Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).
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.
In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.
The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.
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 else."
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.- The Penn State women's gymnastics team begins its quest for the Big Ten title tomorrow in Ann Arbor, Mich. After a rather successful season under the helm of head coach Jeff Thompson, who came into the Penn State fold just five years ago, the Nittany Lions enter the post-season with only two regular season losses.
The success of this team lies within their dedication and consistency in the practice gym, where coach Thompson tells his gymnasts to "compete how they practice." While many challenge the saying, "practice makes perfect," these gymnasts have dedicated themselves to it.
"These girls have been so successful because they trust each other," Thompson said. "Each and every one of them has stepped up, at some point, this season. We have had girls rotating events and changing lineups and they have adjusted well to that. We are one team."
Event Break Down: Bye-Rounds and B1G Momentum
The Nittany Lions finished second at the Big Five meet last weekend, giving them the momentum they need as they head into the Big Ten Championships. This tournament is different than any other: bye rounds are awarded to various teams throughout the tournament, a major change from the traditional meet. Typically, teams have a set rotation based on whether they are the home or away team at a meet, a routine that the gymnasts adjust too all season.
Penn State has been awarded two bye rounds during the tournament. How the team will handle two bye rounds will come down to their ability to channel their energy and adrenaline, something they have worked on all season.
Bye rounds aside, the Nittany Lions have a rather different rotation than they are used to. They will open on bars, then head over to beam, before making their way to floor, and finishing off on vault.
"We have to focus on sticking our handstands and dismounts on bars," Thompson said. "If we can stick our landings on bars, that momentum will transfer to beam."
The Nittany Lions close out on the two strongest events in their rotation: floor and vault.
"I want our girls to really connect with the audience and the judges when they are performing on floor," Thompson said. "Floor is an event meant for storytelling and if they can do that, they will be successful. Vault has been our event all season and I am confident that we will do what we have done consistently all season."
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 charts.
But, before the team heads to the Big Five meet in Minnesota, the qualifying tournament to the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions take on the Mountaineers this Sunday.
"You never know how dual meets will pan out, especially with changes to your rotation," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "At home, we almost always finish on floor, but this weekend we will be ending on beam, which is different."
Penn State is currently ranked No.11, compared to West Virginia's No. 30 placement. Of the four events, bars, beam, vault and floor, the Mountaineers are only ahead of the Nittany Lions in the rankings on floor.
"We have had two road losses this year," Thompson said. "That plays into where we fall in the rankings. But we have made a lot of adjustments since those losses and the girls have been working hard."
Keys To The Meet:
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."
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 season.
These seniors are special, as they, along with the coaching staff, have again put Penn State on the map as one of the top women's collegiate gymnastics programs. Aside from their contributions to the sport, these girls have created a familial environment for the program; the trust they have in one another has made them as successful as they are today.
"From day one, these girls have been developing this trust for one another," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We have this saying, 'grab the rope.' When one of your teammates is having a bad day or doesn't perform as well on a routine, it is their job to support one another. If everyone is 'holding on' and supporting one another, being successful and doing what we do at practice in meets becomes that much easier."
It was no surprise to fans watching on Saturday that the seniors performed as well as they did. Welsh clinched the all-around title, finishing with a season best score of 39.400. She tied for first on vault with a score of 9.925 and earned a winning score of 9.875 on floor.
Sanabria-Robles trailed Welsh for the all-around crown with a score of 39.300. After a miss-step on uneven bars, the senior bounced back in a big way, scoring a 9.900 on vault, 9.850 on floor, and winning the balance beam crown with a score of 9.900.
"We worked really hard on details this week," Sanabria-Robles said. "We wanted to do what we do in the gym in the meet, and we did that in three out of four events today. Once we put it all together, we will be good to go."
Witt has been a consistent competitor for Penn State on uneven bars all season, after coming back from a thumb injury, which left her worried she wouldn't compete. Witt placed second on bars with a score of 9.800. Carroll was not in the starting rotation, but she competed in an exhibition routine on floor, earning a 9.775, capping off her career as the last performer of the day.
The Nittany Lions finished with an overall team score of 196.650, just shy of their meet goal of 197.
"You always want to score the 197," Witt said. "We keep adding more little details and sticks, hoping to get to the 197 that we need. We are consistent and we know we are hitting every routine because we trust each other and work off of each other. Every time we compete, the little things help bring us to the next level."
Since the beginning of the season, these gymnasts have been working tirelessly to see out their goal: win every meet. After Saturday's performance, they have won all but two matchups this season, both of which were on the road.
"We want to win the Big Ten tournament," Sanabria-Robles said. "That has been a dream of ours forever, since we started our journey here. We want to make it to nationals, just do what we know we can do. If we do that, we can make it into the Super Six and that is definitely the ultimate dream for us."
"At the rate we are going, we are on the right path," Witt added.
There is a sign outside of the Penn State women's gymnastics facility, which reads, "little eyes are watching." So many young gymnasts attend home meets at Rec Hall, watching these gymnasts every move. They have been conditioned to be stellar student athletes, but often times in a sport like gymnastics, which is just as mentally challenging as it is physical, you can get caught up in sticking a landing or earning a certain score. These gymnasts never lose sight of that; they know they are not only champions for the sport, but role models for those aspiring to be just like them.
"I got really emotional making their senior video," Thompson said. "This was a great way for these girls to end their career in Rec Hall. These girls don't let little things bother them. When they have mistakes they put them behind them quickly. These girls are special; for them to go undefeated at home in their senior season is special."
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 lineup.
"When I think back on my time at Penn State, last year was a really rewarding experience," Carroll said. "Being able to host the regional tournament and watch my teammates compete, even though I couldn't was exciting. I got to watch our team make it to the Top 12."
Carroll comes from a rather athletic family, a big family, too. She is the oldest of six children, coming into a "leadership" and "big sister" role early. Her brother, is a freshman at Virginia Tech where he plays football and her sister has already verbally committed to play college lacrosse, despite being a sophomore in high school.
"Being a big sister has made being a big sister to my teammates easier," Carroll said. "I have always had to be a role model, whether I wanted to be or not. I like to lead my example, get in the gym and do my job."
This years' team is unique, with several freshman making major contributions to the team's performance, getting into the lineup is competitive.
"Lexi is our seven," head coach Jeff Thompson said, when talking about the six gymnast rotation. "She makes the team better. When you have seven solid gymnasts competing against each other for spots, they just keep getting better. That system of pushing one another is what has made this team so great."
With championship season quickly approaching, the team is gearing up for what has the potential to be a rather successful post season. While things change, week in and week out, Carroll is confident that this team will make its mark.
"We haven't reached our full potential yet," Carroll said. "We are having a really great season, the best is yet to come."
What she will miss most about gymnastics...
"What's funny about gymnastics is it isn't a sport that you can just do outside of a gym," Carroll said. "I can't just go to a court and have a 'pickup game' of gymnastics. When you are don't competing, you are done competing."
What she will miss most about being a Nittany Lion...
"This team is my family," Carroll said. "It will be a hard thing to leave behind. But, I have learned a lot. Collegiate athletics prepares you for life outside of competing or playing in a game; we learn time management, being held accountable, leadership, things you need in any career path."
The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall on Saturday for Senior Day at 4 p.m. to face off against Iowa, SUNY Brockport and Penn.