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By NANCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001
When Ashley Shible (East Lake) visited the University of Denver, the school and its surroundings were a perfect fit for the two-time Level 10 national vault champion.
"Being there seemed such a natural thing," said Shible, 18. "I've adapted to the weather -- the snow is fine -- and everyone is so nice here."
Shible is having a stellar freshman season with the Pioneers. She has set some school records in individual events and all-around performances and has won 17 overall titles up to this weekend's Pioneer Classic, which includes five-time national champion Georgia.
"Ashley is just having an incredible year," said third-year Denver coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart. "We had high expectations for Ashley, and she's just had a great season. The experience she and the other three freshman are getting is our foundation for the future."
Last year, the Pioneers missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships by a mere .025 points. This season, with performances from Shible and her teammates, Kutcher-Rinehart is looking forward to a national berth.
"We lost five seniors last year, plus the loss of All-American Jenny Ebdon this season to a season-ending ACL injury," Kutcher-Rinehart said. "So, Ashley and the rest of team have had some extra pressure, and they have risen to it."
Before her high school graduation, Shible trained at the Gemini School of Gymnastics in Oldsmar where she developed her signature vault techniques.
"We were just playing around with different things on the vault," said Shible, a biology major. "Vault is my favorite event anyway, so we were just experimenting."
Shible's experimentation paid off. She scored a 10 on vault in a meet with Utah State last month. Shible set the school all-around record with a 39.525 then again the following week with a 39.575.
Earlier this month against Southern Utah, Shible won vault (9.875) and balance beam (9.875) along with the all-around (39.300).
GYMNASTICS: Sophomore Jana Gallagher (Clearwater) scored a 9.9 to win the balance beam competition and was first all-around, leading the the University of Illinois to its first victory.
Senior Gina Weichmann (Countryside) was third on the balance beam and third all-around to contribute to the Illini's second-place finish in a meet with Cal State-Fullerton and Sacramento State.
Erin Signoracci (East Lake) and No. 16 West Virginia were scheduled to battle Tara Tagliarino (Plant High) and the University of Michigan on Saturday.
Krissy Dreger (Northeast) and No. 10 University of Florida edged Karen Kuplicki (Seminole) and Iowa State 195.175-195.075 in a Rydell High Reunion in Gainesville.
BASEBALL: Ryan McBee (Shorecrest) and Chris Maggi (Countryside) are seeing action with the Elon College Phoenix.
McBee, a freshman shortstop/second baseman, has started 12 games and is batting .208. Maggi, a junior second baseman, has played in three games.