Recently in Women's Gymnastics Category

VIDEO: #WGYMonday - Meet Briannah Tsang

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is just nine weeks away from opening their 2015 campaign and each Monday we introduce you to a member of the squad. Our fourth #WGYMonday feature introduces freshman Briannah Tsang from Vancouver, British Columbia.

VIDEO: #WGYMonday - Meet Oni Timothy

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is just 10 weeks away from opening their 2015 campaign and each Monday we introduce you to a member of the squad. Our third #WGYMonday feature introduces Oni Timothy from Rochester, N.Y.

VIDEO: #WGYMonday - Meet Chanen Raygoza

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is just 11 weeks away from opening their 2015 campaign and each Monday we will introduce you to a member of the squad. The second in our #WGYMonday series introduces freshman Chanen Raygoza.

VIDEO: #WGYMonday - Meet Lauren Li

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is just 12 weeks away from opening their 2015 campaign and each Monday we will introduce you to a member of the squad. Our #WGYMonday series will kick off with Lauren Li from Plano, Texas.

Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."

A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.

Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.

"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.

Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.

"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."

Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.

"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."

Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.

"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."

"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."

"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."

Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.

"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Women's Gymnastics NCAA Practice Session

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team took part in their practice session at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on Thursday, April 17. Head coach Jeff Thompson and freshman Emma Sibson talked to following the team's tune-up.



Floor Routines Send Lions to Birmingham with Confidence

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By Gabrielle Richards, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At the center of most gymnastics arenas and practice facilities lies a blue, chalk dusted, white-tape-outlined, square area. In the 39-foot by 39-foot space, gymnasts combine tumbling, dance, and stunts, while doing their best not to land, leap, or "stick it" out of bounds. For the Penn State women's gymnastics team, this complex event secured its trip to the NCAA Championships.

Gymnastics, a sport that was once dominated by men, didn't officially become an Olympic sport until 1924. Women were not allowed to compete in Olympic gymnastics until 1928, where they were allowed to compete in only one event. Floor performance was one of the last rotations added to the Olympic slate of gymnastics events; women weren't allowed to compete in floor routines until 1948.

Floor performance is the primary event where gymnasts are given a canvas for artistic expression, a canvas that coaches Jeff and Rachelle Thompson allow their gymnast to paint themselves.

"When we came to Penn State, we decided to take a backseat to the choreographing of floor routines," Rachelle said. "We allow our girls to have the most input in this event."

The Nittany Lions' first regular season meet of the 2013-'14 season was at Iowa State, where the team scored 48.600 on floor. Over the course of the next few meets, Penn State was improving dramatically in their overall floor scores.

"We didn't expect floor to become our best event," Rachelle said. "This has always been an event that is unpredictable at the start of the season. Last year we were really weak on floor, but this year, we planned ahead and got the girls ready to compete on floor early."

The coaching philosophies of the Thompsons are unique; their primary focus is building a community within their team. At the beginning of each season they break the team up into event-based teams - floor, bar, beam and vault.

"This system allows for the girls to help each other," Rachelle said. "The floor team developed sooner than any other team. I would have never guessed in October that floor would be our strongest event, but it is.

There wasn't a meet all season that the Nittany Lions didn't improve on floor. Their consistency and improvement on floor shined in the Feb. 15 meet against No.15 Illinois. Penn State, who was ranked No. 21 at the time, was not favored to win this meet. But, heading into the final rotation of the competition, the Nittany Lions were tied with the Illini. The Thompsons and their gymnasts left Rec Hall that day with a "W" and their highest floor score of the season, 49.375.

Their fate at the NCAA Regional Championships wasn't much different; their qualification to the NCAA Championships rested on their ability to "stick" a near perfect floor rotation. And they did.

"That was a roller coaster of emotions," Rachelle said. "As a coach, I refused to look at the score board. I wanted to stay in the moment and I wanted the girls to stay in the moment. I know floor is our best event, but anything could happen."

The Nittany Lions finished their floor rotation with a score of 49.425 and secured their slot at the NCAA Championships.

"I am excited to see how we match up to the other schools of floor," senior Lindsay Musgrove said. "At this meet [NCAA Championships] we start off the competition on floor. I am hoping that that will get us on a good roll."

The Penn State women's gymnastics team was "Birmingham Bound" Tuesday night, where the team will begin competition on Friday. This is the first time since 2009 that the team earned a spot at the NCAA Championships.

"Our message all year has been 'Just be us,'" Rachelle said. "When we didn't advance last year, we asked the girls to buy into our new system and they committed to it. We tell them all the time to stay present and if we can do that in Alabama, the Super Six is in our reach. What we have accomplished this season has raised the bar for Penn State gymnastics. This is what we do at Penn State."  

Coming Full Circle in Alabama

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By Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As freshmen in 2011, Penn State gymnasts Lindsay Musgrove and Kassidy Stauder competed in their first collegiate gymnastics competition in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Three years later, the two will return to the southern state this weekend to compete in the NCAA Championships and their final meet as Penn State gymnasts.

Appropriately, this week's Word of the Week is "Full Circle", which attributes the seniors' journey starting and ending in Alabama.

The NCAA championship meet is the meet of all meets for collegiate gymnastics teams. This meet is unlike any other. Musgrove is looking forward to the championship atmosphere most.

"It's a completely different atmosphere. Thousands of people in the stands, crazy lights, glow sticks and you get to compete on podium, which is a big stage in front of the crowd" Musgrove said.

The second Word of the Week is "Us". The team is focusing on being themselves and competing how they practice everyday.

"We are coming in [to practice] and knocking out routines every day, so we just need to transfer that to the meet just like we did at Regionals and have our best meet," Musgrove said. "We've [also] been focusing on not looking at teams like Florida and Alabama and trying to be like them or be 'as good as them'. Who we are at Penn State is good enough to run with those guys."

The Nittany Lions saw No. 1 Florida compete at Regionals just two weeks ago and know that they can put up a fight against the Gators.

"Going into [Regionals] we knew they were ranked No. 1 and at the end of the meet, finishing just three-tenths behind them just shows how good we are. We have just as good of a chance as any other team to make it to Super Six," junior Randi Lau said.

Making it to Super Six means being a top six team on the first day of the competition and competing in the second day of the event. The Nittany Lions have never made it to the Super Six.

Penn State will start the competition this weekend on floor. Musgrove is looking forward to this event most.

"We're ranked the ninth in the nation on floor. Ending on floor at regionals, every single person hitting their routines, was so awesome," Musgrove said. "At this meet, we get to start on floor, so hopefully that will get us on a good roll to finish out the whole meet."

This weekend, No. 15 Penn State will compete in the evening session on Friday with No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Utah, No. 8 UCLA and No. 9 Nebraska. The Nittany Lions will begin with a bye, then proceed to the floor exercise, followed by vault, another bye, uneven bars and finish with balance beam.

The Big Ten has four teams competing this weekend (Penn State, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan). The Big Ten and the SEC have the most teams competing in the 2014 Championships (Florida, Alabama, LSU, Georgia).

As this season comes to an end, the team is beginning to reflect on the past season. At the end of the 2012-'13 season, coaches Jeff and Rachelle Thompson devised a new plan for the team. The values and fundamentals of the team were going to change for the upcoming season. The gymnasts had to sign on to this new program, without knowing what was to come. Lau, who transferred last year from LSU, said she had to buy in to the Thompson's program, but it really paid off.

"The Thompsons really care about you on a personal level. I believe in their program and what they think. Their coaching styles are so encouraging," Lau said. "I trusted them as coaches to know that their program would work and it did. Here we are on the road to nationals."

The Blue and White's mission for the their first-ever trip to the Super Six begins on Friday at 8 pm.

"This opportunity is so amazing and we made it all happen ourselves," Lau said. 

Nittany Lions Punch Their Ticket to the NCAA Championships

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By Gabrielle Richards, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a superb performance at the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday in Rec Hall, the Nittany Lion women's gymnastics team is headed to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2009.

"Well, if you were in the building you know how exciting that was," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We had the right rotation tonight."

Florida, Oregon State, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire and Penn State were the teams competing in the overall team competition, with gymnasts from Brown, Cornell, Pittsburgh and the Bridgeport competing as individuals.

The NCAA gymnastics championships are very different from March Madness. According to NCAA rules, the top two performing teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not from an advancing team) from each regional site receive automatic birth to the NCAA Championships.

After six rotations, Florida and Penn State secured those top positions with scores of 197.050 and 196.725, respectively.

"This is something that we have been working for since the day that I walked onto campus," senior Kassidy Stauder said. "We've been so close the last three years and to finally qualify in Rec Hall is the best feeling ever. It really showed the hard work that this team has put in since preseason started. It shows how close we have become as a team throughout this year and how much trust we have in one another."

The Nittany Lions started off their first rotation on vaults, where freshman Emma Sibson and junior Sydney Sanabria-Robles earned scores of 9.90. Also competing for Penn State on vault were Stauder, Randi Lau, Krystal Welsh and Lindsay Musgrove. The team finished with an overall vault score of 49.300.

"I think we all knew what we had to hit [tonight]," Sanabria-Robles said. "We had that focus and excitement in us. We knew we could do it and we just went out there and did what [our coaches] have been telling us all along: just be us and have fun."

Stauder led the team with a score of 9.875 on bars, with junior Alex Witt and Sanabria-Robles who contributed scores of 9.850 and 9.800. Also competing for Penn State on bars were Welsh, Nicole Medvitz and Samantha Musto. The team finished with an overall bars score of 49.050.

Penn State was then slated to compete on beam, which coach Thompson believed was the team's "shaky" event.

"Beam scores were a little tight and they stayed tight all night," Thompson said.

Lau and Sibson were the top beam performers for the Nittany Lions with scores of 9.800 and 9.825. The team finished their beam rotation with a total score of 48.950.

Penn State received a bye-rotation after their beam performance, giving coach Thompson ample time for a locker room pep talk.

"When I walked into the locker room [during our bye in the fifth rotation], I said to the girls 'Do you want to know the score?'" Thompson said.  "And they said 'Yes, I mean we are going to see it anyways.' I told them we were down by one-tenth of a point. We knew Oregon State was going into their best event; they are ranked eighth in the country on balance beam. We also knew we were going into our best event ranked ninth on the floor exercise."

The Nittany Lions shined in their floor rotation. Sanabria-Robles, Lau and Musgrove each earned scores of 9.90, with Sibson, Welsh and Stauder earning scores of 9.850 or above. The team earned the highest floor score of the regional tournament with a 49.425, securing the birth to the NCAA Championships.

"There is no other way I would rather to leave Rec Hall than to qualify to the NCAA Championships with my team," Stauder said. "It was an incredible way to go out."

"After the season ended last year, we had a meeting and the coaches talked to us about some changes that we were going happen; a culture change and other adjustments that we were going to make," Sanabria-Robles said. "We made the commitment and now we are headed to nationals. Obviously it worked."

The Nittany Lions will make their way to the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala., on April 18-20. For the first time in five years, Penn State will be competing as a full team.

"We have a lot of fun," Thompson said. "We accomplished our goal. Now we have a new goal, the Super Six."

Women's Gymnastics Keys to NCAA Regionals

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By Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - During each week this past November, the Penn State women's gymnastics coaches, Jeff and Rachelle Thompson, gave the team a letter. With this letter, the team would pick a motivating word that began with that letter. Then, during each week this season, the word they chose in November would resurface as, "The Word of The Week." 

This week, the team has two words leading up to the NCAA Regional Championships this weekend - 'Wow' and 'Inspire'.

"If we do well and finish first or second, then, 'Wow. We made it to Nationals.' But we're going to have to have inspired performances in order to do that," Jeff Thompson said.

Senior Kassidy Stauder said that these two words are important because she wants to go to Regionals and "wow" everyone and make it to Nationals. If the team places first or second this weekend, they will advance to the NCAA National Championships for the first time as a team since 2009.

"We need to go in there and inspire one another and also inspire the upcoming teams to make a new tradition of making it to Nationals every year," Stauder said.

The team decided to combine the two words of the week to make an acronym. They took the first letter in 'wow' and the first two letters in 'inspire' to create 'WIN' - What's Important Now.

"This means just focusing on staying in moment. And what's important to us is hitting our routines and doing our best to progress on to the next meet," senior Lindsay Musgrove said.

Some of the gymnasts competing in NCAA Regionals found their "keys" to being successful in the meet this weekend:

Kassidy Stauder: Confidence

"Go in there with confidence and having fun. Remember that our best is good enough and do what we do everyday."

Sidney Sanabria-Robles: Compete as if it were warm ups

"Stay calm and do everything as if it was warm up. In warm up, I'm not thinking about anything, and it actually turns out really good. Just stay relax and think 'warm up'."

Randi Lau: Focus

"We have to focus on the details and sticking our landings, because we are a Top 12 team and we're really capable of making it to Nationals. We just have to stay focused and finish really [well] on floor."

Krystal Welsh: Having fun

"Just have fun and do exactly what we do in practice."

Coach Jeff Thompson: Hitting routines

"The most important thing for everyone is to hit routines. If everyone hits, then it's going to come down to stuck landings."

Lindsay Musgrove:  Compete freely

"We've put in all of the preparation up until now, so we don't need to stress or worry. I think just have fun and compete freely and just let ourselves do our gymnastics because we all know how to great routines.  We hit them in the gym everyday."

In the NCAA Regional Championships this weekend, No. 15 Penn State will take on No. 1 Florida, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 23 New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Maryland. Penn State is the No. 3 seed.

Catch the Nittany Lions at home in Rec Hall for the last time this season on Saturday at 4 p.m.