Months of frustration and uncertainty have finally given way to relief for coach Patty Stotzheim and her Southeast Missouri State University women's gymnastics team.
Southeast officials announced over the weekend that the school will continue to sponsor a gymnastics program. Before the announcement, there was a very real possibility that the program would be discontinued following the 2003 season.
"It almost feels like it's a whole new season for us," Stotzheim said. "It has been frustrating for, to have to go through that process.
"I really felt this was the way it had to come out, I just wish it would have happened faster."
For the past several months, an ad hoc committee appointed by Southeast president Kenneth Dobbins had been reviewing various aspects of the school's intercollegiate athletics program.
This review was required as part of the athletics re-certification process mandated by the NCAA for all Division I programs every 10 years. One area of study involved an evaluation of women's gymnastics and there was plenty of speculation that the program could be dropped following its 28th season of competition in 2003.
"It's a relief," Stotzheim, entering her fourth season at Southeast, said. "Not knowing what was going to happen was really hard."
Not that the uncertainty didn't hurt the program in itself, according to Stotzheim.
"We missed out on the fall signing period. I suppose I could have signed somebody, but that wouldn't have been right if we didn't even know if we were going to have a team next year," she said. "And it's been hard to schedule."
Added Stotzheim, "But now we can move forward with the season. I think we're going to have a really good year, the best since I've been here."
The Otahkians open the season Jan. 12 at Centenary University in Shreveport, La. The first home meet will be Jan. 19 against Illinois State at Houck Field House.