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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Only three meets into the 2017 season, junior Briannah Tsang is off to a phenomenal start for the Nittany Lions. Tsang led the Penn State women's gymnastics team to its fourth win of the season on Saturday evening, with an all-around score of 39.325, against Maryland. 

"It felt good to win the all-around title," Tsang said. "I don't come in thinking, 'Am I going to win the all-around today?'. I come in saying, 'I need to hit for my team,' so the title is just a bonus."

Tsang captured the title after owning the team's top score on vault (9.825) and balance beam (9.825). She also placed second overall on uneven parallel bars (9.950) and eighth on floor exercise (9.775). It was a close performance between Penn State and Maryland on the floor exercise, with the top three gymnasts all earning a score of 9.825, but Tsang's performance anchored Penn State's victory. 

"Briannah Tsang came out and nailed a good routine to get us the victory," head coach Jeff Thompson said. 

This was Tsang's seventh all-around title and second of the season, after winning her first in the season-opening Penn State quad meet against Bowling Green, BYU and Temple. 

Nonetheless, it was not only Tsang's performance that led the Nittany Lions to a win.

Freshman Kristen Politz made a big impact throughout the meet. She finished second in the all-around with a score of 39.050. This was also her second all-around in her collegiate career. Politz placed fourth in the vault (9.750), uneven parallel bars (9.775) and balance beam (9.700). But in the final event of the evening, Politz showed a beautiful performance on floor exercise to secure first place with a score of 9.825. 

"I was really proud of Kristen Politz, a freshman," coach Thompson said. "Last week, she jumped into the vault lineup and just did a layout. This week, she competed a full, did a great job and helped us out on vault."

With the great routines throughout the meet, Politz captured the Ann Carr award, given to the most inspirational Penn State gymnast at the meet.

"Winning that award felt amazing," Politz said. "I wasn't expecting it, but it was really an honor to get that award. I'm really proud of this team and the direction that we're heading in... [Finishing second] makes me feel amazing, too. It just builds my confidence going forward in the season and we're off to a really good start, so I'm really excited [for the year]."

Rec Hall held an electric crowd Saturday afternoon as it hosted the first double dual of the season for the men's and women's gymnastics teams, which created a supportive atmosphere throughout the meet.

"It's amazing to have both teams here," Politz said. "There's more support and fans, and it was so much fun. I can't wait for our second double dual. Even though it was a new experience, I'm really glad that I was able to compete." 

Penn State finished with a season-high point total of 195.525. 

"I was really proud of the girls," coach Thompson said. "We basically did everything that we wanted to do tonight. The goal was to go out there and hit all of our routines. We only had a couple of mistakes and we know that we can fix those because they do well on those events every day at practice. All in all, we started with great energy and ended with great energy in front of a great crowd with our men's [team], so I couldn't be more proud of our team and I'm looking forward to next week."


By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is looking for its first Big Ten win of the season as they take on Maryland Saturday afternoon. This meet will be the first double dual of the season for the Nittany Lions, meaning both the Penn State men and women will compete together in Rec Hall on Saturday.

"Double dual meets are always the most exciting meets of the year," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "I think that the women's gymnastics fans love coming to see the men compete and I think the men's gymnastics fan love seeing the women compete. It's a good crossover because even though the sports are completely different, they're still very similar. Fans understand and know what's going on. Even though they might not know all the names of the skills on the high-bar or parallel bars, they know good gymnastics when they see it, and we're looking forward to it."

However, when fans enter Rec Hall, they might notice something different about this double dual than in previous years. The setup for Saturday afternoon will be more open, giving fans and judges better views of the competition. 

"We're going to use a new set-up this week," coach Thompson said. "The setup that has been used for double dual meets for the past 20 years, our judges sit way too close to the equipment to judge properly and they always complain, so we're using more of the women's setup and it's going to be more wide open. It should be great for the fans, the competitors and the judges." 

In addition, Saturday afternoon will be THON Awareness Night for both the men's and women's gymnastics team. 

"Most people know that the women's gymnastics team does a ton in the community," Thompson said. "Having won the Champs Cup for community service the last six years in a row, it should come as no surprise that they love doing these types of events. Anytime we can give back to our community and to the world's largest student-run philanthropy, is something that we take great pride in." 

The Blue and White are coming off a hard-fought matchup against Nebraska last Saturday, just coming up short 195.700-192.900. 

Nonetheless, senior Nicole Medvitz was able to help the team by securing the balance beam title. 

"It felt pretty good [winning my eighth balance beam title]," Medvitz said. "I just went up and did what I do in practice and it was great that I was able to finish the meet off strong for my team and just hit a good routine."

She hopes to continue her success as the Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall for the THON double dual meet. 

"It's really exciting because it's nice to support a good cause and we really try to help out in the community, so I like being able to compete for that cause," Medvitz said. "Also, having a double dual brings in a lot more fans and there's a lot going on at one time, so there's a lot of energy which really pumps us up and gets us excited for the meet. We usually do well when we do that, but we do have to make sure that we stay focused on us and just do what we always do in a regular meet." 

The meet against the Terrapins will begin Saturday at 4 p.m.  


By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the past two seasons, the Penn State women's gymnastics team has opened its Big Ten conference slate by competing against Nebraska. This 2017 season will be no different. The Nittany Lions will head to Lincoln, Neb., for the Big Ten opener against the Huskers on Sunday, Jan. 15. 

"It's good and bad when you face one of the top teams in the nation early in the season," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "You can catch them off guard or they can be 100 percent healthy because they haven't done a whole lot yet. Since they came into the league, Penn State has yet to defeat Nebraska in a women's gymnastics meet, but I think we're going to do it on Sunday." 

Sunday's meet will mark the start of Nebraska's season, but the Blue & White are coming off a first-place finish in their first meet of the season last Saturday, where Penn State (194.625) defeated BYU (194.225), Temple (191.925) and Bowling Green (190.725), respectfully. Penn State also won on the vault, balance beam and floor exercise.

"One of the advantages we have this year is that we competed last weekend, so we had a chance to go out there and shake some of the rust off," coach Thompson said. "The freshmen got a chance to see what it's like and what it feels like to [compete in collegiate athletics]. Also, competing on the road, there's normally less pressure than when you compete at home because no one knows you when you're on the road."

Even with less stress, Thompson knew that if the team wanted better results for the first away meet of the season, they had to change their preparation and practice for this week.

"Normally, we train two days, take a day off, train two days and travel, but we have a lack of depth at the moment and we're going to have four gymnasts compete in the all-around this weekend," coach Thompson said. "We decided that we're going to train [Thursday], give them [Friday] completely off and we'll travel on Saturday so they have two days completely off from gymnastics to get rested up."

The main focus during these practices is to clean up the vault landings and work on bars, but it's always important to look for perfection on beam and floor exercise, too. 

"Every meet, unless you score 20 perfect 10's or a 200, there's always room for improvement," coach Thompson said. "This weekend, we will have every routine, every score that we counted last weekend, except one beam person, so we should be able to do as well as we did last Saturday and hopefully we can eliminate the mistakes."

This Sunday will also feature a different format, as the Huskers will host Penn State in a "Tumble & Rumble" event, where both women's gymnastics and wrestling will be competing simultaneously at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

 Nonetheless, the distraction will be nothing for Penn State as they look towards the upperclassmen to help maintain focus.

"Obviously, the more you compete, the more experience you get," coach Thompson said. "Last year we had seven freshmen so half the team had no experience at the beginning of the season. This year, we have three freshmen. Only one is competing this weekend, so she's going to contribute to three of the 24 routines, so 90 percent of the routines are coming from upperclassmen. We're very confident in where they are right now and our expectations are high for them this weekend."

Penn State Ready for 2017: What You Need to Know

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A new year has arrived, which means a few Penn State Athletics programs are ready to kick off a fresh season in the Blue and White. Ready to return to action, Penn State's first program to open its 2017 season at home in Happy Valley this weekend is the Nittany Lion women's gymnastics team. 

Ranked within the top 25 of the women's National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches (NACGC) preseason poll, No. 23 Penn State has elected to begin a new year with a quad meet, welcoming Bowling Green, BYU and Temple to Rec Hall for the first of five home meets this season. 

Ahead of the first home season-opener this weekend, take a look at five things you need to know before heading out to Rec Hall Saturday afternoon. Penn State gets underway in the quad meet beginning at 4 p.m. 

1. Senior Leaders
Among a host of returners in 2017, sixth-year head coach Jeff Thompson noted that he'll rely on his group of four seniors to take on the leadership roles for the team this year.

Highlighting the group is Emma Sibson, one of Penn State's top vaulters and floor workers her first two seasons, who had to miss the duration of the 2016 season with an injury. Nicole Medvitz will also return to anchor the team on the balance beam for another season, while also leading off the uneven bars team. Both Sibson and Medvitz competed in the 2014 NCAA national championships.

2. Another Year of Experience
Speaking of returners, the 2017 Nittany Lion roster features a total of 13 returners, which includes a group of four then-newcomers who also made appearances in 11 of 12 team outings last year. 

"Any time you have all of your team back, you're going to be better than the year before," Thompson said. "We're also going to be better because this year we have kids back in the lineup who were injured last year or kids who maybe had a surgery who are now returning back to play." 

Within the group of returners, junior All-Big Ten First Team honoree Briannah Tsang returns following a 2016 season which featured an appearance at the NCAA championships after tying for fourth on the floor exercise in the NCAA regionals. Tsang is one of two Nittany Lions to receive recognition on the Big Ten's Gymnasts to Watch this year. 

3. Leadership Committee
New this year, Thompson and the Nittany Lions have established a leadership committee for the 2017 season, which is comprised of a representative from each class.

"We have one member of each class, so there's a senior, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman that are our leadership committee and they help make or make the decisions around conditioning, practice times, community service," Thompson said.

The Nittany Lion leadership committee also provided a few tweaks to the offseason training schedule, which has already yielded positive results. Leading up to the opener, Thompson noted that the Nittany Lions hit 27 of 28 routines in the Thanksgiving inter-squad, hitting every routine by the Christmas inter-squad. 

4. "Pink Meet" Highlights Home Dates
Among a total of five home dates in Rec Hall this season, all on Saturday's at 4 p.m., Penn State will once again host its annual "Pink Meet" against Michigan State Saturday, Feb. 4, with both teams set to wear pink to support an important cause.

"The pink meet is something near and dear to their hearts, just about everyone on our team has a family member who has been touched by cancer, or breast cancer, so anything they can do to give back to not only the community, but women in general - they're so excited about it and it's one of their most favorite meets of the year," Thompson said.

5. Looking Ahead to the B1G Opener
Following this weekend's opener, the Nittany Lions will hit the road, traveling to Nebraska to take on the Huskers in their Big Ten conference opener. This year will also feature a little different format as the Huskers will host Penn State in a "Tumble & Rumble" event, which features both gymnastics and wrestling simultaneously at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

More from Thompson on the Big Ten opener below. 

Tsang Set to Represent Nittany Lions at NCAA Championships

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By Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer

UNVIERSITY PARK, Pa. - Briannah Tsang stood in front of a crowd of 4,000 people on April 2 performing one of the hardest floor routines in the country.

She took off for her first tumbling pass, sprung into the air, flipped backwards, completed a half-turn in the air and finished by flipping forward twice, also known as an Arabian Double Front.

Because Tsang goes into her landing while flipping forward, she is unable to see the floor. She must solely rely on the "feel" of her routine to stick her landing.

"It was like any other meet. I was a little more nervous than what I usually am, but I just took a breath and calmed myself down," Tsang said. "My first pass is definitely a blind landing, but I've just been doing it so much and for so long that I just know where I am in the air."

The sophomore knew exactly where she was in the air at the NCAA Regional Championships last weekend where she posted a 9.900 that secured her spot at the NCAA Championships to represent the Nittany Lions on the floor exercise.

"She's kind of like a cat. She has very good air sense," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "She nailed her opening pass which was incredible. Everything in her floor routine, her second and third pass, was the best they've been all year. She gave very little away in terms of deductions in her routine. The overall performance was outstanding."

Tsang was the only Nittany Lion to advance to the NCAA Championships, which makes the practice gym a very quiet environment.

"Practicing is different because my team is now in the off-season and I am not. Not all of them come into the gym, but some do come and it's nice," Tsang said. "It doesn't make it more difficult without them there. I know what I have to do. I guess I just have the drive. That's just me."

Preparing for Nationals is not much different from what Tsang has done all season. She does her conditioning workout at the end of practice, just like the regular season. Her focus is primarily around the floor exercise, however being the alternate for the all-around has made Tsang make sure she is prepared for all four events.

Tsang will take off for Texas on Wednesday and has a practice day on Thursday. She will be accompanied by Thompson and teammate Nicole Medvitz, who is making a separate trip down to support Tsang.

After her practice round on Thursday, Tsang will spend the night before her big meet enjoying a bowl of ice cream. She began this ritual at the start of her freshman year with Penn State when she had a bowl of ice cream the night before her first meet and performed well. This ritual has stuck with her and has now gotten her to the NCAA Championships.

"For some kids they might just spend all their time thinking about their one event, over-analyzing and trying too hard. I don't think that's Bri," Thompson said. "I think she's going down there to do her best, but she's also going down there to soak up the experience."

Although Tsang is usually associated with the vault because of her 2014 Canadian National Championship vault crown and other vault success, she has won five floor titles this season including her most recent victory at the NCAA Regional Championships. She has posted three 9.900s and two 9.925s.

"People would recognize her as her best event being vault, but she's such a dynamic floor worker that it didn't surprise me that she won floor," Thompson said. "I'm happy for her and keeping my fingers crossed that she does a really good job."

After being named the 2015 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and winning at least one event title in each of her first seven career meets as a freshman, Tsang's stellar 2016 season consisted of one all-around title, three vault victories, five floor titles and All-Big Ten First Team honors.

"As a gymnast, she's very talented, but she also works very hard. She's not afraid to work through pain," Thompson said. "Sometimes if you have sore muscles or there's been a few times where she had a hard landing and maybe jarred her back, we've had girls in the past where they would be out for a week because of that. She just kind of rubs some dirt on it, gets back in there and gets after that. She doesn't just love competing, she loves the sport. I think she would miss it if she wasn't out there every single day. That's what I love about her."

Tsang will compete in the NCAA Championships at 2 p.m. on Friday.

"I'm going in with no expectations," Tsang said. "I'm just trying to do my best, hit my routine like I do in practice and just have fun."

Nationals in Sight as Nittany Lions Head to Regionals

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11830301.jpegBy Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are one step away from their goal of the season: make it to Nationals.

The team will travel to Ann Arbor on Saturday to compete in the NCAA Regional in an effort to secure a top-two spot and a spot in the NCAA Championships field.

"Every year at this meet, all 36 teams know they have to finish first or second, otherwise their season is over," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "So, you could have the greatest season ever and set all kind of school records, and if you're not first or second, your team is going to be crying at the end because they didn't go to nationals."

For its designated region, Penn State is a No. 5 seed entering the meet. Ahead of the team are No. 1 Auburn, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Eastern Michigan. Auburn is ranked sixth in the country, Michigan is ranked seventh and Stanford is 18th.

"This is going to be a tough task for us as a No. 5 seed," Thompson said. "But, we are probably the scariest five seed in the whole country considering what we have done in the last weeks of the season."

If the Nittany Lions do not secure a first or second placement as a team, some of the gymnasts may still advance to Nationals to represent Penn State individually. The top two all-arounders of the tournament that are not on either of the top two teams advance to Nationals, along with individuals who win an event.

Some Nittany Lions to watch for are Nicole Medvitz and Briannah Tsang.

Medvitz had a stellar year on the balance beam, never recording a score lower than a 9.800 since the third meet of the season. Medvitz shined in her routine at the Big Five Qualifier posting a near-perfect score of a 9.975.

"There might be somebody who is perfect, but probably not," said Thompson. "Nicole came close to perfect at the Big Five. She got one perfect score, but not from the other judge. But they don't have to be perfect to be good, have fun or enjoy what they are doing."

Tsang is a threat as both an all-arounder and on the vault. Tsang has posted an all-around score of 39.300 or higher five times this season and shared the all-around title in the team's meet against Nebraska. On the vault, Tsang won the event for the first three meets of the year and hit her season-best score of 9.900 against Southern Connecticut, Temple, West Chester and West Virginia.

The No. 5 ranked Nittany Lions head into Regionals with excited nerves and the goal of qualifying to the National Tournament.

"The biggest thing I'm looking forward to is to see these girls continue to mature," Thompson said. "We look like we are peaking at the right time. What does that look like? That's what I want to see. That's exciting."

The Nittany Lions will compete at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Transition to Penn State No Problem For Garcia

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11812388.jpegBy Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For any student, a transition from a high school classroom to a lecture hall in the Thomas Building or in the Forum is drastic, but for freshman Sabrina Garcia, it was even more overwhelming.

Garcia was cyber schooled up until her junior year of high school. Cyber school is different from being homeschooled. As a homeschool student, your parent is your teacher. As a cyber school student, however, you still have normal teachers like any other middle school or high school setting, but the difference is you are able to move at your own pace throughout the course material online.

In Garcia's first semester as a Penn State student last fall, she was one of 700 students in a lecture hall in Penn State's biggest classroom, 100 Thomas.

"Going from that to this was a little weird at first, but it only took a week or two to get used to," Garcia said. "You really have to put yourself up front to stay focused. You have to take notes a little bit faster and really pay attention. You have to realize some professors won't individualize stuff for you, so you have to be really independent with your work. That's the difference between high school and college."

Although homeschooling and cyber schooling students seems out of the ordinary for most students, it is not is uncommon with gymnasts.

"What happens when they are between 10-14, their coach thinks they are going to go to the Olympics. They just stop going to school and they do gymnastics all day," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "Then at some point they figure out, 'Hey my kid is not even the best one in the gym let alone the best one in the state, or the region or the country. This is silly, we are going back to regular school.'"

Garcia got thrown into the gymnastics world at an older age than most collegiate gymnasts begin. At age six, an active Garcia would jump onto and off of any furniture in sight. She broke her parents' bedframe, snapped a chair or two and destroyed her families' dinner table.

Garcia's aunt suggested that she be put into gymnastics classes to have a place for Garcia to flip and run around without being destructive around the house.

As she became more involved in gymnastics, her coaches realized she had a lot of talent and Garcia turned to cyber school.

During her time as a cyber student, Garcia practiced five days a week for five to six hours, depending on the day. Of her two remaining days of the week, one was a competition day and the other was her one off day.

"On my off day, I would sleep a lot, watch movies with my family or figure out something with my friends outside of the gym," Garcia said. "But mostly, I would catch up on my sleep."

When Garcia transitioned back into high school in her junior year, she only practiced about four hours each day rather than five or six. At that point, Garcia did not need to learn more skills or develop as a gymnast; she just needed to maintain the skills she already had to be ready for college.

The only thing Garcia was not completely prepared for when entering college was being one of seven freshmen on a team with no senior guidance.

"I was tentative at first because half the team was freshmen. I think all of us freshmen are leaders throughout different aspects of our sport and team," Garcia said. "I guess I am the goofy person. I'm really weird (laughter). I'll be the one to make them laugh, whether I try to or not. I don't get things as quickly as other people and I am very clumsy. I trip a lot when I'm just running around on the floor."

Garcia enjoys being the class clown of the team and has no problem when her teammates may laugh at her confusion or a stumble on the floor.

"She's very outgoing. Have you ever watched her at meets? She's not shy," Thompson said. "And she is, I don't want to say goofy, but she has a really good sense of humor where she's fun to work with every day. When you have a kid that's very talented, great to work with and loves where she is, it's a great combination."

The Nittany Lions will be competing in the NCAA Regionals on Sat. April 2. 

For Medvitz, Gymnastics is a Ritual

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11791160.jpegBy Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nicole Medvitz prepares for the next day's meet the same way she has since she was a Level 4 gymnast in elementary school.

She eats a bowl of pasta along with some M&Ms.

Before the meet, Medvitz meets her teammates at the Lion Shrine where the team does their own cheer and each kiss the lion before entering Rec Hall.  Once Medvitz is about to compete on the balance beam, she must kick the mat a certain way and looks at each end of the beam as she is saluting the judges right before she starts her routine. 

Medvitz has been a standout beam worker since she won three straight Junior Olympic National Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  She claimed four of the last five beam titles this season and in her last appearance, stuck a 9.975. 

After Penn State had a fall on beam in the Big 5 Qualifier in Rec Hall on Saturday, Medvitz knew she had to have the perfect routine to conclude the rotation.  She completed what most would consider a perfect routine.  The first judge held up a perfect score, while the second judge gave Medvitz a 9.950, averaging to a 9.975.  

"When everyone started squealing when the one judge put up the ten, I hadn't really thought about how perfect the routine was," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said.  "It was just normal Nicole."

The balance beam is an event that most gymnasts look at as the most challenging, however it's rarely ever a problem for Medvitz.

"When you get up there, you just have to know you're going to hit your routines before you even do it," Medvitz said.  "I have been doing these skills for so long that it just kind of comes natural now. Before I go, I always believe I am going to do a great routine, so I always think I am going to do well."

Because of this confidence and her top-notch skills, Penn State knew that Medvitz would be the perfect fit for the anchor position in the beam lineup.  The anchor is the last person to compete on an event and the person that the team relies on most to stick their routine, especially if someone else has already fallen off the beam. 

"I know that we had talked to some of the other girls with Nicole about who would feel the most comfortable in the anchor position because some girls don't want that pressure and it was agreed upon that Nicole would be the anchor," Thompson said.  "If we asked, 'Who wants to be the anchor?' She'd put her hand up right away.  She's just that kind of beam worker."

Being the standout beam worker that she is, one would assume that Medvitz's favorite event would be the one that she succeeds most on, however that is wrong.

"Bars is actually my favorite even though the beam has always been my best event," Medvitz said. "The bars are my favorite because I love swinging around and I love the release moves because it feels like I am flying." 

In her freshman season at Penn State, her favorite event almost caused her to watch her freshman year from the sideline.  Medvitz tore her labrum in her shoulder during a bar routine that could have easily caused any other gymnast to miss most, if not all, of the remaining season.  Medvitz, however, would not have her freshman season taken away from her.

"I decided to push through it, I decided I wanted to compete that season," Medvitz said.  "I did bars and beam and I had to do limited numbers in the gym.  Right after the season I got surgery.  Last year was hard coming back from the surgery because I was not as strong.  I feel a lot better this year but it still feels a little bit different.  It's not holding me back at all now."

Nothing is holding Medvitz back on the beam, as she has not scored lower than a 9.875 since Feb. 13 against Ohio State. 

With the Big Ten Championships coming up on Saturday, some gymnasts may picture themselves sticking their routines on Friday night; others may listen to music to start focusing. Medvitz will be eating her pasta and M&Ms. 

Penn State will travel to Lincoln, Neb., at 5 p.m. on Saturday to compete in the Big Ten Championships.  

Life is a Balancing Act for Freshman Peyton Schuller

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By Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - Peyton Schuller wakes up early on a Monday morning. She has to get to conditioning practice by 6 a.m., head to an 8 a.m. math class, followed by three hours of physics class.

After physics, Schuller heads straight to the White Building for gymnastics practice until 4:45 p.m. She quickly tries to grab a bite to eat after practice before starting hours of homework and squeezing in time to meet with tutors to help her get caught up on work.

This is the life of a student athlete majoring in biomedical engineering.

"It's definitely been difficult. More so than what they have been in the past because in high school, classes just came easy to me," Schuller said. "Here, I have to really work, so that's been a challenge to get used to, but I think I have learned to manage my schedule now so it's not as overwhelming, but it's still definitely difficult."

Most freshmen that plan to major in one of Penn State's most challenging majors worry about taking organic chemistry and upper-level calculus classes, but Schuller's wanted to take on more.

When Schuller received her Penn State acceptance letter, she was not yet on the Penn State gymnastics team. She had competed throughout high school, but had not been recruited by Penn State. Schuller's mother decided to email Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson to see if he would be interested in a walk-on gymnast.

"Typically, you can go to YouTube and you can find clips of kids," Thompson said. "So I went to YouTube and her videos weren't very flattering and the skill level on the videos wasn't really where the team was. So, I told her mom we were full."

Schuller's mother was not ready to back down. She asked Thompson if he would be at an upcoming regional competition and when he said that he would, she asked if he could keep an eye out for Peyton.

"We went and watched her and her personality came out in the live performance," Thompson said. "We said that this kid can help us on the floor and beam for sure even though she might never compete vault for us or train bars. We know she can make an impression on this team. And we've never been happier with a decision because she's amazing."

Schuller then officially committed to Penn State and began a hectic academic schedule of balancing classes, tutors, study hall hours and once-a-week advisor meetings on top of a rigorous gymnastics schedule.

Just when life couldn't seem to get more hectic, another variable was thrown into the equation.

Schuller experienced some discomfort in her knee over the fall season. When she returned to school after the holiday break, her knee swelled up and she decided to go to the doctor after a painful first meet. After they scoped her knee, they found a slight tear in her meniscus that had to be cleaned up immediately.

"I have never had surgery before, so I didn't know what to expect. I actually came back from it much faster than I thought I would," Schuller said. "It was really hard to be in the gym and not be able to do stuff. I mostly just did exercises to get motion back in my knee and had to strengthen my quad."

Schuller returned to the Penn State floor lineup seven weeks later in the quad meet against Alabama, Cornell and Denver. Since her return, she's posted a 9.725, 9.750 and 9.825 on the floor exercise.

Penn State will travel to Tempe, Arizona to take on Arizona State in a double dual meet at 9 p.m. on Friday.

Overcoming Adversity, Raygoza Returns To Vault

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By Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - On Saturday, the Nittany Lions gained another gymnast in the vaulting lineup, Chanen Raygoza.  Only competing on vault once since her junior year in high school, Raygoza was ready to get back into the event's lineup.

"Well anytime you recruit someone for a certain role and it takes this long for them to fill that role, it's a great benefit for the team that she is finally able to do one of the events that was maybe the best thing that she did in high school," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said.  "She had an amazing vault." 

In Raygoza's junior year of high school, she experienced pain in her ankle that turned out to be bone spurs.  She had to have surgery to have them removed, but they came back again during her senior year.  She then had to have yet another surgery to clean everything up.

Raygoza has been injury-prone for as long as she can remember.  With gymnasts, injuries are extremely common, but for Raygoza, all of her injuries happened to the lower half of her body.  Because of this, she turned to the uneven bars to keep the pressure off of her bottom half.

"I have always loved bars and it is still my favorite event.  I got hurt a lot when I was young with a lot of ankle things and lower body issues," Raygoza said.  "I was always the one doing bars for hours and hours in the gym.  I just got to do it a lot, got better and better at it and it became the one I liked the most."

Some would think that the dismount from the bars would impact the ankle the same way that landing vault does, but it does not.

"For me, it's all about angles that I land.  When I land bars, it's more of like straight down, ankles 90 degrees at the most," Raygoza said.  "Whereas with vault, you have to kind of come in at an angle and your ankles bend a lot more with that.  My ankle doesn't really bend much more than 90 degrees so it makes it kind of hard."

The surface of the landing mat in vault is something that plays a factor to an injured ankle as well as the angle in which a gymnast must stick her landing.

"There's a big step from our training environment where the landing is a little bit softer. It's in the ground, so the top of it is level with the floor and you put your landing mats on top of it," Thompson said.  "It's a little more forgiving if you land short, you don't crunch your ankles as bad.  Going from the softer landing to a competition landing where it's just a mat on top of a basketball court, it's a more sudden stop." 

The California native was originally going to take her talents to University of Georgia, but decided to commit to Penn State during junior year of high school because she loved Penn State's coaches and the team felt like a big family.  However, deciding to come to the Northeast meant dealing with the winter for her first time.

"Last year was really hard for me," Raygoza said.  "I wore a lot of layers and I carried around a corn bag.  I would heat it up in the microwave and it was just like a big bag of hot.  This year has been better and it's been a lot warmer."

Other than the weather, Raygoza has had no issues with going to a school 2,500 miles away from her hometown in Upland, California.   

"There are kids that want to stay close to home and there are kids who don't care where they go as long as they get a great experience.  When she came here, she fell in love with it," Thompson said.  "You can tell if they come here and they are sitting on that couch and they got that look in their eye, this is the right place for them. Then you don't have any concerns no matter how far they are from home." 

Raygoza posted a 9.750 and a 9.800 in her first two times back on vault.  On Monday, she helped Penn State defeat Maryland by putting up a 9.825 on bars and a 9.800 on beam. 

"We knew that it would take her a little bit of time to get her back to the way she was," Thompson said.  "When you have the opportunity to get such a high-level student athlete, not someone that just excels in their sport, but also in the classroom, having to wait a little while for them to contribute fully is worth the wait."


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