Recently in Women's Gymnastics Category

Alex Witt Reaching New Height on Uneven Bars and in the Classroom

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10856891.jpegBy Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When most kids are an 11-year-old, their career is usually the last thing on their mind. Penn State women's gymnastics senior Alex Witt was different; she has always known that she wanted to become a doctor.

If the Florida native knew one thing for certain, aside from her desired career path, she knew that she wanted to continue competitive gymnastics in college. She needed to find a school that would allow her to excel in the classroom and in the gym, and Penn State was that place.

"Moving up here was a huge adjustment for me," Witt said. "I was hundreds of miles away from home. But, by the end of sophomore year, I was involved with clubs, doing really well in school. You have to take advantage of everything this school has to offer."

Witt's junior year was a roller coaster ride; she missed the first eight meets of the season due to a thumb injury. Witt's primary event is uneven bars and was unable to train her upper-body for a good portion of the season.

"It was crazy," Witt said. "I had to have surgery on my thumb and then I was out for three months. But, I never lost faith that I would be back at sometime that season. I did walkthroughs with the team in the gym and was constantly doing cardio. Uneven bars is my best event, so I knew I just had to keep my mind fresh."

After three months of rehabilitation, Witt was ready to start to fight her way back into the starting rotation.

"We had to shuffle some things around in the lineup before NCAA Regionals last year," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "If Alex [Witt] didn't step up and perform as well as she did on bars, I don't know if we would have made it to the [NCAA] championships."

At the 2014 NCAA Regionals, Witt delivered a career defining performance, scoring a 9.850 on uneven bars. Her score not only lifted the team to the NCAA Championships, proved to her that she was 'back' and ready to compete.

This mentality that she has grown into because of gymnastics has influenced her desire to become an emergency room doctor or even venture into cardiology.

"Being an athlete has taught me how to deal with high pressure situations," Witt said. "As an ER doctor, I would have to be aware of multiple patients at once. Being able to focus and have a clear head is something that I have learned from this sport. I know that I would be prepared for that line of work."

This season, Witt has been consistent, delivery solid performances on bars at every meet. She is not only a senior, but also a leader in the event category. Penn State has always been solid, consistently, on floor and vault, but this year Witt's dedication has forged a path for new success on the apparatus.

"Alex [Witt] is the type of kid you want to recruit," Thompson said. "She is a hard worker, but she also knows how to have a good time. She makes you laugh and really understands that you have to take the good with the bad and make the most of it."

Most recently, Witt helped the team to a securing it's second highest bar score of the season at the Big Ten Championships. Witt's 9.850 performance helped the team to a 49.275 finish in the category.

"You just have to breathe," Witt said. "At the end of the day, it is just a sport, you can't be too hard on yourself. Things aren't going to go your way 100 percent of the time. In club gymnastics, you only compete for yourself, but college is different. Here, you compete for your teammates, coaches, all while representing your school. If you keep perspective, everything will be okay."

By Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State women's gymnastics team begins its quest for the Big Ten title tomorrow in Ann Arbor, Mich. After a rather successful season under the helm of head coach Jeff Thompson, who came into the Penn State fold just five years ago, the Nittany Lions enter the post-season with only two regular season losses.

The success of this team lies within their dedication and consistency in the practice gym, where coach Thompson tells his gymnasts to "compete how they practice." While many challenge the saying, "practice makes perfect," these gymnasts have dedicated themselves to it.

"These girls have been so successful because they trust each other," Thompson said. "Each and every one of them has stepped up, at some point, this season. We have had girls rotating events and changing lineups and they have adjusted well to that. We are one team."

Event Break Down: Bye-Rounds and B1G Momentum

The Nittany Lions finished second at the Big Five meet last weekend, giving them the momentum they need as they head into the Big Ten Championships. This tournament is different than any other: bye rounds are awarded to various teams throughout the tournament, a major change from the traditional meet. Typically, teams have a set rotation based on whether they are the home or away team at a meet, a routine that the gymnasts adjust too all season.

Penn State has been awarded two bye rounds during the tournament. How the team will handle two bye rounds will come down to their ability to channel their energy and adrenaline, something they have worked on all season.

Bye rounds aside, the Nittany Lions have a rather different rotation than they are used to. They will open on bars, then head over to beam, before making their way to floor, and finishing off on vault.

"We have to focus on sticking our handstands and dismounts on bars," Thompson said. "If we can stick our landings on bars, that momentum will transfer to beam."

The Nittany Lions close out on the two strongest events in their rotation: floor and vault.

"I want our girls to really connect with the audience and the judges when they are performing on floor," Thompson said. "Floor is an event meant for storytelling and if they can do that, they will be successful. Vault has been our event all season and I am confident that we will do what we have done consistently all season."

Thompson's Team

This team is equally as trusting of one another as they are competitive. Coach Thompson, along with his staff, has built an environment, which breeds a team-first mentality. Thompson's gymnasts were able to score a 196.650 on the road, the fifth highest road score in school history.

Where To Watch

You can watch your Nittany Lions on the Big Ten Network. The meet starts Saturday, March 21 at 11:30 a.m. 

Last Regular Season Meet, A Gauge for Postseason

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10856040.jpegBy Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team heads to West Virginia this weekend to compete in its last regular season meet of this year's slate. This season has been another incredible year for the program under the direction of Jeff and Rachelle Thompson. With six wins in eight meets and a deep, talented lineup, the potential that this team has for the postseason is off the charts.

But, before the team heads to the Big Five meet in Minnesota, the qualifying tournament to the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions take on the Mountaineers this Sunday.

"You never know how dual meets will pan out, especially with changes to your rotation," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "At home, we almost always finish on floor, but this weekend we will be ending on beam, which is different."

Penn State is currently ranked No.11, compared to West Virginia's No. 30 placement. Of the four events, bars, beam, vault and floor, the Mountaineers are only ahead of the Nittany Lions in the rankings on floor.

"We have had two road losses this year," Thompson said. "That plays into where we fall in the rankings. But we have made a lot of adjustments since those losses and the girls have been working hard."

Keys To The Meet:

"Sticks"
When the average person thinks of the phrase "stick a landing" in terms of gymnastics, typically the reaction is "not falling." Sticking a landing is so much more than that; It is the most mentally challenging aspect of the sport. With so many variables working against you, sticking a landing is challenging and a skill where deductions come from, most often. If you step out, wobble or even seem a bit uneasy, you are most likely going to get a deduction and those begin to add up.

"A lot of our gymnasts have incredibly challenging routines," Thompson said. "But if you have the slightest big of a wobble, you are going to lose points. The girls have to be confident. We are ending the meet on beam so we have to keep things consistent."

"Channeling Adrenaline"
The Nittany Lion roster is strong, powerful and exciting to watch. They are incredibly consistent and successful; there is no question why channeling adrenaline is a major component to a successful day on Saturday. It will be even more of challenge due to a change in their rotation; ending on beam is a deviation from the norm.

"Gymnastics is an individual sport and a team sport," Thompson said. "If one person doesn't perform well, it can effect the entire team. But the girls trust each other; they work well under pressure. If they do what they do in the gym, every day, I have no doubt that we will be successful this weekend."

Coming Full Circle...
The team has benefited from the rigorous judging they have seen all season; the way they have been scored all season is similar to the way they will be judged in the postseason. Considering they have generally gotten better, more consistent scores, week in and week out, they are more than prepared for their championship hunt. 


Seniors Cap Off Stellar Home Season

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10842577.jpegBy Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Saturday's senior night was bittersweet for coaches Jeff and Rachelle Thompson - the four seniors honored were the first gymnasts they recruited as coaches for Penn State.

Seniors Krystal Welsh, Sidney Sanabria-Robles, Alex Witt, and Lexi Carroll contributed to Penn State's quad meet win on Saturday, finishing ahead of Iowa State, Penn and SUNY Brockport, capping off their undefeated home slate this season.


These seniors are special, as they, along with the coaching staff, have again put Penn State on the map as one of the top women's collegiate gymnastics programs. Aside from their contributions to the sport, these girls have created a familial environment for the program; the trust they have in one another has made them as successful as they are today.

"From day one, these girls have been developing this trust for one another," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We have this saying, 'grab the rope.' When one of your teammates is having a bad day or doesn't perform as well on a routine, it is their job to support one another. If everyone is 'holding on' and supporting one another, being successful and doing what we do at practice in meets becomes that much easier."

It was no surprise to fans watching on Saturday that the seniors performed as well as they did. Welsh clinched the all-around title, finishing with a season best score of 39.400. She tied for first on vault with a score of 9.925 and earned a winning score of 9.875 on floor.

Sanabria-Robles trailed Welsh for the all-around crown with a score of 39.300. After a miss-step on uneven bars, the senior bounced back in a big way, scoring a 9.900 on vault, 9.850 on floor, and winning the balance beam crown with a score of 9.900.

"We worked really hard on details this week," Sanabria-Robles said. "We wanted to do what we do in the gym in the meet, and we did that in three out of four events today. Once we put it all together, we will be good to go."

Witt has been a consistent competitor for Penn State on uneven bars all season, after coming back from a thumb injury, which left her worried she wouldn't compete. Witt placed second on bars with a score of 9.800. Carroll was not in the starting rotation, but she competed in an exhibition routine on floor, earning a 9.775, capping off her career as the last performer of the day.

The Nittany Lions finished with an overall team score of 196.650, just shy of their meet goal of 197.

"You always want to score the 197," Witt said. "We keep adding more little details and sticks, hoping to get to the 197 that we need. We are consistent and we know we are hitting every routine because we trust each other and work off of each other. Every time we compete, the little things help bring us to the next level."

Since the beginning of the season, these gymnasts have been working tirelessly to see out their goal: win every meet. After Saturday's performance, they have won all but two matchups this season, both of which were on the road.

"We want to win the Big Ten tournament," Sanabria-Robles said. "That has been a dream of ours forever, since we started our journey here. We want to make it to nationals, just do what we know we can do. If we do that, we can make it into the Super Six and that is definitely the ultimate dream for us."

"At the rate we are going, we are on the right path," Witt added.

There is a sign outside of the Penn State women's gymnastics facility, which reads, "little eyes are watching." So many young gymnasts attend home meets at Rec Hall, watching these gymnasts every move. They have been conditioned to be stellar student athletes, but often times in a sport like gymnastics, which is just as mentally challenging as it is physical, you can get caught up in sticking a landing or earning a certain score. These gymnasts never lose sight of that; they know they are not only champions for the sport, but role models for those aspiring to be just like them.

"I got really emotional making their senior video," Thompson said. "This was a great way for these girls to end their career in Rec Hall. These girls don't let little things bother them. When they have mistakes they put them behind them quickly. These girls are special; for them to go undefeated at home in their senior season is special." 

Senior Spotlight: Lexi Carroll

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10827677.jpegBy Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Recovery: the universal term for getting better after an injury. Most athletes us their recovery periods to get stronger, go to physical therapy, and rest. Senior Lexi Carroll took a different approach: she used her recovery period as motivation.

The Penn State gymnast injured her Achilles tendon during her junior campaign. With this injury, her season was cut short and with a strong freshman class coming in, Carroll knew that her recovery would need to be efficient; she would need to come back a stronger, better gymnast in order to make it into the lineup.

"When I think back on my time at Penn State, last year was a really rewarding experience," Carroll said. "Being able to host the regional tournament and watch my teammates compete, even though I couldn't was exciting. I got to watch our team make it to the Top 12."

Carroll comes from a rather athletic family, a big family, too. She is the oldest of six children, coming into a "leadership" and "big sister" role early. Her brother, is a freshman at Virginia Tech where he plays football and her sister has already verbally committed to play college lacrosse, despite being a sophomore in high school.

"Being a big sister has made being a big sister to my teammates easier," Carroll said. "I have always had to be a role model, whether I wanted to be or not. I like to lead my example, get in the gym and do my job."

This years' team is unique, with several freshman making major contributions to the team's performance, getting into the lineup is competitive.

"Lexi is our seven," head coach Jeff Thompson said, when talking about the six gymnast rotation. "She makes the team better. When you have seven solid gymnasts competing against each other for spots, they just keep getting better. That system of pushing one another is what has made this team so great."

With championship season quickly approaching, the team is gearing up for what has the potential to be a rather successful post season. While things change, week in and week out, Carroll is confident that this team will make its mark.

"We haven't reached our full potential yet," Carroll said. "We are having a really great season, the best is yet to come."

What she will miss most about gymnastics...
"What's funny about gymnastics is it isn't a sport that you can just do outside of a gym," Carroll said. "I can't just go to a court and have a 'pickup game' of gymnastics. When you are don't competing, you are done competing."

What she will miss most about being a Nittany Lion...
"This team is my family," Carroll said. "It will be a hard thing to leave behind. But, I have learned a lot. Collegiate athletics prepares you for life outside of competing or playing in a game; we learn time management, being held accountable, leadership, things you need in any career path."

The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall on Saturday for Senior Day at 4 p.m. to face off against Iowa, SUNY Brockport and Penn. 

Floor: The Art of Story Telling

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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Performance, precision and power: the key ingredients to any competitive collegiate floor routine. For the Penn State women's gymnastics team, floor is strength; and neither the coaches nor the gymnasts understand how they have become so strong in this event; they say it "just happened." But, for anyone who has seen them perform and practice, it didn't just happen; they have truly earned it.


"We teach the girls a simple phrase for them to repeat in their heads as they start their floor routines," associate head coach Rachelle Thompson said. "It helps them relax and calm down before they perform."

Throughout the season, the team has routinely scored above a 49 on floor, achieving a season high of a 49.400 against Michigan State. Four gymnasts have scored the coveted "9.900" this season, including freshman Oni Timothy, sophomore Emma Sibson and senior Krystal Welsh. Freshman Briannah Tsang has gone as far as to secure a 9.925, the highest for the team this season.

Performance
Floor routines are exciting, as they combine various skills and technique, along with dance. Floor is the only event paired, specifically, with music in gymnastics. The music helps tell a story, one that has new chapters added to it as the gymnasts become more comfortable with their routines and their style.

"It is a never ending process," Thompson said. "Some of the girls come in with routines and music and sometimes we have to start from scratch. It is so great to see how the routines change as the season goes on. You get to watch the girls grow into their own. As a coach, you get to help them tell that story."

Precision
The coaching staff members are sticklers for "performing how you practice." Often, they say the girls are better in practice than they are in the meets. You might say there is a science to how the Thompsons run their practices, a formula that has been proven time and time again since they took over the program in 2010. They devote large portions of their practices to each gymnast working on one single event, instead of having them doing various events at the same time. During these sessions, the girls even cheer like they do in meets, so that competition day is a seamless transition from the practice gym.

"We train really hard on floor," Timothy said. "I don't know if it is a combination of what rotation we get during the meet and practice, but we are really good a this event. I love it because as soon as the music starts, you know that everyone looking at you. Nailing a routine or tumbling pass is the best feeling."

Power
Performing inside of a taped-off square can be intimidating. If you go out of bounds, deduction. If you hold a pose too long, deduction. If you miss a landing, deduction. To say it is stressful would be an understatement.

"Floor is a very mental event," Tsang said. "You have to have a real sense of who are as a gymnast to make it through the minor missteps that happen. You just have to say to yourself, if you go out of bounds, just keep moving."

As the routines change throughout the season, the skill levels of the tumbling combinations change, too. Penn State has a roster of powerful gymnasts. The way they attack each routine and land with such definition after a tumbling pass speaks to their training.

"It is funny, sometimes the easier routines are the hardest for them." Thompson said. "We have to give them challenging passes and routines because they have so much adrenaline. They are so strong that if we were to give them an easy tumbling pass, they will go out of bounds, simply because they have so much power. Harnessing that energy is challenging, but it is so fun to watch them do what they do best." 

Nittany Lions Deliver Stellar Performance Against The Buckeyes

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10789246.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team finished off its Big Ten regular season home schedule on Saturday. While both teams united in competition, wearing pink leotards to bring breast cancer awareness, the Nittany Lions edged the Buckeyes in a 196.275-195.000 victory.

"[The Pink Meet] was an exciting day for us," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We had a great crowd, despite the snow. I thought the girls did a really good job today."

Two gymnasts from both ends of the experience spectrum led the Nittany Lions to victory over Ohio State: senior Sidney Sanabria-Robles and freshman Briannah Tsang.

Sanabria-Robles' Leadership In All-Around Competition
In her last regular season Big Ten meet at Rec Hall, Sanabria-Robles finished in typical fashion: winning the all-around title, winning on uneven bars and tying for the title on beam.

The senior is consistent, a quality that has not only helped shape her collegiate career, but one that has inspired younger gymnasts on the team.

"As a senior, I am taking it all in," Sanabria-Robles said. "We worked really hard in the gym this week. I have learned to take it one meet at a time and do the best I can."

Speaking of "best," the Nittany Lion shined on bars and beam against the Buckeyes. After starting on vault, Sanabria-Robles knew that the next three rotations would make or break the meet. She nailed her bars combination, sticking each of her handstands and dismount. Her performance earned her a personal best of 9.875 in the event, along with the title.

"Our bars performance today was outstanding," Thompson said. "We got a little too excited on vault, so I am really proud of the team for recovering so well on bars."

Aside from her bars performance, the senior was able to finish tied for first on beam, an event she has been solid on all year. Her performance earned a 9.850 helping her to the all-around crown.

"We do our best not to think about the end result," Sanabria-Robles said. "We take it one event at a time and if everyone does their job then it will come together and we will win. If we keep doing this, we will get where we want to be, which is competing in the last day at nationals."

Tsang Sticks It, Again
If you have ever wondered why the Penn State coaching staff has been anticipating Tsang's arrival to Happy Valley, you now know why. She has delivered stellar, jaw dropping performances since the beginning of the season. Her tenacity and strength, which is evident in her approach to every event, has helped her earn three Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors this season.

"I feel really blessed to be able to go out there and do what I love to do," Tsang said.

The soft spoken, humble freshman has been one of the most consistent in the Penn State lineup. She has not only improved each week, but uses her own marks as a guide and consistently tries to beat her scores from the previous week, regardless if they are unheard of for a rookie.

"She has been this good since she got here," Thompson said. "When we got in the gym at the beginning of the season, she would do a combination and we would say, 'she is this solid and it is October.'"

The freshman stood out the most in her floor routine on Saturday. Thompson and his coaching staff have had to make her routine harder and more challenging each week. While that might sound strange, the more challenging the routine, the more energy and force Tsang can harness into her execution. At the beginning of the season, she was landing outside of the tape because she was over-rotating. Simply put: she is too strong for lower level routines.

Tsang finished her floor routine with a score of 9.925, which is not only a new personal best, but a team best, too.

Looking Ahead
Penn State travels to Pitt next weekend, where they will start the final leg of their regular season before starting to prepare for post-season qualifying meets.

"I am proud of them," Thompson said. "The judging we saw this weekend is the kind of judging we are going to see at the regional and national tournament. This way we can get in the gym and fix what we need to fix now so that they will be ready." 

Vaulting Past Michigan State, A Team Effort

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10764720.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The old saying goes, "practice makes perfect," and if you practice hard, performing in a game or a competition will be easier. While no performance is ever perfect, some come pretty close.

Gymnastics is a sport where the performance on individual can impact the team; it is just as much mental as it is physical. Penn State women's gymnastics head coach Jeff Thompson and his staff preach, "compete how you practice," and "perform like you do in the gym." This coaching tactic remained steadfast in Saturday's meet against Michigan State, as the Nittany Lions won each event and earned an impressive team score of 197.025.

"It was en exciting night; we finally did what we do in practice," Thompson said. "As a coach of a top collegiate team, you always want to score a 197 [team score]. We accomplished that and more tonight."

Vault: Sibson, Sanabria-Robles and Tsang Set Personal Bests
Penn State started its rotation on vault, a card they have drawn in almost every meet this year. What has changed as the season has progressed is their ability to attack this event, using that adrenaline and momentum for the rest of the meet.

"When you start a vault rotation off with one of the hardest, most challenging vaults in the NCAA, it is hard to gauge the judges reaction," Thompson said, speaking to freshman Oni Timothy's one and a half twist. "Tonight she didn't score as high as she normally does, but we put her first and the judges had nothing to compare it to."


Freshman Briannah Tsang and senior Sidney Sanabria-Robles were later in the lineup. The two gymnasts set personal bests with a matching score of 9.875, contributing to the team's overall event score of 49.175. But, sophomore Emma Sibson's vault stuck out the most. Not only did she stick it, she set a new season- best with her score of a 9.900.

"I have really focused on cleaning up my form," Sibson said. "I don't focus so much on sticking as I do my technique. I struggled the first few meets where I was ending with my chest too low. I have worked really hard over the past few weeks to get comfortable enough that I end on a solid note."

Welsh Recovers to Win Bars and Floor
For the first time in her collegiate career, senior Krystal Welsh missed her vault landing. But she finished with grace, knowing she needed to perform her best in the next three events.

"I obviously did not like what I did," Welsh said. "But, it is what it is. I will learn from it. It is always hard to let that feeling go during a meet, but I knew I had to. I know I will never do that again."

Despite starting off on an unfamiliar note, Welsh bounced back with a stellar performance. The all-around competitor walked away with a first place finish on bars with a score of 9.875 and tied for first on floor with a score of 9.900.


"From the moment we come to campus we learn to recover from a missed landing," Welsh said. "The team learns how to lean on each other and not let the performance of one person bring them down. We rally and we push through. It is all about trust."

Team Rallies For Fifth Highest Score in School History
The Nittany Lions not only managed to outscore their goal of 197 team points with a finish of 197.025, but their performance was one of the highest in school history. The team was able to recover from a missed landing on vault and still score above the 49 point mark in each event.

"It was fun for everyone," Thompson said. "This team is special."

Penn State takes on Big Ten rival Ohio State on Saturday in Rec Hall at 4 p.m. 

Nittany Lions Are Ready For Another Big Ten Matchup

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10754512.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After travel plans were upended due to continuous snowstorm over the Northeast, the Penn State women's gymnastics team finally made it to Illinois last weekend. Despite a stressful trip to Champaign, the Nittany Lions were ready to take on the fighting Illini in their Big Ten matchup.

For anyone following the meet, the team started off the day in normal fashion: breaking personal best records. However, this meet was different; Penn State was able to perform the break a 12-year-old school record on vault.

"Oni [Timothy] started on vault for us," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "She is able to stick one of the hardest vaults in NCAA competition. The five vaults following her were amazing. The girls stuck everything. This is the best vaulting performance I have seen as a coach."

The team finished with a nearly perfect vault score of 49.550.

"It was a tail of two teams that day," Thompson said. "We are still working on our lineup order and the most important position is who goes first."

Unfortunately, the adrenaline rush the team felt from their record-breaking vault performance did not transition well into the other events. Coach Thompson thinks the team was too excited, which, in a mentally challenging sport like gymnastics, can make or break you in competition.

"We gave Illinois the lead of floor," Thompson said. "Briannah [Tsang] went out of bounds on an easy pass because she just had so much adrenaline, the same happened to Lauren [Li]. Emma [Sibson] unfortunately fell. It just felt like we were off a little bit."

After beam and bars, the Nittany Lions were unable to bounce back, losing to the Illini by less than a point [196.400 to 195.600].

"We have made a few adjustments this week," Thompson said. "We told the girls all week that we just need to stay focused and take one thing at a time. We have changed up our lineups and we are moving the more consistent girls to the front."

Timothy's vault has "stuck" a first place send off in the Nittany Lion's lineup on vault. Alex Witt is going to lead off on bars. Nicole Medvitz will take over the first position on beam and Li is going to open for the team on floor.

"We made a few changes to Briannah [Tsang]'s floor routine," Thompson said. "Surprisingly, we have made it harder. She is so powerful that when we giver her an easy pass and she has a flush of adrenaline, she will over rotate and that is when things like going out of bounds happens and falling happen. So we are hoping that this new, challenging, pass will help her."

Penn State welcomes Michigan State this weekend and Coach Thompson hopes to see how the new lineups match up against another Big Ten foe.

"Michigan State is having a great year," coach Thompson said. They are ranked ahead of us on beam and floor. We have to bring our A game. We can't give them any opportunities. We beat ourselves out in Illinois. We just need to do what we do in the gym everyday." 

VIDEO: Beam - A Mental and Physical Challenge

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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If you were to place two boxes of toothpaste next to one another, they would measure about five inches wide. Now, imagine jumping into the air and landing on top of two toothpaste boxes, four feet off the ground; gymnasts do just that every day when they perform their beam routines.

The Penn State's women's gymnastics team has had a pretty successful run on balance beam so far this season. With a teammate falling in the first rotation almost every meet, the next five competitors have had to "stick" their landings.

"Beam is definitely a mentally challenging event," senior all-around competitor Krystal Welsh said. "If you focus too much on falling, you will probably fall."

Beam strategy changes for most of the gymnasts as they transition to collegiate gymnastics. In club gymnastics, you train yourself to not fall off the beam and you are conditioned to think that the quicker you do your routine, the better.

"I remember in club it was considered a 'good day' if you only fell once in a beam routine," sophomore Emma Sibson said. "Now, we train and focus a lot on the mental side of the event."

In practice, the Nittany Lions employ several mental exercises, transitioning them into competition. As the gymnast approaches the beam, she is taught to focus on a singular voice of one of her teammates, not the crowd or the other events performing at the same time.

"It is funny, we cheer the same way at practice as we do in the meets," Welsh said. "It really is a team effort, from start to finish."

This week, Penn State has moved up to No. 9 in the rankings as they head to No. 14 Illinois this weekend.

"For us to be able to approach beam in this way this early in the season will pay dividends for us later," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "They know how important the event is and they work really hard to help each other."