Like a routine wobbling on the beam, Gabby Linarducci's gymnastics career was in the balance three years ago.
Linarducci was a freshman walk-on at Towson State in 1990, taking a bit part in the Tigers' first and only appearance at the NCAA championships. Coach Dick Filbert thought she needed to make a greater commitment to fulfill her potential athletically and academically, but Linarducci didn't know if the time she already was putting in was worth it.
"Gabby came in at the end of her freshman year and said, 'I should be on scholarship,' but I pointed out that she was only doing two events for us," Filbert said. "The Kentucky
coach had just told me he had an extra scholarship, and I gave Gabby his number. I thought she was gone.
"When Gabby told us she'd be coming back, that's when we put her on scholarship. I didn't want her to want just our money. If she was going to succeed, she had to want gymnastics and Towson State, too."
Linarducci's lukewarm commitment to the sport and college heated up. As a sophomore, she won the all-around title at the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships, and she'll try to regain that honor at 7 tonight at the Towson Center, site of the 10th annual ECAC meet.
In the fall, she'll be doing her student teaching, and no one is more surprised than Linarducci at how far she has come in the three years since she nearly went back home to Linden, N.J.
"I really didn't know what I wanted to do coming out of high school," Linarducci said. "I was just floating. They [Filbert and assistant coach Lynda LaMonica] had to convince me I was good. After listening to them every day, I began to think I could do it at this level."
Linarducci is the Towson State record-holder in the floor exercis (9.85). Her all-around best of 38.45 was earned last season, which ended suddenly for her on her 21st birthday, April 3. Six days before the Southeast Regional, she sprained an ankle in practice. Filbert felt that a healthy Linarducci would have put Towson State back in the NCAA championships.
Linarducci has been an anchor this season for the Tigers, who are down to seven able bodies. Wendy Chalmers, the top returnee, was released from the program, a freshman left the team and four others are injured. Linarducci took the all-around at the state championships Feb. 7 and at the Towson State Invitational Feb. 20, and she matched her career-best of 9.75 on the beam in last week's win over Yale. She's the defending ECAC champ in that event.