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Keys to the Meet - Penn State vs. No. 8 Nebraska

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By Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- After a successful weekend at Ohio State, the 23rd-ranked Penn State women's gymnastics team has found the keys to being successful. Trust, starting and finishing well, being consistent, and taking what the team does in practice and applying it to the meets.

Senior all around gymnast Kassidy Stauder and head coach Jeff Thompson know what it takes to be victorious this weekend against No. 8 Nebraska in their first home Big Ten meet of the season.

9624416.jpegEach week, the Nittany Lions have a word of the week that they focus on. The "Word of the Week" this week is trust. Trusting themselves. Trusting each other. Trusting the coaches. Trusting the judges. Trusting their talent.

"[We are trusting ourselves to] go into the meet and [we are] trusting that what we've down in the gym everyday is what we're capable of doing at the meet," Stauder said. "[We are] trusting ourselves to just let it go and let it all out there."

Starting and Finishing Well:
Previously, the team focused on a good start in the first event and a good finish in the last event. Now the team is focusing on starting well in one event and finishing well in that same event. This mindset helped the Lions defeat Ohio State last weekend. The Lions will be kicking off the competition on the vault this weekend against Nebraska.

"What I hope is that we get a great start on vault, but [also] we get off to a great start on every event," Thompson said.

Last weekend, Stauder set a season-high mark on the floor with a 9.775. Stauder said she and the team are working on their consistency, and are continuing to put the whole meet together as a team. The Nittany Lions hit all 24 competitive routines last weekend and hope that they can be consistent and continue this success against Nebraska.

Stauder said the team has done a great job of hitting their routines with good handstands and dismounts and being aggressive in the meets. She said she wants the team to continue this this weekend.

Thompson said the team is looking to build on the confidence that it gained from the road win against Ohio State. The team is still competing for the Big Ten regular season title. If the team continues to be consistent and victorious, they have the chance to fulfill that dream.

"There were so many good things last weekend that we just want to continue that feeling at home, with our crowd behind us. The atmosphere is going to be really fun," Thompson said.

Performing How They Practice
"Go White." That's what the Nittany Lions chant from the side when their teammates are performing. This means, "Go to White Building." The girls vision themselves in the White Building, where they practice, to feel like they are just at another practice, doing another routine, just like they do everyday.

This weekend is a double dual, in which both the women and men's team compete at the same time. The women's and men's teams practice together, so this weekend will be even more similar to practicing in the White Building. The men's gymnastics team will be taking on Temple this weekend.

"We absolutely love double duals because we train with the guys everyday, so it makes us feel even more like we're in White Building," Stauder said. "And it brings a lot more energy and fun to the meet.  I think the crowd really likes it too. They enjoy being able to see both the women and the men compete."

The women's gymnastics team has won three consecutive meets and is looking to continue the winning streak against Nebraska at home. Stauder said using the equipment that the team is used to, having family and fans there, and not having to deal with traveling gives the Nittany Lions an advantage.

The team will again host Nebraska in March during the Big Ten Championships.

"It's really cool because Big Ten [Championships] are going to be here, so it's kind of like a trial run having the Big Ten schools here," Stauder said. 

Stauder Leads Lions in Home Opener

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By Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three meets into the 2014 season, senior Kassidy Stauder is off to a strong start to her final campaign as a Nittany Lion gymnast.  Stauder led the Nittany Lions to victory in a quad meet against Cornell, Southeast Missouri, and UIC on Saturday, with a career-high all around score of 39.275.

9629045.jpegThis season, Stauder has won the All-Around title and has tied for second with a score of 38.925 in a quad meet earlier this month against Kentucky, Ball State, and West Virginia.  She also owns the team's top scores on balance beam (9.900) and uneven bars (9.875).

But Stauder has not always been the all around gymnast that we see today. She has evolved into an all around gymnast during her time at Penn State. Before coming to Penn State, she had not vaulted at the skill level she vaults at today. 

She began Saturday's competition on the vault and scored a 9.725, only .050 below her career-high. Head coach Jeff Thompson commended the Palmerton, Pa., native for her effort on the vault.

"She didn't do that vault before she got to college and actually, she was pretty terrified of vaulting when she got here. She's worked through that and gotten herself in a position where when we need her, she can step up and give us a score," Thompson said.

After vaulting, Stauder headed to the uneven bars where she scored a career-high 9.875. Her performance on the bars was both the team's highest and the meet's highest score on the uneven bars. On the bars, the "little things" matter. Stauder said the team focused on this in practice before Saturday's meet.

"We took what we did last week in the competition and really focused on the mistakes that we made, like the little details, handstands, pointed toes, feet together, and sticking [the landing]," Stauder said.

In a competition earlier this month against Iowa State, Stauder's score of 9.725 was the third-highest score on uneven bars in the meet.

Stauder, who started gymnastics at age eight, said she felt very confident after completing her routines on Saturday. She noted that she is able to feel how well she did before her score is even announced. She felt most comfortable on both the uneven bars and the balance beam. On the beam, she said she felt, "really calm and excited."

She tied her career-high of 9.900 on the balance beam on Saturday. This was the team and meet's highest score on the beam.

Stauder's final performance of the day was her floor exercise. She was the leadoff for the Nittany Lions and received a score of 9.775. Thompson said she did a great job hitting her routine.

"[I am] super proud of her for being in the all-around tonight; doing such a great job, being the anchor on beam, hitting that floor routine like she did, her bar routine was our highest score. What a great, fun first home meet of her senior year," Thompson said.

Stauder said she will be working on the details and fixing the little things before the team's first Big Ten meet of the season against Michigan State on Saturday. 

Women's Gymnastics Shines in First Home Meet

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By Gabrielle Richards, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Nittany Lions met in a huddle on the side of the mat, you knew they meant business. "We Are" echoed off the walls of Rec Hall as Penn State's women's gymnastics team headed toward its first rotation in the quad-meet this past Saturday. Aside from the Nittany Lions, Cornell, Southeast Missouri, and Illinois-Chicago were also in attendance.

9624416.jpegStarting on vault for the Nittany Lions were Lindsay Musgrove, Emma Sibson, Krystal Welsh, Kassidy Stauder, Sidney Sanabria-Robles, and Randi Lau. Sibson had a personal best score of 9.85, taking first place over all in the event. The team finished with an overall vault score of 49.075.

"With our first two meets on the road, our scores weren't what we wanted them to be," said head coach Jeff Thompson. "We took the performances from the last two meets, came out strong and did better."

After a winning performance on the vault, Samantha Musto, Nicole Medvitz, Welsh, Stauder, Lau and Sanabria-Robles made their way to the bars as starters for the Lions. Stauder shined on the bars, as she propelled herself to first place in the event with a score of 9.875. The Nittany Lions claimed first through third place in bar routines. Stauder finished first, followed by Medvitz and Sanabria-Robles, who tied for second with a score of 9.850, followed by Welsh who finished in third place with a score of 9.825. The team finished with an overall bar score of 49.175.

"The girls did a great job today," said Thompson. "If you can get a tenth of a point higher in each routine, it really adds up and the girls came pretty close to doing that today."

Penn State's third event of the evening was beam, where Tina Postiglione, Lau, Medvitz, Musto, Stauder and Sanabria-Robles competed for the Nittany Lions. Penn State claimed first through third place on beam, with Stauder in first, followed by Lau in second and Medvitz in third. The team finished with a final score of 45.925 on beam.

Finally, the Nittany Lions approached the center of Rec Hall to perform their floor routines. Stauder, Medvitz, Sanabria-Robles, Welsh, Lau and Musto. Welsh secured first place with a score of 9.925, followed by Musgrove (9.900), Lau (9.875) and Musto and Sanabria-Robles, who both scored 9.850.  The team scored a 49.400 on the floor.

Coach Thompson's reflection on Saturday's success spoke volumes to the example he believes his team can set for future gymnasts.

"A majority of our fans are between the ages of eight to 14 years old," said Thompson. "These girls are role models for them, which makes them think about their actions on and off the mat. Audience members might not be able to hear what is said on the mat, but they can read body language. Our girls need to have a positive outlook in practice, in the locker room and on the mat."

Kassidy Stauder proved to be the perfect illustration of positivity on Saturday as she claimed the all-around title with a 39.275. Stauder placed first in both bars and beam.

"Stauder is one of those girls who can turn on any switch when you need her to," said Thompson.

Penn State finished with a season-high score of 196.025.

"We are going to use this meet to propel us into Michigan State next weekend," said Thompson. "I am so proud of these girls and I am really looking forward to what this season brings. Their energy was awesome today." 

VIDEO: Meet Preview - at Iowa State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics program opens their season on Sunday (Jan. 5) at Iowa State and head coach Jeff Thompson talked with prior to the team leaving for Ames, Iowa.


VIDEO: Meet the Team - Emma Sibson

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics program will open their season on Sunday, Jan. 5 at Iowa State and the Blog will be counting down the days until the season opener with special Meet the Team videos with each of the 15 members of the team.

Today, we caught with freshman Emma Sibson, a gymnast who reached the elite level while competing for Zenith Gymnastics. A native of Allen, Texas, Sibson will look to make an impact in the all around for the Nittany Lions. She missed most of 2013 with an injury, but qualified for the Junior Olympics and VISA Championships during her club career.


VIDEO: Meet the Team - Nicole Medvitz

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NIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics program will open their season on Sunday,Jan. 5 at Iowa State and the Blog will be counting down the days until the season opener with special Meet the Team videos with each of the 15 members of the team.

Today, we caught with Paramus N.J. native, Nicole Medvitz, who will look to contribute in the all around for the Nittany Lions. A freshman for the Blue and White, Medvitz was a Junior Olympic National Champion on the balance beam in 2011, 2012 and 2013.


Musser Preps for Trip to NCAA Championships

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When you ask Sharaya Musser if she ever thought that, after four years of competing as a collegiate gymnast, she'd be ending her senior year with a third trip to the NCAA Championships, she's a bit speechless.

8844643.jpeg"I don't know," laughed Musser. "It's quite the experience."

The senior Nittany Lion leaves State College today en route to her final competition of her collegiate career. After tying for second place in the all-around at the Norman, Okla. Regional two weeks ago, Musser clinched her third-straight championship berth and is headed to Los Angeles, Calif. for three days of competition.

The women's gymnastics championships welcome 12 teams and 12 all-around competitors who are not a part of a qualifying team, as well as individual event finalists. As a team, the Nittany Lions fell just two spots short of a championship berth, finishing fourth at the regional competition.

And while the 22-year-old said that she would like nothing more than for her teammates to enjoy the sunny Los Angeles weather with her, she knows that they're rooting for her all the way.

"It's bittersweet," said Musser. "Obviously I'm proud of myself for qualifying but I really want my team to come with me so that's always a downside to it. But they've been coming into the gym and supporting me through my practices and that has meant a lot to me."

This is the third year in a row that Musser will be competing as an individual at the championships, as she earned 12th in the all-around in 2011 and eighth in 2012. But the senior said that as her final opportunities wind down, she's aiming for a much higher finish.

"The goal is to finish in the top three in the all-around," said Musser. "I've just got to go out there and do my best and do what I've been doing all season. You can't control judges and scores so if you know you did your best but you don't get the scores you think you deserve then you've just got to brush that off and let it go."

In order to do so, Musser said that she has to prepare a bit differently than she might for a mid-season meet or any other competition.

"I've been trying to rest my body as best as I can in order to compete," said Musser. "We're at the end of the season so you've done your routines over and over and over, day in and day out, so it's more of a mental game than it is a physical game once you hit nationals. These past two weeks I've just been doing a lot of visualization and just keeping up with the little things."

Musser's all-around competition will begin on with a semifinal on Friday and the top four individuals from that sessions will advance to compete in the finals on Sunday.

But regardless of what kind of scores or medals Musser brings home, she said that it's nice to look back at the last four years and know that she had fun doing what she really loves to do.   

"It's wonderful seeing all of my hard work paying off."

Women's Gymnastics Battles Beam with Mental Toughness

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By Sallie Sharer,, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The women's gymnastics team fell to Michigan over the weekend, but head coach Jeff Thompson could not have been more pleased with the team's performance.

8597653.jpegThe team had conquered the mental toughness they had needed this season.

With a less than stellar performance on the balance beam two weeks ago at Nebraska, coach Thompson said the girls never wanted to feel the way they felt after that meet.

The week in practice leading up to the meet in Michigan was geared to rectifying those mistakes.

"I think it's a combination of several things. Maybe the most important thing is the way they felt at Nebraska when it was over. That is a very powerful motivator," Thompson said. "We started practices with beam intrasquad, and they had to hit to move on. They hit. They also had to end the practice with a beam intrasquad, they had to hit or they had to come back in on Wednesday, and they hit. So, not wanting to feel like that again helped them focus in practice. It helped build their confidence."

Their performances on the beam last week consisted of hitting all of their routines and posting their second highest score on the event.

"We knew we had this in us all along," Thompson said. "The girls set a goal before the meet started this weekend. Number one, to stay mentally tough, mentally focused until the very end, which we failed to do at Nebraska. We tried too hard, and ended up making mistakes on beam that we don't ordinarily make. The thing I'm most proud of is that they were able to do that."

Beam was the last event for the Lions at Michigan.

"They could have gone to beam and done what they did the week before, instead they just went over there and nailed everything, so that was awesome," Thompson said.

The second goal, Thompson said, was to go 24 for 24 routines.

"We went 23 for 24, and all exhibitions hit their routines so really we went 26 for 27. So, that was the real goal. The third goal was to score 196, because we felt like every meet we went to, had we done our job, we could have scored around a 196 or a little higher."

The Lions achieved all three of their goals, posting a score of 196.7, their highest score this season.

Headlining the performances of the night was senior co-captain Madison Merriam, who is still healing from an injury in the Lion's home opener this season. With two scores above 9.900, her work was paying off.

Merriam posted a 9.950 on vault, and 9.900 on the uneven bars, which was the event she had injured herself on in the home opener.

"I was really happy with my performance, I felt like all of my hard work was really paying off," Merriam said.

Getting the win was not the priority, Merriam said.

"We went into this meet trying to focus on ourselves, and hitting our routines. It was not about beating Michigan, it was about going out there and hitting our routines and we did that, and we got the scores," Merriam said.

Merriam performed on beam as an exhibition performance, and hit her routine with a 9.775. She was also thrilled at the Lions turn around on beam.

"This weekend they did a phenomenal job," Merriam said. "They were so confident up there, and they were a completely different team than they were at Nebraska. They went up there, and they owned it. I think they mentally prepared themselves better, and every single one of them knew they did not want to feel the way they felt after Nebraska."

The confidence from last week's meet has boosted the Lion's motivation going into the coming weeks of competition.

Co-Captain Madison Merriam Shows Perseverance Through Injury

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By Sallie Sharer, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When senior and co-captain of the women's gymnastics team, Madison Merriam, performed on the uneven bars in the season home opener in Rec Hall, a potentially serious injury had Merriam concerned that her foot was broken.

8553182.jpeg"When I first landed and got up, I was like 'that hurt,' and when I started walking it hit me, and it was pretty painful at the time," Merriam said.

In the middle of a swing down during her routine, she was over too far to the side and feared kicking the separators on the apparatus, and closed her straddle too narrowly smacking the top of her foot on the low bar.

Pushing through into the dismount, head coach Jeff Thompson and Merriam feared the worst.

After a few days, and a few medical tests, Merriam found that her foot was not in fact broken, but bruised.

"When I got over the shock of it, and over the pain, I realized I was going to be okay," Merriam said. "I'm not 100 percent yet; it's still a little bit swollen and bruised. It just depends on the day, but it's at the point now where I'm okay to push through it. It's nothing excruciatingly painful."

But after a week of practice, Merriam was ready to compete again.

In the very next meet after Merriam's injury, she competed on vault and uneven bars posting a 9.825 and 9.800 respectively.

"She did bars and vault that next weekend, and she ended up sticking her vault, which is unbelievable," Thompson said.

Last week's meet was another step for Merriam when she added floor exercise to her previous vault and uneven bars lineup. Merriam posted a 9.825 on vault, 9.800 on uneven bars and a 9.850 on floor.

In Merriam's final year as a Penn State gymnast, her qualities as a talented athlete and her selfless nature leant to her being chosen, alongside senior Sharaya Musser, as co-captains to lead the Lions through the 2013 season.

Initially, Musser and Merriam were told there would be no captains named this season. Thompson wanted to see them assume those roles. They did, and through their leadership in the preseason, the only two seniors on the team were both named co-captains.

"When it came along before the Blue and White showcase, they told us that Sharaya and I would be co-captains, we were both surprised," Merriam said. "We weren't expecting it all. I think we just showed a lot of attributes during the pre-season of being captains without the coaches putting that title on us, so I guess they thought we deserved it."

Both Musser and Merriam have shared the responsibilities of being captains, but it has not changed much for Merriam.

"Just because we have been given the title of captains, at least for me, I know that it hasn't changed my perspective of my role on the team. I still respect my teammates, help them when they need it, and try to shed light on them from my experiences from previous years."

Coach Thompson hinted that Merriam would potentially be ready to take on the all-around category this weekend at Nebraska.

Though Merriam is not yet fully recovered, she is adding more to practice every day.

When asked about her expectations for the season, Merriam made it clear that winning the championship was not the ultimate goal.

"I just hope for the team that we can reach our full potential. I want to enjoy myself and embrace my last season. I don't have any specific set goals. I just want to enjoy the process."

For Merriam, the ultimate goal is to make sure by seasons end, she is left with the feeling that she, and the rest of the Lions, left it all on the mats.

Women's Gymnastics Takes Down Ohio State in Double Dual

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By Sallie Sharer, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sporting its pink leotards in support of Breast Cancer Awareness, the Nittany Lion women's gymnastics team posted season high score of 195.575 in its double dual against Ohio State on Saturday night in Rec Hall.

8538147.jpegFor the Lions, survival was the theme of the entire meet, and they were proud to wear pink for the night.

"Women's gymnastics is a fashion show," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "They love the pink leotards, but they know what it means. We talked about what survivor meant tonight, and how hard those people fight every day. So we needed to come out and fight just as hard for them. Tonight was special."

Freshman Samantha Musto was healthy enough to compete in both the balance beam and the uneven bars. She posted a 9.700 and 9.600, respectively.

Thompson gave Musto the opportunity to prove that she earned the spot during the practice prior to the meet. She had to hit all of her routines on bar, right in that moment.

"It would only be fair if I hit every single routine," Musto said. "Hopefully to simulate how it would be in competition, and so I just tried to block it out and do what I had to do."

She did, and with clearance, Musto made lineup.

"She went up there and nailed it," Thompson said. "She did not only what we thought she could, but she proved to her teammates that she earned that spot. So it was good for everybody."

Senior co-captain, Sharaya Musser, the only Lion to compete in the all-around, dominated the all-around competition, winning the event with a score of 39.400.

Despite Ohio State's gymnasts earning the first place in every event but the balance beam, the Lions' depth afforded them the big win at home in Rec Hall.

Both junior Lindsay Musgrove and senior co-captain Madison Merriam posted season high scores on floor exercise with scores of 9.825 and 9.850 respectively, further improving the Lions performances on that event.

Musser won the unbalance beam event with a score of 9.925, matching her score from the week before against Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Iowa where she posted her season high for the event.

"I think that sometimes they try harder when it's a dual meet," Thompson said. "They're smart enough to know everyone is watching them. When they are 3,000 people in the stands, and some want you to make it, some want you to fall. I think they handled it pretty well."

The Lions will head to Nebraska next weekend to take on the Huskers.