Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the
Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former
Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.
It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator
at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an
institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited
to become a member in 1949.
The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would
bridge a Midwestern league to the East.
The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb
academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.
Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much
convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and
the Big Ten could foster.
Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity
to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week.
"Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast,
I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the
The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten
institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in
December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under
the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been
competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest
of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.
When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who
along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn
State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the
annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of
NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.
"I remember talking in front of the group about
the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences
and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't
have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at
lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come
back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about
The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which
time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University
and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the
a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for
both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other
expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both
institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the
characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of
the Big Ten."
The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.
"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports
Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and
how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."
It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development
for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day
Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.
"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and
as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno,"
Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going
to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn
State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"
The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost
"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in
a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs,"
Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that,
we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten,
collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from
the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had
been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's
volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we
were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."
At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff
alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten
boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.
"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in
the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was. When you take a job, that is the job you
took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having
to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what
we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."
The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field
"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said
Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to
be a first rate facility."
The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's
transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's
a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and
it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.
"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared,"
said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort
of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that
makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to
Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom
and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92
Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally,
more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten
Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten
recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals
during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.
"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the
intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and
our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition
matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric
Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for
their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee
on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual
research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the
University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly
600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and
prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are
The women's volleyball program earned Penn
State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the
team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative
16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA
Championships since 1999.
Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success
in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity
sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference
titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.
The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of
competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach
Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0
record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships
to date (2005 and 2008).
The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's
history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles
in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer,
women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams
have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).
Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days
during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.
It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big
Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the
recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a
world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated
relationships with premier student-athletes.
"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities
and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly
helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the
conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these
Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we
go out recruiting student-athletes."
A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was
the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State
sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of
the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes, increased visibility across the country for
the department in a way that cannot be measured.
"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the
opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about
the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the
sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and
The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate
impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase
exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased
revenues for each institution.
"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for
the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted
in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.
In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football
en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.
the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the
conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success
aids in the growth of the collective conference.
"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There
are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."
"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best
practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business
Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and
ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't
secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do
things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help
one another out for the betterment of the conference.
"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for
other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going
on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."
Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who
have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list
includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and
has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the
key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus
trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography
of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.
A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship
took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for
Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's
been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.
"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for
us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been
excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have
always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no
disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first
team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was
the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some
very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And
obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the
Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big
Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks
By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership
between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to
mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote
concluded 25 years ago today.
The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten
titles in March of 2011.
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Sprinting toward a stationary object might not be
something that people typically choose to do voluntarily. For the Penn State
women's gymnastics team, that is something that they do best.
Vault is a tricky apparatus to master. If you don't run fast enough, you
wont have enough momentum to make a full rotation. If you can't make a full
rotation, you might become one with the landing mat. But, if everything goes
right, this skill is incredibly impressive.
The Nittany Lions have had an exceptional season on vault, continuously
putting up big numbers in the event. Heading into this weekend's NCAA Regional Championships,
Penn State is ranked No. 3 on this apparatus.
"We just need to do what we do in practice," head coach Jeff Thompson said.
"We stick vaults in meets. We stick vaults at practice. This tournament just
needs to be an extension of that so we can put up the best score possible."
The vaults that these gymnasts perform are a continuation of a skill set
that they have developed since their "club" days. When freshman gymnasts come
in, they typically perform a vault, with an added skill, that they had
performed before coming to college. For freshman Briannah Tsang, vault is one
of her favorite events, one that she has mastered since winning the 2013 Elite
Canada Vault Title.
"I love this event," Tsang said. "It is a power event and that is one of my
strengths. We work really hard on this event."
Throughout the course of the 2014-15 season, various Nittany Lions have
broken the ever-coveted 9.900 mark on vault, with a handful breaking a 9.925.
"We have a lot of variety to our vaults," Krystal Welsh said. "We all don't
just do a Yurchenko Full. We have a lot of different skills that we are able to
perform well, which helps set us apart."
The Penn State women's gymnastics team will take the floor in the NCAA
Regional Championships on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. in Norman, Oklahoma.
By Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As a collegiate athlete, when you commit to a
school, you are committing to the coach and program, too. For senior Krystal
Welsh, her commitment to Penn State wasn't something that was going to change
with a shift in coaching leadership; she was meant to be a Nittany Lion.
"We are so happy she stuck with us from the beginning," women's
gymnastics head coach Jeff Thompson said. "She committed to the previous
coaching staff and she could have left if she wanted to. But, she stayed and we
are, have been so grateful for that."
Four years ago, the then freshman began her collegiate gymnastics career
as an all-around competitor. The Maryland native and Junior Olympic Nationals
competitor was excited to continue competing close to home so her family would
be able to watch her preform regularly.
"As soon as I stepped on this campus I knew it was for me," Welsh said.
"I absolutely loved it, everything about this place felt like home. Looking
back, we were such babies when we were freshman; I know I have grown so much as
a person since then."
Being an all-around competitor is no easy feat and even harder for a
rookie. Welsh's confidence in her craft and ability to perform in every event
has helped guide a rather successful career for the Nittany Lion.
As a freshman, she competed in every meet for the Nittany Lions,
including the NCAA Regional Championships. She claimed her spot in the starting
rotation from the get-go, a spot she has owned for four years.
"Every year of competing in college has helped me learn how to step up,"
Welsh said. "I have learned so much about myself and have learned how hard I
can push myself."
If Welsh's career at Penn State could be summed up in one word it would
be consistency, a word Coach Thompson has used to describe her on more than one
occasion. She has been present in the rotation for every meet, except on two
occasions, in her entire career. It wasn't until her senior year where she
missed a stick on vault for the first time.
"She has been an all around competitor from the start," Thompson said.
"She is just a joy to watch. She is incredibly consistent, which gives her
confidence. Confidence is contagious. She has such a positive attitude and that
is contagious, too. Krystal [Welsh] just gives off this 'I know I am going to
rock this routine' vibe and it rubs off on the whole team. That is something I
am going to miss about her."
The senior has taken on a 'big sister' role on the team, not just
because of her success in the gym, but for her innate leadership skills. Her
leadership doesn't go unnoticed, as she is a member of the Athletic Director's
Leadership Institute at Penn State and was a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award
Honoree this year.
"She leads quietly," Thompson said. "She leads by example. Krystal could
be having a bad day, but you would never know it. She never brings a negative
attitude into the gym because she knows that people look up to her. When one of
the younger girls is having a bad day, she is the first to take them aside and
talk it out with them."
Welsh's innate big sister qualities have not only made her a great role
model, but have influenced her desire to pursue a career in a field where she
can help people.
"I want to be an Occupational Therapist," Welsh said. "I have had to
come back from injury, I know how hard it is physically and mentally. I want to
be able to relate to people in that sense and use my experience to help someone
Much like Welsh, gymnastics is a unique sport. Where most collegiate
sports opportunities can lead to professional opportunities, gymnastics works
in the opposite direction. Typically, gymnasts will work towards the Olympic
team before coming to college. Looking back on the past four years, Welsh has
no regrets on the path that she chose.
"I am happy with what I have done," Welsh said. "Sure, we set goals each
week and at the start of the season, but I have accomplished all that I have
wanted to do in this sport. This sport has taught me so much, lessons I know I
will take with me after I graduate. I am going to miss it."
By 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.
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.
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
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.
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
three months of rehabilitation, Witt was ready to start to fight her way back
into the starting rotation.
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."
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.
mentality that she has grown into because of gymnastics has influenced her
desire to become an emergency room doctor or even venture into cardiology.
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."
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.
[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."
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.
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
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."
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.
By 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
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
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.
By 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
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.
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
"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."
By 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
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
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
"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."
By 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
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
"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."