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By Maria Evangelou, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Last weekend, the Nittany Lions opened their away meet slate with head-to-head competition against the Maryland Terrapins. Refreshed and ready to take on a bigger meet back home, Penn State will take on Illinois with double the action: the men's and women's teams will compete at once for the first of this year's two double dual meets.


Unlike her previous head coaching stop at Eastern Michigan University, head coach Sarah Brown is now working alongside a men's gymnastic team, something her previous university lacked. In the heat of her first season with Penn State gymnastics, she is also about to experience her first double dual.


"This is my first double dual as a coach, so I've kind of been listening to everyone else about how it's been done in the past," Brown said. "We're going to march out together as a team, and then at the end of the meet we'll do autographs together as a team, and I think whether the meet runs a little long on either side, we'll be there encouraging the other team and making sure we're feeling the support from one another, but as far as pre-meet rituals nothing really changes." 


The team has been busy with a mixture of preparing for such a big event in combination with working on perfecting routines from their meet against Maryland.


"Our focus yesterday at practice was really on correcting the errors we had at Maryland, so now the double dual is going to be our focus today," Brown said. "We're doing a little bit more of a distraction-type workout, and getting ourselves aware of the fact that when we're competing on beam.  It's not just going to be silent in the arena with background music, the men will still be competing and cheering each other on. I think there's going to be a lot of positive energy in this meet."


With a loud and big crowd, coach and gymnasts alike agree that the extra-busy atmosphere is encouraging and exciting to them. Brown knows the girls love competing in front of a big crowd, and are looking forward to showing off some great routines that they have been working hard on in the gym. 


"We're reminding ourselves how we practice and going into the meet with that mindset," junior Gianna LaGuardia said. "It is exciting going into the meet with the men, because we practice with them every day." 


Despite the recent loss for the Nittany Lions (1-2, 0-2 B1G), the team was able to nab some impressive scores. 


On the vault, LaGuardia tied for the top spot with teammate Briannah Tsang and Audrey Barber of Maryland, with each gymnast posting a 9.800.   Junior Mason Hosek also brought home a first-place score, with a 9.900 on the balance beam.


"I think it's just the little things at this point, focusing in on the details is really what it comes down to," Tess McCracken said on what it takes to be successful. "It's nice to have all the freshmen really know what it's like to compete at home and away, so to come home this week it'll be nice." 


The team, which has already built a special bond with each other and their coaching staff this season, looks forward to the new experience for both the new freshmen on the squad and coach Brown. 


"From day one, training in our facility with the men has been different for me. I've watched other programs do it before and I always thought that was a really cool unique bond between the athletes," Brown said. "We're obviously close as coaches because we spend time together in the office and watch each other train our athletes side-by-side every day, but this will be my first time with men in gymnastics so I think it's going to be a lot of fun."


With the men's squad competing in six events for the double dual and the women in four, the teams will have time to watch and encourage each other from the floor.  


"We had a team meeting yesterday and decided that we're going in with composure and with purpose so that we're calm, so that we have a reason to go in and we're still aggressive when we go out there," McCracken said. "The double dual will be really great with the men's team, having them in Rec Hall gives a lot more energy."


Of previous years, LaGuardia and McCracken agreed on one thing: "I just remember the energy," LaGuardia said. "Even though there is a lot going on, it's very exciting." 


The Nittany Lions will host Illinois at Rec Hall this Saturday, Jan. 27, at 4 pm. 



By Maria Evangelou, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Pressure mounts and excitement is at a peak as the Penn State women's gymnastics team packs the busses to head to University of Maryland for its first away meet of the 2018 season. The Nittany Lions are slated for six meets on the road, kicking off with an intra-conference competitor.


The competition will not only be the first Penn State away meet for the freshmen gymnasts, but also for head coach Sarah Brown, who is in her first year with the program. The team, who holds a 1-1 (0-1 Big Ten) record thus far, shows little to no signs of nerves after a close loss to Nebraska last weekend, and the strong relationship that the squad has formed is evident.

"I think we're all just really excited about getting on the bus together as a group," Brown said. "Travel trips just have a way of bringing a team together, which is always fun."

The team will depart from State College at 3 pm on Thursday, and will kick off their arrival in Maryland with a team meal, followed by a short team meeting at the hotel, which Brown says will allow for bonding while also re-focusing the squad's attention on the next day meet.

"Throughout the day Friday, we'll do a couple things in the hotel to make sure we're staying focused but not sitting in our rooms and just thinking about the competition, because we're not competing until 7 pm so it definitely makes for a long day," Brown said. "You want to have some events and things that will break up their mental thoughts, so they're not sitting there festering about the meet all the time."

Brown, who has previous head coaching experience at Eastern Michigan University, practices a balance of discipline and preparedness, while also making sure the team's connectivity and bond is on point.

"I think my philosophy kind of has stayed the same in that I want the kids to enjoy being on the bus together, relax, turn movies on, do homework, listen to music, and just be comfortable," Brown said.  "It really is whatever is going to get these girls in the best mood possible. Getting up and having breakfast together on Friday morning I think will be nice, and then a couple of team activities just to make sure we're staying focused."

After a strong start on bars where the Nittany Lions posted a 49.325, Penn State saw unusually slightly less success as they placed almost a full point lower than Nebraska on beam, their second to last event. The team looks forward to a change of rotation this Friday, where the balance beam will cap off the meet.

"It's going to be a little bit different for us, but I think we're looking forward to it because we do start on bars, which is a strong event for us," Brown said. "I think we'll be able to carry that energy and momentum into an event like vault, which does take a little bit more energy. I think last week we were a little high after the bar event because we did so well, and when we got to beam it was kind of hard to manage where all that adrenaline and energy was."

Junior Mason Hosek has had a few seasons of travel under her belt, and looks ahead with confidence in her team. After nailing a solid 9.800 on the beam last week, she believes there is nowhere to go but up.

"Being a junior on the team, kind of knowing how the road works, I think the best thing that we have going into this meet is that we have been preparing ending on beam," Hosek said. "That's going to be the make or break of this meet due to the way of rotation, but I also think going on the road is a good opportunity for us to show our strengths. I think our team is a really good team on the road, and is well adapted to any equipment or place we're at, so I think that's going to be a really great time for us. I'm really excited for the freshmen to travel for the first time."

Kourtney Chinnery is a new face on the squad, but says she does not feel any nerves before hitting the road.

"As a freshman, I'm really excited for traveling for the first time with the team. I've really gotten the chance to get to know the girls and spend time with them and they've truly become family to me. I'm not nervous, I'm really excited and I feel like we're really prepared."

Chinnery is additionally excited to showcase her skills in a new event for the freshman. Last week, she performed solely on vault, nabbing an impressive 9.850.

"I'm really excited to show off my new floor routine, I've been working really hard on it," Chinnery said. "I'm just going to go out there with a go get it mindset, I'm going to have confidence and faith in everything I've been doing. I trust God, and I trust the process that we've been going through. I'm just excited to be part of the success of this team this year."


By Maria Evangelou, Student Staff Writer    

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The stands of Rec Hall were a sea of pink as the No. 17 Nittany Lions hosted the preseason No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers in honor of their Flip for the Cure breast cancer awareness and alumni night competition. The gymnasts donned "throwback" black-and-pink leotards, in the spirit of the Penn State's original colors, as well as in support of breast cancer survivors and battlers. 


Coming off of a 194.275-192.900 victory over then-No. 35 Eastern Michigan to open the season, the Nittany Lions felt confident. 

The Cornhuskers took on the bars to start, while the Nittany Lions set up at the vault. Penn State started off strong, with freshman Kourtney Chinnery, junior Sabrina Garcia, and senior Briannah Tsang leading the scoring to tally a 49.075 on vault for the squad--but Nebraska was a force to be reckoned with, outscoring Penn State just barely with a 49.325.

"We knew going in that we were going to have a fight," Tsang said. "It was great to see everyone hit and stick, and unfortunately we had some mistakes, but this is how we learn and move forward."

The Huskers proved to be tough competition with a clean 49.325 score on the vault, but Penn State took the cake for claiming a 49.325 on the bars when the squads swapped events. Freshman Alissa Bonsall and Tsang tied for a first place spot on the event, and the Nittany Lions were able to wrap up the rotation with a lead at 98.400-97.700. 


"In regards to our all arounders, last weekend, Bri was steady, and Lauren [Bridgens] was right there with her, and tonight Alissa was fantastic on bars, and Bri was even stronger in the all around," head coach Sarah Brown said. "For our freshmen to be competing in the all-around week in and week out is tough so we need to pace them and pay close attention to how they're responding each week, but overall I'm very very proud of both of them." 


The Nittany Lions took on the beam for their next rotation, where a few unfortunate falls brought the squad's scoring down. Despite a combination of 9.8000 scores from both junior Mason Hosek and Tsang's notorious skills on the beam to help Penn State's tally, the Nittany Lions fell short of the Huskers's score of 49.050.

"I think if we find a way to keep our energy up throughout the meet we could be better on the last two events," Bonsall said. "But we have a great team and great cheering so it was nice to have them along with us." 


Nebraska claimed a close victory to wrap up the meet, nabbing a 195.550-195.050 win. Penn State gymnasts Bonsall, Bridgens, and Tsang managed to snag three of the five all-around titles. 


"I thought tonight was a really good night for our team," Brown said. "We were definitely more confident here in Rec hall than we were last week. I thought we started the week really strong. One of the things I want to keep working on is our stamina throughout the rest of the competition."

The Nittany Lions look ahead with hope as they kick off their away season and travel to Maryland next weekend to continue competition.  


"One of my favorite things to do is to break things down as soon as the meet is over, and figure out what I want to do for the next meet," Brown said. "It's going to be interesting because at Maryland we'll actually finish the competition on balance beam, which is the event that we struggled on tonight, so we're going to practice finishing the meet on balance beam instead of on floor."

The Nittany Lions will hit the road for their meet against Maryland on Friday, January 19. 


By Maria Evangelou, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a stellar new coach, a Big Ten Freshman of the Week, and a win to knock out their first win of the season, the Nittany Lions have reason to feel confident as they prepare for their upcoming meet against Nebraska, the first meet of their Big Ten slate.


This past weekend marked newly-hired Penn State head coach Sarah Brown's first meet of the season with the gymnasts. However, the former Mizzou gymnast and Eastern Michigan head coach has been hard at work with the team since she first stepped foot in State College last May. As the Nittany Lions gear up to take on the Huskers in Rec Hall this Saturday to kick off the Big Ten competition, Brown feels ready to get the home season going. 


"My goal when I got here was really to understand the girls' personalities," Brown said. "I really feel like we've spent the last eight months doing that. I definitely know that I'm doing things differently than they have been done in the past, and so getting that trust and buy-in has been huge, and we're all moving at the same pace and the same direction now."


Despite falling to Nebraska last season on the road, the combination of a new coaching staff, some new faces on the team, and a first meet win leaves Brown feeling confident.


"The first meet was a really solid starting point for us.  We had some mistakes early on in the line ups, but I was proud of how well we recovered," Brown said.  "Now we know we can make the routines, and moving forward we're focusing in on the little details and making sure we're looking at each routine piece by piece."


Most recently, new face Lauren Bridgens was honored Big Ten Freshman of the Week after contributing largely to the squad's 194.275-192.900 win over Eastern Michigan last weekend.


"It's really exciting for the program that we're already being recognized on that level," Brown said. "It's a starting point, I know if you ask Lauren she knows she has more in her, so I think she's proud of the accomplishment, I'm very proud of her, and I know she's going to continue to get better as the season goes on."


The freshman from Maryland agreed that the team can only go up from here.


""Now's the time to start focusing on the smaller details," Bridgens said. "I think for our first meet we were focused on getting out there and knowing what it's like to compete together."


Senior Brianna Tsang, a familiar face and renowned Nittany Lion gymnast, looks forward to what's to come after a winning all-around score of 39.050 with freshmen teammate Bridgens.


"I thought we had a really good team dynamic already going into the season," Tsang said. "Having the first meet was super exciting, we didn't get the chance to have a full intrasquad in Rec hall before this, and the freshmen did really well with that."


In addition to kicking off the Big Ten slate, this weekend's meet will be titled Throwback Alumni Night, where the team will welcome gymnastics alumni back to the floor. In addition, the meet will be combined with the Flip for the Cure competition, which focuses on honoring those who have survived and are battling breast cancer.


The gymnasts will don new black and pink leotards, marked in the school's original colors, complete with a throwback logo. Following the meet will be an alumni reception, where coach Brown and some of the athletes are excited to converse with and get to know the alumni one-on-one.


"This weekend is huge for me, because it's an opportunity for the alumni to be here and be part of the program again," Brown said. "It's very important to me that the athletes recognize who came before them and how everything was paved before we got here, so we owe these alumni so much and we're so thankful that they're willing to come back."


No. 17 Penn State opens Big Ten action on Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. in Rec Hall.

Nittany Lions Ready for the Moment

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just a few days separate Penn State women's gymnastics from returning to action its season opener, which kicks off Saturday, Jan. 6 in Rec Hall.

"It's been really exciting, we've been working really hard since I took over in May and since the girls have been back on campus since August," head coach Sarah Brown said. "Each step of the way, they continue to buy in and we continue to push a little bit harder each month. Since we've been back from Christmas break, December 27th, we hit the ground running and I feel like we're going to be ready right at the right time. I'm really looking forward to the first meet of the year."

For the first time since the 2016 campaign, the Nittany Lions will open the year with back-to-back home events. With the staff dialing up the pressure in practice ahead of the opener, Brown is confident Penn State will be ready to go when the moment arrives.

Saturday's home opener also features an opportunity for fans to pick up a schedule poster as well as meet the team for autographs. Before heading out to Rec Hall, check out five things to know ahead of Brown's first season at the helm of the Nittany Lions.

Getting Acclimated
Since arriving on campus in May, a top priority of Brown's was getting to know the Nittany Lions on a deeper level. Together, they've done everything from team bonding activities to community service and team meals. Providing key opportunities to get eachother, for Brown, heading out on the road will also provide a few additional occasions to grow closer as a team once the season gets underway. 

"They're just a fun group of girls," Brown said. "They really care about this university, they care about their sport and they work really hard. It's been fun getting to know them in the gym, but also outside of the gym. We've taken part in some community service events like Toys for Tots and since we've been back from break, we did fun things like an Escape Room and meals at my house and I feel like I've had an opportunity to get to know them outside of the gym."

Back at Home
Excitement is high when it comes to returning to Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions will host Eastern Michigan in a nonconference opener before jumping right into Big Ten action with Nebraska up next. With the return looming, returning to competition has been the total focus as the days tick closer to meet day. Penn State will have the opportunity to test out the new atmosphere, hosting one practice in Rec Hall before the opener arrives.

"We've just been working so hard for this moment," Brown said. "Ever since we started this year and we've had squad 54 together, we've known that it's come down to this weekend. We're really looking forward to kicking the year off strong. I think we're going to do well and I also think we're going to continue to build as the season continues. We're going to continue to build depth at each event and I think the girls are going to be ready at the right time.

Looking at the Big Ten
For Brown, there's no surprises when it comes to the Big Ten, with the Huskers slated for week two, opening up a four-meet swing of all Big Ten opponents. With a total of seven conference teams ranked with the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W) Preseason Coaches' Poll, Brown is well aware of the strength of the conference.

"It's a strong conference, I think anything can happen and I think it's a long season so we're looking forward to starting off consistent and strong and then continuing to build on that, but also maintaining that level of consistency as we head into the Big Ten Championships in March," Brown said. 

Among leadership across the team, Brown was quick to point to lone senior Briannah Tsang as one of the team's most consistent leaders headed into the season. Tsang, who placed 11th in the women's artistic gymnastics all-around final at the World University Games, returns having earned first team All-Big Ten honors in 2016 and 2017. 

"She's just a work horse for us in the gym and she's also really good at connecting with the athletes on a one-on-one level, so I've been really impressed with that," Brown said.

Brown also noted though that she and the staff isn't striving for a one leader only type of atmosphere, instead opting to encourage each individual to try and be a leader in their own way.

An NCAA Regional Site
Looking way ahead, Penn State is one of six NCAA regional sites, which ultimately lead to the NCAA Championships. Only the top 36 teams in the final Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) standings will advance to the NCAA Regionals, which kick off on April 7 in Happy Valley. Penn State is one of six NCAA Regional sites. 

"It's definitely on our minds," Brown said. "It's something we talk about quite frequently, we're very excited for that. We know that we have to do our job throughout the season in order to be a high seed at that regional and we want to be able to do well throughout the season so we can peak at that time."

VIDEO: One-on-One with Sarah Brown

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In early May, Penn State Athletics announced its hiring of women's gymnastics coach Sarah Brown, named the program's eighth head coach in history. 

Quickly and efficiently moved to Happy Valley from a previous stop at Eastern Michigan, where she guided the 2017 team to the MAC regular season title in her first season as head coach, Brown wasted no time getting to know her supporters. From phone calls to lunches, Brown balanced getting to know supporters of the program along with her team, laying the groundwork for a fresh start. With a new vision for the program, Brown assembled her staff and got right to work.

Catch up with Brown for a closer look at what's ahead for Penn State women's gymnastics, the staff and her vision - including a bit about a soon-to-be new member of the family.

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer    
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Every year, the NCAA Regionals is an opportunity for collegiate women's gymnastics team to compete and try to advance to the national championships. This is also the time for collegiate gymnasts, who have been training day-in and day-out for their entire lives, to make a statement on each event, in order to fight for a chance to compete at nationals.

But for senior Emma Sibson, during the 2017 NCAA Regionals, her main focus was not about earning the highest score. She was simply happy to have one final opportunity to compete in gymnastics as a Nittany Lion.

Sibson was diagnosed with lupus on January 9, 2017, just two days after the Penn State's women's gymnastics team's first competition of the season, a victory in a quad meet against Bowling Green, BYU and Temple. It was the first appearance for Sibson since February 6, 2016, during her junior season. In her return, Sibson competed on vault and earned a score of 9.725. 

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when a person's immune system attacks his or her own tissues, organs, joints or skin. The autoantibodies that attack and destroy the healthy tissue can cause inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body. The most common signs of lupus include: fatigue and fever, joint pain and stiffness, butterfly-shaped rash on the face, chest pain, and shortness of breath. 

During her junior year (2015-16), the Allen, Texas native experienced rashes and fatigue and some of her hair started to fall out. Doctors tested her thyroid and they put her on thyroid medication, but that wasn't the problem. 

"In March of junior year, I started having Raynaud's disease, [disorder where some areas of the body, like hands or feet, turn white and go numb, in response to cold temperatures or stress], hives, rashes, severe fatigue, and mouth and tongue ulcers," Sibson said. 

In March 2016, Sibson's mother, who is a nurse, was the first person that suggested lupus after she received a picture of a butterfly-shaped rash on her daughter's face. 

This past fall, she was tested for food allergies and her results came back positive for most of the foods she ate in her everyday diet. She also began to get fevers and her joints started to ache. 

"Sometimes, I felt I could not walk up a flight of stairs," Sibson said.

Her mother came to the conclusion in December 2016 that Sibson needed to be checked for autoimmune disorders and the results came back positive for lupus. 

"My first reaction was that at least I now know exactly what is wrong with me," Sibson said. "I went to see a rheumatologist in January who confirmed the diagnosis. He started me on medications to treat the flares that I had been having for quite some time." 

Sibson was relieved to have confirmation of her condition. Her initial concern was not about getting better though; she was worried about not being able to compete in gymnastics in her final season.

 Her doctor gave her the go-ahead to continue practicing gymnastics as long as she felt okay. The coaches also made sure she was well rested in between events. Sibson returned to the line-up on February 4 against Michigan State to compete on vault and she finished in second with a season-best score of 9.850.

However, a week later, during the Ohio State meet, Sibson started to feel severe chest pain after the floor routine and knew there was more to her condition.

"I saw the cardiologist who diagnosed pericarditis [a swelling and irritation of the thin sac-like membrane surrounding the heart], associated with my lupus," Sibson said. "They put me on more medicine and said I could not do anything until I had a stress test. After the test, I was told I could not do anything that elevated my heart rate."

It appeared Sibson was out for the rest of the season. She was not able to compete in five meets, including the senior meet against Pittsburgh, the B1G Five Qualifier and the Big Ten Championships.  

"I wasn't healthy enough to compete, but I think you can never have enough people on the sidelines, cheering you on or helping you out," Sibson said. "I was very grateful that I was healthy enough to still travel, participate and be able to cheer on the girls."

This was her senior season, though. She didn't want her gymnastics career to end. She wanted to have a chance to demonstrate her gymnastics skills one final time. 

"They didn't think I would be able to return, but surprisingly, I competed in vault [at the NCAA Regionals]," Sibson said. "It was very exciting [to find out I was able to compete]. I called the cardiologist on my own. I told him I had been feeling better, no chest pain. I just asked, 'Can I please just compete? This meet? Just on vault?', and he said I could with the stipulation that I was monitored closely and promised that I would stop if I had any chest pain. I had just a few practices to get back into shape enough to vault, but that was enough for me."

After consulting with coaches Kera Molinaro and Josh Nilson, at the NCAA Gainesville Regional on April 1, Sibson tied for 11th on vault with a 9.825 in front of 5,214 fans.

"She thought that she was going to be done with the sport, and to have a second chance, which was amazing for her diagnosis, she was really excited about the opportunity," Molinaro said.  

Sibson was extremely grateful for the opportunity, but she officially knew that it would be her last competitive meet.

"The day after arriving back from regionals, I was in the emergency room with severe chest pain, but it was different than the one with my heart," Sibson said. "I now have pleurisy (inflammation of the tissues that line the lungs and chest cavity), which is also associated with lupus, and was started on steroids. Three days later, I had a kidney biopsy which shows that lupus has caused inflammation in my kidneys, so I was started on a medicine that will suppress my immune system." 

The senior is recovering and feeling better after getting her recent medications. She is focusing on the last couple of weeks of school, trying to catch up on work and hoping there are no setbacks for graduation.

"Personally, I do not think you ever truly adapt to having lupus," Sibson said. "It is something you will fight your entire life. Some days, you might even forget you have lupus, and some days will be the harder days when you might spend up to a week in the hospital or adding another medication to your already numerous prescription pills in one day. I think that's the scariest thing. You never know what the next day has in store for you when living with lupus. I think that is something you will never truly adapt to." 

Ever since starting gymnastics when she was four years old, Sibson has practiced with Olympians like Nastia Liukin, competed on a collegiate team, earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice, captured numerous event titles, and much more.

"I've had so many [memories]," Sibson said. "I think just having the opportunity to compete for a collegiate team and Penn State is the best. It's an amazing school, and although it's so big, it's like one big family. In general, my time here has been an amazing experience."

 After graduation, her main goal is to regulate medications and get better. She is also excited to be getting a puppy, and one day, she hopes to become a collegiate gymnastics coach. Nonetheless, she wants everyone to understand and spread awareness about lupus. 

"What I want people to know from my story is that lupus is a real disease and can be debilitating during a flare," Sibson said. "I wish that everyone who has symptoms seeks out the care they need. Do not let someone dismiss your symptoms. To those who have family, friends, teammates or co-workers with lupus, try to be supportive and understanding.  Suggesting they would make up these symptoms to get out of work, school or normal life is plain ridiculous. Remember they can be "healthy" and then without much warning be in a flare causing a wide variety of symptoms. For those with Lupus, especially young people, get up and get going every day. Sometimes, it is really hard, I know, but [it's possible]."

May is Lupus Awareness Month, and though treatment for the symptoms have improved, there is no known cure for lupus.

To learn more about lupus or to donate to help find a cure, visit the website for the Lupus Foundation of America.

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of 5,214 fans, sophomore Sabrina Garcia and junior Briannah Tsang punched two tickets to the 2017 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in the all-around.

At the NCAA Gainesville Regional on April 1, Tsang finished fourth in the all-around with a score of 39.250, with Garcia close behind scoring 39.050 for a seventh-place finish.

"We're really excited to get the opportunity to compete at nationals," interim co-head coach Kera Molinaro said. "It's a really exciting opportunity for them and they'll capitalize on it. We just can't wait to represent Penn State at nationals."

To earn her spot for a chance to win a national championship, Tsang was fifth on balance beam (9.850), sixth on floor (9.850), 15th on uneven parallel bars (9.800) and 25th on vault (9.750) at regionals. But, even with those results, Tsang has been working on the small details all week to make sure that she earns the top spot on all the events at nationals.

"[Preparation this week] has been the same as usual," Tsang said. "Just doing routines, practicing and trying to rest, as well. [I've been focusing] mainly on the little things and cleaning things up. I'm making sure the routines are ready for nationals." 

This weekend's trip will not be the first for Tsang as she represented Penn State last season on the floor exercise after earning a score of 9.900 at the 2016 regionals. Last year, Tsang competed in the fourth rotation in session one and tied for 16th with a score of 9.815. Overall, Tsang tied for 38th between the two sessions. 

"It was really exciting last year," Tsang said. "I only competed in floor last year, and this year, I made all-around, so that's exciting. The atmosphere was great and just seeing all these teammates that are from all over the country was exciting, but this year should be even more fun."

Garcia will be joining the fun this year as she will be competing inside the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri alongside Tsang.

"It's exciting," Garcia said. "I'm glad to have a teammate with me to cheer me on and I can cheer her on, as well. I'm just excited to share the experience."

Garcia will be making her national championship debut after a stellar performance at regionals. She finished second on uneven parallel bars (9.900), 25th on balance beam (9.725), 31st on floor exercise (9.725) and 34th on vault (9.700). During competition though, the thought of competing in nationals never crossed her mind. 

"I had no idea [I was a contender]," Garcia said. "I just competed until the very end since nothing is over until it's over, and when they called my name, I was shocked and happy all at the same time." 

This season, Tsang has the highest all-around score on the team with 39.425. Garcia holds the second highest all-around score of 39.400 as of February 4 against Michigan State, and is ready to show the world what she can do. 

"My expectations for myself are to just keep doing what I've been doing all season - to focus, stay calm, be ruthless, hit my routines, and if I need any help from Bri, I know she'll be there for me," Garcia said.

These two Nittany Lions have great confidence in themselves, and so do their coaches.

"Both Bri and Sabrina are leaders, not only in their words but in their actions," interim co-head coach Josh Nilson said. "They come in the gym and have great attitudes. They work really hard and they do everything that we ask. They both communicate very well with the coaches, so they're leaders in every sense of the word. We're really proud of them." 

Even though the rest of the Penn State women's gymnastics team won't be heading to St. Louis, Missouri to cheer on Garcia and Tsang, they have been supporting their teammates in the gym during practices. 

"The mood in the gym has been really good," Molinaro said. "[Tsang and Garcia] are super fired-up. They've had a lot of support from their teammates coming in and cheering for them, which was really nice to see and they feel really good. They're excited about it."

Both Tsang and Garcia have accomplished so much this season already. This weekend, they could add on to what has already been a great season for them as individuals, and the team as a whole. 

"Having Bri and Sabrina both there will be good for the team because nationals next year is being held in the same arena, so having them be able to come back and tell the team what it's all about will help us on our quest to nationals next year," Nilson said. "It's also really good to have Penn State represented especially since [Bri and Sabrina] worked really hard to be there and we're really proud of them."


By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is looking to be the 2017 national champion.

Before that goal can be realized, the Nittany Lions need to secure a top-two finish at the NCAA Regionals on Saturday to earn a spot to compete for a national championship.

The team will compete in the Gainesville Regional against No. 3 Florida, No. 10 Georgia, No. 15 Missouri, No. 30 New Hampshire and No. 35 North Carolina. 

"We were ecstatic [when we found our regional," sophomore Sabrina Garcia said. "Not only is it somewhere warm, but it's going to be a very good match-up." 

Penn State is ranked No. 33 out of 35 teams in the NCAA Regionals, but they're not letting the rankings affect the performances. 

"The girls are very excited to be going to Florida, so that was a great start, and overall, we just try to focus on our routines and what we can control, not who we're competing against," interim co-head coach Kera Molinaro said. 

"They're just focusing on their performance and putting together 24 routines," agreed interim co-head coach Josh Nilson.

Two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions tied for sixth-place at the 2017 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships with a score of 195.200. The team is only hoping to get better from then. As the team gets prepared for the weekend, they are working on the little things in order to place first or second at regionals. 

"We have been doing the same things we have been doing all season," Garcia said. "We've just been working out details and getting the extra quarter-tenth on each event."

Garcia has competed in regionals before, so she will know the ins and outs of the event. For others, it will be an entirely different experience. Freshman Kristen Politz has been a standout this season competing in the all-around for Penn State. Even though this will be her first time at the NCAA Regional, the team and coaches know that she will succeed. 

"We're actually really excited about one of our freshman this week, Kristen Politz," interim co-head coach Molinaro said. "She's going to be a adding a little bit of difficulty into her floor routine, which is very exciting. She's been working all year, and it's finally ready to go in. We're looking to her to have an awesome meet as well as all the returners. I think they're ready and know what to expect." 

No one knows how Penn State will do this weekend, but the gymnasts are confident in their ability to rise to the top when it matters most.

"I think we have a good chance to do some really great things there," senior Emma Sibson said. "We haven't fully put everything together, like we haven't had our best performance yet. I'm just super confident. We're known for doing it when it counts, and it counts this weekend, so we're just riding on that - that we're going to make it to nationals." 

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a decision between dance and gymnastics for senior Nicole Medvitz. 

At the age of six, she had to make a choice that would shape her future. But 15 years later, she doesn't regret her decision at all.

"I started [gymnastics] when I was about four years old, just taking regular classes," senior Medvitz said. "Then, when I was six, I was asked to join pre-team, and it just started from there. I remember the day that I got asked to join pre-team because I had to choose between dance and gymnastics. I choose gymnastics and I'm really glad that I did."

Medvitz's high school gymnastics career was nothing short of prolific. She won three straight Junior Olympic National Championships on the balance beam in 2011, 2012 and 2013, won the New Jersey State Championship in the all-around in 2011 and 2012, and was named the 2010-11 New Jersey Gymnast of the Year.

When she was looking at colleges where she could continue to develop her high-level gymnastics skills, she knew that Penn State was the exact place she was looking for.

"I chose Penn State because when I visited, I just loved the atmosphere, the campus, and the amount of Penn State pride everyone has here," Medvitz said. "I could really tell that it was an amazing school and I love the team. I chose it my junior year after looking at a bunch of different colleges, mostly Big Ten colleges, and a couple of other ones. It just felt like the school that fit me the most and the combination of athletics and academics was perfect." 

Medvitz's time at Penn State was been one for the record books and after every single season, she only continues to get better.

During her freshman year, Medvitz competed in all 14 of the team's meets, including the NCAA Regional Championships and at the NCAA Championships. During the Big Ten Championships, she notched her career-best of 9.850 on uneven bars. 

Throughout sophomore year, Medvitz continued to contribute solid routines on the uneven bars and balance beam, but during her junior year, she took her performances to a whole new level. On March 12, 2016, at the Big Five Qualifier, Medvitz earned a score of 9.975 on the balance beam, which is tied for the fifth-highest score in program history. 

"I always say to her, 'You have ice in your veins,' because it doesn't matter who she comes after, what the circumstance is, she just attacks her routines," interim co-head coach Kera Molinaro said. "She also has the flexibility aspect and the unique beam skills, so that separates her from a lot of other people." 

In her final season, Medvitz has continued to perform at the highest level. She has won seven balance beam titles this season, including five in Big Ten matchups. 

"She has grown a lot," co-head coach Molinaro said. "She has blossomed into such a confident gymnast. She's always been an awesome beam worker, but this year, she's just on a new level where she just smiles before her beam routine, and I know she's going to go up and hit it how she does in practice every day." 

For Medvitz, there is nothing better than getting on the beam and performing a great routine.

"[Getting off the beam], it's just the feeling of excitement," Medvitz said. "The ultimate excitement you could possibly get." 

The balance beam may be the most challenging event for some gymnasts with its mere width of four inches, nonetheless Medvitz never stumbles when she's up there.

"It's imperative actually [to have a good anchor]," Molinaro said. "You need a beam anchor that you know can handle any situation and someone that can just close out the event for you regardless of what happened in front of her. She's been a rock for us all year." 

With the NCAA Regionals and Championships approaching, Medvitz's season is coming to an end, but sports will always be a part of her life.

"I'm hoping to work in the sports industry because sports is my passion and something I really love," Medvitz said. 

The Paramus, NJ native is planning to use the experience that she gained at her summer internship with Nike to pursue her dream. 

"That was a ton of fun," Medvitz said. "I really love the company and I learned so much about what it takes to work in such a large industry. Everyone there really loves sports, too. I was also able to explore Oregon a lot, so that was very different from the East Coast, but it was a lot of fun."

Even with only a few more competitions left, Medvitz is hoping to use her time to be the best teammate and leader she can possibly be.

"She's really come out of her shell the last two years," Molinaro said. "She gives her teammates really good advice and she speaks up a lot. She's always happy, has a great attitude, and you can count on her to bring excitement in the gym. She's just an even keel; she doesn't get super high or super low. She is a solid, consistent individual." 

The most important lesson Medvitz has for any gymnast is to "enjoy every moment," and that is exactly what she will be doing for the rest of the season. 

"I'm just really glad that I get to represent such a great school and I just have so much pride for this school," Medvitz said. "Being able to leave a legacy is really something that means a lot to me, and I'm hoping that we pave the way for the future so that Penn State gymnastics continues to get better."


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