By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Saturday, Rec Hall was packed with women's gymnastics fans representing schools like the University of Florida, Arizona State and even the University of Washington, but the colors that stood out the most were Blue and White.
"Tonight was a really big night for us," head coach Sarah Brown said on her team hosting a 2018 NCAA Regional meet. "I thought there was an incredible environment here at Rec Hall and I'm very very thankful for all of the work that went into promoting this competition. It was a great competition. There was some really high-level gymnastics here."
As the hosts of the 2018 NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, the Penn State women's gymnastics team welcomed the University of Florida, University of Washington, Arizona State, West Virginia University and University of New Hampshire. With scores of 197.725 and 196.275, Florida and Washington secured the top of the podium to win overall and advance to the NCAA Championships as a team.
Rec Hall also gave a platform to individual competitors from Yale, Bridgeport, Rutgers, Temple and Penn who the Nittany Lions welcomed into their own gymnastics community.
"The gymnastics community is a small community and we are a really tight knit community," Brown said. "For those individuals who did rotate with us, they are here by themselves and so our hearts go out to them and we want to make sure that we give them a warm welcoming environment...so we do our best to get to know their names and we try to learn parts of their floor routine if we can and just try to cheer them on and make them feel like they are at home as much as they are because they are representing their universities incredibly well and they should be very proud to be here."
Although the Penn State Nittany Lions did not qualify as team, they will be sending one of their own to the NCAA Women's Gymnastics National Championships to represent the Blue and White like the individual competitors did for their respective schools on Saturday at NCAA Regionals.
Freshman Lauren Bridgens made her mark as she climbed the podium to third with her 39.200 all-around performance.
"I was pretty proud of it [on her performance]," Bridgens said. "A few things here and there to kind of fix, but overall I am pretty proud of myself and I couldn't thank my team enough for just the support and the energy in here was amazing today so I think that was what really helped me."
In her last and best event of the day, Bridgens laid out a one and a half, a stuck landing and a 9.900 score on vault.
"She said she was feeling good so we let her go with the one and a half and she just showed how amazing she is," Brown said. "She stuck it...I was so proud of the way she closed out the competition."
Bridgens credited her energy and dynamic performance to the support of the Rec Hall crowd and her team.
"So, coming in like all the upperclassmen they are always giving us advice and leading us in the right direction," Bridgens said. "I don't always know where I'm going so just to have someone to lead you in the right direction is always good and the support from this team is amazing."
One standout gymnast has led by doing.
Although senior Briannah Tsang did not qualify for the championships in two weeks, she had a consistent and dynamic all-around performance that will be remembered by her teammates, especially the younger Bridgens.
"I tried to remind her [Tsang] was that one routine doesn't define who you are and doesn't define the mark that you left on this program," Brown said. "She's been an incredible leader for us. She's part of the reason why Lauren is seeing this success that she is because Bri has done such a good job in leading her so I'm proud of Bri."
Tsang's 9.850 bar performance was one of the highest Penn State scores of the day.
On Saturday, Rec Hall witnessed a passing of the torch from Tsang's legacy as a senior to Bridgen's future as a returning sophomore.
But before the Nittany Lions look to next season, the Penn State women's gymnastics team will send Bridgens as an individual competitor to the NCAA Championships on April 20 and April 21 in the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri.
"The seasons not over yet," Bridgens said.