Recently in Women's Gymnastics Category

Lions Host Home Opener This Weekend

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By Sallie Sharer, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's gymnastics team will enter its third week of competition in the 2013 season with their home-opener against Minnesota, Kent State, and Towson on Saturday in Rec Hall at 7p.m.

8484498.jpegLast week the Lions defeated the University of Illinois-Chicago on the road, having posted their highest score of the season with a 194.150.

Freshman Samantha Musto's performance last week earned her all-around champion in Chicago with a score of 39.025, securing her second week in a row of being awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

With their home opening meet on Saturday, the Lions are looking to continue their success despite the several changes they are facing this season.

The Lions will be debuting a new arena setup that head coach Jeff Thompson describes as an 'amphitheater' setup in Rec Hall that will give attendees a better view of each of the four events.

"Nobody is going to have any experience with the setup this weekend," Thompson said. "It's a brand new configuration. We're changing the floor setup in order to help us better host Big Ten Championships next year, the NCAA championships, and regionals in 2014."

Another change the team is facing this season, Thompson said, is the team's approach to competition.

"We're using a little bit of a different approach this season," Thompson said. "Almost everyone has something new, and something more difficult on floor. We trained some pretty difficult tumbling and upgraded the difficulty of our routines in order to be in the hunt at the end."

With amped up routines and skills, the Lions are looking for Penn State to gain some consistency and more confidence this weekend.

Co-captains, Sharaya Musser and Madison Merriam, are the only two seniors on the team, and with seven new Lions, including an LSU transfer, Sidney Sanabria-Robles, the seniors will lead the team in the fight against Minnesota, Kent State, and Towson on Saturday.

Between Musser and Merriam, the co-captains hold the highest scores in all four events, with the highest score in all-around going to Musser.

Musser posted the second-highest all-around score after Musto last Friday against Chicago with a score of 38.600. Sanabria-Robles competed in the all-around competition for the first time in her collegiate gymnastics career last Friday and posted a 38.425.

Last year the Lions defeated Minnesota 195.475-195.150 on the road. The Lions did not compete against Towson or Kent State last season.

After the team improved their score from their first meet in Denver two weeks ago from 193.725 to 194.150 last weekend in Chicago, the Lions are looking to improve their score again at home in Rec Hall.

Musser Looks Ahead to Nationals with Focus and Determination

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By Laura Finley, Student Staff Writer
Sharaya Musser hopes the third time is the charm. After competing at nationals as an individual for each of the past two seasons, the junior gymnast heads to Duluth, Ga., to compete this weekend in the NCAA National Championships for a third time in her career.

After qualifying for the championships during regional finals with a score of 39.450, Musser looks to continue finding success on the big stage.


"Being at nationals two times already as an individual, I will definitely know how to prepare myself and what to expect," said Musser. "Going into practice with that mentality is nice. But because I don't have a team there it's a lot different. I have a different mindset competing individually."

During the regular season, Musser performed exceptionally, winning 10 of the 12 all-around titles and being recognized as the 2012 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year. To say she will not be a threat would be a mistake. Musser has a strong focus in the gym every day and she is determined now more than ever, to place within the top three in Georgia.

"As a freshman I was just going with it," said Musser. "I didn't know what to expect. I think the difference between then and now is the confidence that I have in myself and really believing that I can accomplish the goal that I have set. This year, my goal is to make it in the top three in all-around and just to enjoy it."

Musser is already off to a good start, as she will be rotating with the No. 1 team in the country, the Florida Gators. Although her own team will not be there cheering her on, Musser and head coach Jeff Thompson are confident in the support she will receive from the Florida gymnasts.

"We feel like she has a great draw," said Coach Thompson. "She's with the number one team in the nation. The caliber of gymnastics that she'll follow is as good as or better than what she does. The fact that she's following a really good team means that if they have a really good day and she has an excellent day, then the chances are better for her making the finals on certain events."

Competing in four events, Musser has plenty to work for. It is the vault, however, that she and Coach Thompson are practicing with most. With an average score of 9.887 during the season, vault has been Musser's best and most consistent event. And it is vault that is one of Florida's best events as well.

With this in mind, the game plan going into nationals is simple: practice the little details. Musser and Coach Thompson have the process figured out, learning from past mistakes and conferring with one another on strategy.

"Last year we tried to add some difficulty, but it backfired a little bit," said Coach Thompson. "Although she was able to hit them 9 out of 10 times in the gym, under the pressure of competition the national championship stage probably wasn't the best time to try that. Knowing that, the only thing we're working to do is work on vault. She's an outstanding vaulter and there's a good chance she'll qualify for vault event titles."

Musser will begin her rotation at nationals this Friday starting at vault and ending with the floor event. If she places in the top four in any of the events, she will then go on to compete Sunday in the individual-event competition.

Coach Thompson is confident Penn State will be well represented. Working with Musser over the past two years, he knows she has all of the attributes necessary to succeed in the sport.

"The thing that sets her apart from other gymnasts is that I've never seen her have a bad day," said Coach Thompson. "Even when she's struggling in the gym, she still finds a way to laugh about it or to find the silver lining. We expect her to do extremely well."

Upperclassmen Blog, April 16, 2012 - Madison Merriam

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I can't believe it has already been a week since our season ended as a team. The emotions I felt Merriam_MadisonA0911_cp.jpg after coming up short once again at regionals were all too familiar. Even though it seemed like the grueling seven months of training never fully came together in the comminating part of the season, we learned a lot for next year.


I couldn't believe regionals was the last meet I would compete with the seniors. I have been so close with all four of them since the first day I came to Penn State. My relationships with them beginning my freshman year helped to form who I am as a collegiate gymnast. I'm grateful to have been on a team with such passionate young women for three years, creating amazing friendships with them that will go far beyond our gymnastics careers. I congratulate them all on successful gymnastics careers but I don't have to wish them luck in the real world yet since they all will continue with their Penn State educations at least through the summer.


Now that season is over I am definitely concentrating on my school work and enjoying the free time I have for the next two weeks. It's hard to believe that my senior year is basically here. I am incredibly excited to lead a brand new team next year with eight new girls coming in. It may be a challenge at first but I think it will be a refreshing change. I hope everyone has an amazing summer!



Upperclassmen Blog, April 16, 2012 - The Sophomores

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Hello family, friends, and fans!

We are so happy you have been following us all year, and we hope you enjoyed "Bringing stauder.jpg it Back" with us! We don't even know where to begin. It has been such a great journey, and we all learned so much. Although the team's season has come to an end, we will send Sharaya off to Nationals with all our love and support as she represents Penn State with pride, passion, and purpose.

We started out the season strong as a bonded group of sisters and continued to grow even closer as the season progressed. Each meet we came together as a team and continually made improvements. Even though it was cut short, we are proud of how we fought at each and every meet as we were reaching toward our goal. We are going to miss our senior class: Whitney, Daryl, Natalie, and Alex. They led us through the season and continually inspired each of us in their own way.

As a sophomore class, we took everything that we learned from last year and applied it to making this year even better. This year was much less stressful for all of us individually because we had already been through classes and practices and season once before! It made it a lot easier to have fun and it was definitely easier to enjoy the year. We all can't believe we are basically juniors now. We are half way done with our college careers! These past two years have flown by, and we are just trying to take everything in because we know the next two years will go by even faster.

For us, next year starts now and we couldn't be more excited! Good luck to Sharaya next weekend down in Duluth, Georgia!

 Enjoy your summer and look for us next year,

Kristin Blades, Kassidy Stauder, Lindsay Musgrove, and Stephanie Brock

Freshman Blog, April 12, 2012 - Alex Witt

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Hi family, friends, and fans! It is already April and I can't believe it; there are only three short Witt_Alexandra (H-11-MS)771p.jpgweeks left of the spring semester until it's summer time! I know I am excited for summer so I can finally be back in the nice Florida sunshine and also to see my family and friends! As most of you know our season came to an end this past weekend at regionals. As a whole I think we had an awesome season and we grew so much as a team this entire year. It was, however, disappointing to not make nationals and actually having to come to terms with us being finished with the season. But, I think we will all remember this feeling which will make us come back better than ever next year. But other than that, classes are going really well and I have already started training for next year. I will be going home for part of the summer, about a month and a half, and then I will be coming back to State College. I am going to be teaching at the summer camp and then I will start classes for the second summer session so I'll be back up here training as well. But, that is it for now; hope everyone is enjoying this lovely spring weather. We Are...

Alex Witt

Freshman Blog, April 3, 2012 - Lexi Carroll

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Hey everyone, carroll.jpeg

I hope you all had or are looking forward to a great spring break! The past couple weeks have been great inside the gym! As championship season is beginning we have been working extra hard to focus and put ourselves in meet-like situations for more preparation. Two weeks ago was the start of it all, Big Ten Championships. Unfortunately, we didn't do as well as we wanted.  As we walked out of that competition we were more motivated than ever! Our goal was to get back in the gym and work really hard to fix the things we needed to so we could put it all together for regionals! I think we are as prepared as we can be for this competition. This weekend we will be bussing it to North Carolina State to compete against NC State, Florida, Ohio State, Kent State, and UNC. The top two teams will then qualify to NCAA's.  We look at Big Ten's as just another thing that will help us prepare, and better us on our journey to the top! Last week we had the privilege of hearing an amazing man, Coach Mike Morse, speak to us. He has lived an incredible life of challenges you can't even imagine! He talked to us and explained how you can be great, but you are nothing without your team. You're stronger together then you are apart. It was an emotional yet truly inspiring speech. This week as our close knit team competes, we will fight until the very end to claim the spot we earned and deserve!


Lexi Carroll

Upperclassmen Blog, March 19, 2012 - Natalie Ettl

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Hello everyone! Ettl_NatalieA0411_Cp.jpg

Wow, this weekend was truly remarkable! I am first going to start off by talking about our last regular season meet. As a team we went into the competition knowing that we were going to have fun and put all four events together. And I am happy to say, we did just that and more! We started off on a great roll on vault and brought that same drive into bars and came out with our season high total. Beam and floor ended the competition on a high note, and we were able to score our home meet season high! However, the competition was just one aspect of the unforgettable weekend.

The alumni were another special part of the weekend. Between the men and women alumni, we had over 100 that came back to help celebrate. It was an amazing feeling to have so much support sitting right there in the stands. After the competition we went over to the Nittany Lion Inn for a get together where we got to mingle with all the alumni and our families. I talked with several alumni and just couldn't believe that I will soon be in their shoes. The most touching part for me at the reception was taking a picture with one of the Men's alumni that was from the class of '44. He told me that it was an honor to meet me and to cherish every last minute I have being a part of this amazing program. This brings me to my last topic from the weekend, SENIOR NIGHT!

I could not have asked for a more special night that will forever remain a memory for me. I can still remember the day that Daryl, Alex, Whitney, and I walked into Rec Hall for our first competition and I will certainly remember the day when we walked into Rec Hall for our last. The four of us started out as four completely different people but developed a friendship that turned into a sisterhood that will last a lifetime. We have laughed together and cried together, and started this journey together that we won't give up on until the end. Our teammates provided us with many laughs in the locker room prior to competition, something that I will never forget. Then following the competition, our teammates gave us a collage that they put together along with our class rings. After that, we got to enjoy some entertainment that was put together by Jeff. It was incredible watching the old videos of where we all started, to watching where we are now. I know that I never would have thought I would end up at Penn State, but I'm sure glad that I did.

This weekend we are heading to Big Ten's in Iowa. We have secured a second seed going into the competition behind Nebraska. We will start on vault and compete in the second session. A special congratulation is in order for Sharaya who received first-team All-Big Ten honors, along with Whitney and Maddie who received second-team All-Big Ten honors.  We are ready to go to Big Ten's and do what we do! We Are...Bringing it Back! We Are...Penn State!!!

Forever and Always a Nittany Lion,


Women's Gymnastics Leaves Rec Hall with a Season High

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By Laura Finley, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team closed out its regular season in high fashion on Saturday night, taking home its highest home meet score and honoring the seniors for their contributions over the years.


The women had much to be proud of as they put on their best performance at Rec Hall this season, taking first place against the Maryland with a score of 196.5. It was a score only fitting for senior night as Natalie Ettl, Daryl Konsevick, Whitney Bencsko and Alex Stine ended their careers at Rec Hall on the top.

"The seniors are great," said associate head coach Rachelle Thompson. "We're here where we are, number 12 in the country and number two in the Big Ten because of our seniors. A year and a half ago it was that class that we approached and we said 'look this is what we want to do, this is where we want to go' and they said 'we're on board, let's run'. They've made it. They haven't given up."

This never give up attitude has been encompassed by the team as a whole, as Penn State showed its dominance in the all-around category. Junior Sharaya Musser continues to go undefeated this season, placing first with a 39.650 while Bencsko scored a season-high 39.325 allowing her to take home second in her last meet at Rec Hall.

"It's sad, but we feel like it was a great night," said Benckso. "We put on a good performance and it was a lot of fun. I think we can say it's the first time [this season] that we've actually put four events together. I think that gives us the realization that we're on the right track and we're ready to go."

Opening on vault, Penn State scored a 49.175 led by Madison Merriam with her career-high score of 9.925. The score allowed the Nittany Lions to jump to the lead early as the University of Maryland came up with 48.775 on the uneven bars.

"The mindset when we walked in the door was, we're going to have fun tonight and we're going to do what we do best," said Bencsko. "We literally said let's go out there and have a blast and leave Rec Hall on a good note, and we did."

Penn State continued to feed off of the excitement felt throughout Rec Hall, as the team collected a season-high team score of 49.350 on the uneven bars. This allowed the team to hang on to an early lead, as Merriam led with a 9.900 followed by Stine, Musser and Bencsko who all scored a 9.875.

Although the team struggled on their third event of the night, the beam, Penn State still managed to maintain their lead with a score of 48.900. Musser led her team with a 9.875 followed by Bencsko in second with a 9.825.

The floor event closed out the night for the Nittany Lions who scraped by with a 49.075 led by Musser with her career-high of a 9.950. The scores allowed Penn State to clinch first in the meet, allowing the seniors to leave their last meet at Rec Hall with a win.

"It was a great night and a lot of fun," said Konsevick. "There was a lot of high energy and the emotions were there for sure. It didn't really feel different until the end at the last floor routine. During my floor routine, as I made my last pass, I said to myself 'treasure this moment.' That was the most emotional part of the night for me. I was overwhelmed with happiness and just proud of everything."

Women's Gymnastics Seniors Anticipate an Emotional Goodbye

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By Laura Finley, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Alex Stine remembers her first time competing in Rec Hall for the Penn State women's gymnastics team.

So do Natalie Ettl, Whitney Bencsko and Daryl Konsevick.


They remember the emotion they felt landing the first routine, the contagious energy of the crowd and the fervent support of their teammates.

For the four seniors on the Penn State women's gymnastics team, their careers at Rec Hall may be coming to an end Saturday night, but the memories made and lessons learned will never be forgotten.

"The journey has been fun," said Bencsko. "There's so many ups and downs with this sport that you're never going to be perfect, so how you deal with it and how you move forward really portrays your character."

And each senior has displayed incredible character as she has navigated her way through college, balancing academics and gymnastics.

To say they have had their fair share of adversity would be an understatement. It was with each other's support that the group persevered, overcoming injuries, personal obstacles and coaching changes all the while competing to their fullest abilities. 

"I think everything has brought us closer," said Ettl. "Having to go through adversity like that, we've become a close-knit class. I think having four great leaders in one class has been a tremendous help to the entire team."

This strong leadership has allowed the women's gymnastics team to perform well this season. Now 13-3, the team heads into its last meet of the regular season this Saturday night in Rec Hall and hopes to find success in the Big Ten tournament.

It will be bittersweet for the seniors as they look back on their careers and celebrate the future to come.

"I'm excited to see all of the alumni coming back," said Konsevick. "My whole family is going to be there. It's definitely going to be a lot of emotions and I'm just really excited for another experience in Rec Hall."

Looking back on their careers, the seniors acknowledge the progress they have made over the years. Whether it is Konsevick's mishaps at her first meet, or Stine's tears as she landed her bars routine, each young woman has made enormous strides both as an athlete and as a person.

"The four years fly by, but you learn so much about yourself," said Bencsko. "You learn who you are and what you're about. I've grown so much as a person in my time here."

In only their first season at Penn State, the seniors all made their first NCAA tournament appearance with the team, as they finished fifth in the championship team preliminaries. It was an appearance none of them will forget.

"My biggest accomplishment was definitely qualifying to nationals as a team my freshman year," said Ettl. "It's something that I never would have dreamed would come true. Just being able to be a part of this team for four years has been amazing."

Since that first tournament appearance, the seniors have collectively won two Big Ten titles, one NACGC First Team All-American title and four Academic All-Big Ten awards. To say each effort was merely an individual honor would be wrong, as the seniors are quick to point out the importance of team.

Even as coaches and fellow teammates have come and gone, the seniors remain close in their bond, anticipating the emotions that will be felt during this last home meet.

"I've built so many relationships through my time at Penn State with the girls on the team," said Stine. "I grew up knowing that I wanted to compete for Penn State gymnastics and the first time I competed, I started crying. This last time at Rec Hall, the same thing will probably happen. It's been an unforgettable journey."

Hey everyone!


We hope you all have had or are looking forward to a great spring break! Since we are winding down, and getting to our final competitions of the season, we got to stay in beautiful State College for break! It has been a ghost town, but a nice break from classes! Last week, we had a fighting finish in beating Michigan. It was a very high-energized and exciting meet. This week has been a great week in the gym! We have focused on our "mojo". For each stuck routine we got to blow up blue, white, and pink balloons. We tied ribbons around them and hung them on our mirror as a visual aid and reminder of how good we are and can be. This was definitely a confidence booster for our upcoming meet against Pittsburg.


Another thing we have been doing over break is community service. We went to the Relay For Life Bingo Night and helped put together and served food with the men's team. We had a great time learning and helping out.  The season has flown by and we can't believe our freshman year is already almost over! It's unbelievable, but at least it is not quite over yet. We still have the most important meets of our season coming up. We are preparing and ready to make them the best ones yet!





Lexi, Krystal, Alex <3