A gymnastics story in Saturday's Extra incorrectly identified members of this year's Woodbridge team who qualified to compete at last year's Northwestern Region meet. The gymnasts are Rebecca Ruppert, Denise Flowers, Lauren Andress and Krista Graham. (Published 01/12/2000)

The prospect of entering a competitive gymnastics meet without your team's top gymnast would leave most coaches scrambling for a strategy.

But Woodbridge Coach Sue Bona-Bonacquisti--whose Vikings will be without sophomore Rebecca Ruppert at today's Washington Post-Loudoun Extra Invitational at Park View High School--simply smiled when asked about her plan and nodded toward a trio of gymnasts standing arm-in-arm after a victory over Osbourn on Thursday evening.

Juniors Lauren Andress and Krista Graham and sophomore Jana Hester have been at the heart of the Vikings recent success; Woodbridge hasn't lost a district meet in a year and half. Although Ruppert will be with her club team this weekend, Bona-Bonacquisti has been blessed with a number of talented gymnasts and thus is confident of Woodbridge's chances. In addition to the three returners, freshman Kristine Martin has emerged as one of the team's top all-around gymnasts.

"You cannot win without having those other people," Bona-Bonacquisti said of the necessity of having a deep team. "You can have one great kid, but if you have [other] kids that can only get up and walk up and down the beam, you cannot win."

As a freshman, Ruppert came just two-hundredths of a point shy of the Virginia state vaulting title. But she was not solely responsible for the team's success. Andress, Graham and Hester each qualified to compete in the all-around competition at the Northwestern Region tournament last year. They each averaged between 30 and 35 points a competition--40 points is the most a gymnast can receive.

"They are the depth," Bona-Bonacquisti said of the trio. "They are in every meet, always competing, and I know I can always count on them. . . . I can always count on them to be there to do any event. I could come up with a new event, say jump off the Occoquan Bridge, and they'd say, 'I'll do it.' "

Woodbridge's depth has not gone unnoticed by other coaches.

"What I remember about that team is that they did have a lot of depth," said Stafford first-year coach Shawn Smith--who served as an assistant coach last season for the Indians. "You need that. If you rely on just one person you are not going to help the team win. And if you think of gymnastics in high school, it is a team sport."

The team concept is something Woodbridge's gymnasts understand.

"All teams have one or two people that can score high, but having depth on the team is how you qualify for regionals and states," Graham said. "And that is our goal for this season, to get back to states."

Last season, Woodbridge placed sixth in the state meet, finishing less than a point out of fifth place. The thrill of competing for a state title has served as a motivator to succeed this season. Perhaps more exciting than the state competition itself was the trip: a week-long stay at Virginia Beach.

"I think we had more fun at states than we did competing at states," Andress said.

The closeness of the team also has been a big part of their success. The majority of the team spends a good chunk of their free time together, Bona-Bonacquisti said, and the support they show for each other at the meets is genuine.

"We kind of spend all of our time together," Graham said. "When you get along as a team, you are not afraid to encourage each other."

Added Bona-Bonacquisti: "They are a lot of fun to teach and coach. They make going to practice so much fun every day."