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Gymnastics head coach to retire after 39 years leading program

File Photo by Arielle Bader | Senior Photo Editor
Margie Foster Cunningham and volunteer assistant coach Justin Watson speak in 2020.

Gymnastics Head Coach Margie Foster-Cunningham will retire after 39 years leading the program, officials announced last week.

As GW’s longest-serving head coach and one of the longest-tenured coaches across the country, Foster-Cunningham consistently built successful rosters, sending 15 teams to NCAA regionals and winning NCAA Region Coach of the Year four times throughout her storied career. The GW release states that a “national search” for gymnastics’ next head coach will begin immediately.

“For almost 40 years and in five different decades, I’ve had the honor of coaching some of the most remarkable women on Earth,” Foster-Cunningham said in the release. “That’s not a job; it’s a blessing.”  

Since joining the East Atlantic Gymnastics League in 2005, GW has won three conference championships under Foster-Cunningham’s leadership, including as recently as 2022. Foster-Cunningham herself has won eight Conference Coach of the Year awards between EAGL and the Atlantic 10, gymnastics’ former conference prior to 2005.

Gymnastics had consistent success throughout Foster-Cunningham’s tenure, with 15 NCAA regional appearances spanning from 1991 to 2019. During her time at GW, 62 gymnasts have received a combined 172 all-conference honors. 

Foster-Cunningham competed for Penn State as a college gymnast, earning five All-American honors and winning a national championship in 1980. She represented the United States in the 1979 World University Games, leading the squad to a third-place finish.

In April, three GW athletes competed individually at the Fayetteville Regional, including senior Kendall Whitman, who tied for fourth in session scoring 9.875 on vault. Whitman won the EAGL Senior Gymnast of the Year award this past season, GW’s second consecutive winner following then-senior Deja Chambliss’ win in 2023.

Foster-Cunningham coached every gymnast in the top-10 scoring of every event in GW’s history, rewriting the record book in her nearly four decades with the program.

“Margie Cunningham Foster is synonymous with GW gymnastics,” 1997 gymnastics alumna Kristie Helfrich said in the release. “It is difficult to measure the incredible impact that she has made on the program and the hundreds of women that have been lucky enough to be coached by her.”

In 2015, GW set a new program record with a 196.875 score, which the team met again in 2018. 

“When I reflect on Margie’s storied career, I don’t think about all of the success that her teams earned in competition,” Athletics Director Tanya Vogel said in the release. “Margie’s impact is seen in the incredible alumnae of this program who have graduated and gone on to make a much larger impact on our global society.”

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