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Women's Gymnastics Battles Beam with Mental Toughness

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By Sallie Sharer,, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The women's gymnastics team fell to Michigan over the weekend, but head coach Jeff Thompson could not have been more pleased with the team's performance.

8597653.jpegThe team had conquered the mental toughness they had needed this season.

With a less than stellar performance on the balance beam two weeks ago at Nebraska, coach Thompson said the girls never wanted to feel the way they felt after that meet.

The week in practice leading up to the meet in Michigan was geared to rectifying those mistakes.

"I think it's a combination of several things. Maybe the most important thing is the way they felt at Nebraska when it was over. That is a very powerful motivator," Thompson said. "We started practices with beam intrasquad, and they had to hit to move on. They hit. They also had to end the practice with a beam intrasquad, they had to hit or they had to come back in on Wednesday, and they hit. So, not wanting to feel like that again helped them focus in practice. It helped build their confidence."

Their performances on the beam last week consisted of hitting all of their routines and posting their second highest score on the event.

"We knew we had this in us all along," Thompson said. "The girls set a goal before the meet started this weekend. Number one, to stay mentally tough, mentally focused until the very end, which we failed to do at Nebraska. We tried too hard, and ended up making mistakes on beam that we don't ordinarily make. The thing I'm most proud of is that they were able to do that."

Beam was the last event for the Lions at Michigan.

"They could have gone to beam and done what they did the week before, instead they just went over there and nailed everything, so that was awesome," Thompson said.

The second goal, Thompson said, was to go 24 for 24 routines.

"We went 23 for 24, and all exhibitions hit their routines so really we went 26 for 27. So, that was the real goal. The third goal was to score 196, because we felt like every meet we went to, had we done our job, we could have scored around a 196 or a little higher."

The Lions achieved all three of their goals, posting a score of 196.7, their highest score this season.

Headlining the performances of the night was senior co-captain Madison Merriam, who is still healing from an injury in the Lion's home opener this season. With two scores above 9.900, her work was paying off.

Merriam posted a 9.950 on vault, and 9.900 on the uneven bars, which was the event she had injured herself on in the home opener.

"I was really happy with my performance, I felt like all of my hard work was really paying off," Merriam said.

Getting the win was not the priority, Merriam said.

"We went into this meet trying to focus on ourselves, and hitting our routines. It was not about beating Michigan, it was about going out there and hitting our routines and we did that, and we got the scores," Merriam said.

Merriam performed on beam as an exhibition performance, and hit her routine with a 9.775. She was also thrilled at the Lions turn around on beam.

"This weekend they did a phenomenal job," Merriam said. "They were so confident up there, and they were a completely different team than they were at Nebraska. They went up there, and they owned it. I think they mentally prepared themselves better, and every single one of them knew they did not want to feel the way they felt after Nebraska."

The confidence from last week's meet has boosted the Lion's motivation going into the coming weeks of competition.

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