August 28, 2002\
GYMNASTICS CRACKS TOP-20 IN NACGC SCHOLAR ALL-AMERICA TEAM STANDINGS
DeKALB, IL - Besides getting the most out of his student-athletes in the
gym, Northern Illinois University women's gymnastics coach Mark Sontag
wants his gymnastics to excel in the classroom. That emphasis on academics
has paid off for the Huskies as their team grade point average of 3.34
ranks 18th in the country as part of the National Association of Collegiate
Gymnastics Coaches for Women (NACGC) Scholastic All-America Team rankings.
Ranking in the top
20 nationally is a great accomplishment, but its speaks even higher of
the team considering where it placed just two years ago. After Sontag's
first season, the Huskies were 60th out of a possible 62 teams. Last year
Northern Illinois moved up 28 spots to number 32 then jumped 14 more to
its current spot at No. 18.
academics is one main building blocks to putting together a strong program,"
Sontag said. "When we first started working with the girls we tried
to stress the importance of academics for having a strong career outside
of collegiate athletics. It helps them with learning how to prioritize
and build time management skills."
Besides climbing up
the national charts, the Huskies moved up amongst Mid-American Conference
schools, finishing second behind only Eastern Michigan University. Within
the team, seven gymnasts earned individual honors from the NACGC for maintaining
a GPA of 3.50 or higher during the last two seasons. The seven individual
honors tied Northern Illinois for 13th in the country and placed them
second in the league behind EMU's national-best 14 recipients.
Leading the team in
the classroom for the third year in a row was senior Laura Hale
(Plymouth, MN / Wayzata). A three-time NIU Athletics Department Victory
Scholar, the speech pathology major has a cumulative GPA of 3.90. Just
percentage points behind Hale was sophomore Katie Willett (Hastings,
NE / Adams Central) as she posted a 3.89 GPA in biological sciences during
her first year at Northern Illinois.
Another rookie who
had a strong academic season was Mariah Howard (Hales Corner, WI
/ Whitnall). A fellow biological sciences major, she chalked up a 3.80
GPA to earn Victory Scholar honors. Continuing the strong performance
by the freshmen last year was art major Lisanna Goldschen (St.
Joseph, MN / Apollo) who completed her first year with a 3.67 GPA. Rounding
out the group of strong freshmen grades was Erin Godin (Seminole,
FL) as she nailed a 3.58 in liberal arts and sciences.
Not to let the rookies
get the entire spotlight, two more upperclassmen made the list. Senior
Anna Gardina (Gahanna, OH / Lincoln) posted two straight 3.50-plus
semester to up her cumulative GPA to 3.49 in family, consumer and nutritional
sciences. After a rocky start to her academic career, Rosa Marafioti
ended her final year with a 3.29 GPA following two strong semesters during
her senior year.
"We make it a
priority everyday in the gym," Sontag added. "We talk about
how they did on a test or what upcoming tests, papers or projects they
may have. It's a constant dialogue and the girls know that this is something
that we are going to discuss everyday, not just once at the end of the
With only Marafioti
not back for the 2003 seasons, Sontag should have won of his strongest
teams at Northern Illinois. The Huskies return 15 letterwinners from last
year, including 2002 NCAA South Central Regional participant Kristina
Campos (Gladstone, MO / Oak Park) and Gardina, a 2001 NCAA qualifier.
-Copy by Michael