By Dan O'Connell
With Coach Dick Filbert putting the finishing touches on his 28th and final season as the head coach of the Tiger gymnastics program, many long-time followers have been reflecting on his 28 seasons as coach.
Everyone has their favorite memories, their favorite stories and their favorite teams.
In my mind, the 1988 Tigers will always be a very special group.
Towson has had a lot of outstanding teams through the years and there have been a number of teams that have been better than the 1988 group.
However, the 1988 Tigers had a trio of freshmen that set the tone for the gymnastics program. The 1988 Tigers served notice to the college gymnastics world that Towson had arrived.
While the 1988 Tigers had a very strong veteran presence with all-time greats like Colleen Kelly, Lori Salindong, Stephanie St. Angelo and Michelle Truesdell, a trio of freshmen helped raise the Tigers to another level.
Tandy Knight of Takoma Park, Md., Carri Scott of Pinellas Park, Fla. and Anne Sugden of Millersville, Md. arrived on campus and brought an attitude of mental toughness that impacted the team in a positive way.
Coach Filbert recognized the new attitude immediately. In 1988, he said, "This year's group of freshmen isn't necessarily more skillful than any other class. But I think they are used to pressure. I think they've got ice water in their veins."
The three newcomers added a mental toughness to the squad. Scott competed in two meets with a black eye she received when she fell off the balance beam in practice. At the ECAC Championship Meet, Knight fell off the uneven bars and landed on her head. Undaunted, she got back up and won the ECAC title on the balance beam. Sugden competed in every meet during her career despite elbow and ankle injuries.
All three of the freshmen brought very different personalities to the Tiger gymnastics program. Carri Scott was a light-hearted, easy-going gymnast who became a very serious person when the meets started. Tandy Knight was clearly the most competitive gymnast who demanded perfection from herself and her teammates. She despised losing and her demeanor was evidence of that. Anne Sugden was the quiet, confident gymnast who worked hard at everything she did. One of the best bars workers ever to compete for the Tigers, she was an outstanding student who worked for NASA after she graduated from Towson.
As freshmen, they played prominent roles on a team that opened the season with a 28-0 record. Carri was the Tigers' top all-around performer for most of the season. Honored as the ECAC Gymnast of the Week twice, she broke the school record for an all-around score.
All three freshmen earned first team All-ECAC honors as they led the Tigers to a 31-2 record, setting a school record for victories in a season that still stands.
At the ECAC Championship Meet, the Tigers used a very balanced effort to win their second straight ECAC title, edging host New Hampshire for the championship. On the balance beam, Tandy won the ECAC title with a meet record score. Anne claimed the ECAC title on bars and also broke the ECAC record.
But, the 1988 Tigers saved their best performance for the NCAA Southeast regional meet. Making their second consecutive appearance at the NCAA Regionals, the sixth-seeded Tigers stunned everyone by finishing third in the meet behind Florida and Georgia. As a result, Coach Filbert was named as the NCAA Southeast Regional Coach of the Year.
When the Tigers moved to NCAA Division I status prior to the 1987 season, one of Coach Filbert's stated goals was to make Towson a Top 20 program "within a few years." After the 1988 season, the Tiger coach realized that his program was way ahead of schedule because Towson finished the season as the 19th-ranked program in NCAA Division I.
Meanwhile, the Tigers' freshman class of 1988 led Towson gymnastics to even greater things over the next three years.
As sophomores, Knight, Scott and Sugden helped Towson post a 20-2 record and win a third straight ECAC title. Knight was the star of the 1989 ECAC championship meet as she won balance beam for the second straight year and earned the ECAC all-around title. Appearing at the NCAA Regional Meet for the third year in a row, the Tigers turned in a fourth place finish.
Tandy, Carri and Anne were all mainstays on the Tigers' magical 1990 team, a squad that posted a 23-1 record and won another ECAC title. The 1990 Tigers used another strong effort at the NCAA Regional Meet to become the first Towson team to qualify for nationals. Seeded 11th in a 12-team field at Nationals at Oregon State, the Tigers stunned everyone by finishing ninth in the nation.
As seniors in 1991, the trio helped Towson post a 16-4 record and win their fifth straight ECAC title. Sugden capped off her career by winning the ECAC championship on beam. She was also named as the ECAC Scholar-Athlete for gymnastics and earned Academic All-America® second team honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America.
A four-time All-ECAC selection, Knight finished her career as the all-time leading scorer in Towson gymnastics history with 1,771.875 points. However, her total has been topped five times in the last 19 years and she is currently the sixth-leading scorer in program history. She was inducted into the Towson Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
Scott struggled with injuries for a large portion of her career. A three-time All-ECAC honoree, she finished her career with 1,214.600 points, 23rd on Towson's all-time scoring list.
A four-time All-ECAC choice, Sugden concluded her career with 1,487.800 points, ranked 11th on Towson's career scoring list. She was inducted into the Towson Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.
But the numbers that matter the most to Tandy, Carri and Anne might be 90 and 9. In their four seasons, they led Towson to 90 victories and only 9 losses.