the squad and lauded her for her tremendous efforts to improve in the off-season. Sorenson contributed regularly on the vault last year and has looked very strong on that apparatus in pre-season workouts. She will also contribute on the balance beam and floor exercise this year. Bell will once again be one of the squad’s top vaulters. She averaged 8.875 in nine meets last year with a season high score of 9.325 at the University of Minnesota Invitational. Bell will also contribute on the uneven bars. Urquhart will once again be a regular contributor on both the balance beam and uneven bars. She participated in both events in all nine meets last year as a first year competitor. Tsurasaki will give the Gusties a veteran presence on the balance beam as she returns as a regular for the third consecutive year. She will also help give the squad some depth on the floor this year. Berglund, who will miss a good part of January, will return to give the squad important depth on the vault, uneven bars, and floor, while Droogsma, who will miss all of January while studying in Australia, returns as a regular on both the balance beam and floor. Senior Danielle Berg (St. Cloud, Minn.) is a vault specialist who has been a regular contributor for the past three years. She will lead a Gustie vault contingent that appears to be the strongest group the team has fielded in several years. Junior Megan Johnson (Minneapolis, Minn.) looks to step in and contribute on the balance beam, along with sophomore transfer Megan Thompson (Hayward, Minn.) and junior Julie Kruchoski (Chisholm, Minn.). Three veteran gymnasts are currently nursing injuries and their availability to compete this season is uncertain. That group includes junior Catherine Osterhaus (Eagan, Minn.), junior Emily Pickford (Minnetonka, Minn.), and senior Kasey Lyng (Eden Prairie, Minn.). Ostherhaus has been selected to serve as the team’s captain.
The Gusties also welcome a solid group of first year gymnasts including Kelly Mathewson (Maple Grove, Minn.), Melanie Deutsch (New Prague, Minn.), Katie Mehrmann (Tai Tam, Hong Kong), Jordann Rolland (St. Peter, Minn.), and Lindsay Smithson (Worthington, Minn.). Mathewson is an all-arounder who looks to be a major contributor right from the start for the Gusties. The veteran club gymnast has been a standout for the Twin Cities Twisters the past several years. Deutsch is battling for a spot in the floor rotation, while Smithson appears to have earned a spot in the bars rotation. Rolland and Mehrmann will provide solid depth on the vault.
Gustavus will host two home meets during the season and those meets will take place in the Lund Center Forum, instead of the Sponberg Gymnastics Studio where the team has hosted its meets in the past. The Gusties first home meet is a triangular against UW-Eau Claire and Winona State on Thursday, January 31st, while the second meet is a dual with UW-Oshkosh on Saturday, February 16.