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Kera Molinaro spent the past two seasons coaching in the Nittany Lion program
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Entering his sixth season at the helm of the Penn State women’s gymnastics program, Jeff Thompson has led the Nittany Lions program back on to the national scene. Named the ninth head coach in program history on July 15, 2010, Thompson helped the Nittany Lions end a four-year drought and return to the NCAA Championships in 2014.
In 2015, Thompson and his staff helped Briannah Tsang earn the honor of Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Tsang is the fourth Nittany Lion in program history to receive the accolade.
As a team, Penn State finished the regular season with a record of 14-3. The Nittany Lions ended the 2015 season ranked No. 22 in the NCAA to mark the 13th straight season the program has finished among the top-25 nationally.
During the 2014-15 academic year, the Penn State women’s gymnastics team won its fifth-straight Champs Cup [Penn State Team Community Service Award] for work in the community.
It was memorable 2014 campaign, as the Blue and White posted one of its most consistent seasons in the gym and in the classroom. The Lions set a school record for the highest score in a road meet – ranking third all-time – and recorded the highest postseason score in school history to place second at the NCAA Regional and earn their 17th trip to the NCAA Championships in school history.
A trip to the NCAA Championships, hosting the NCAA Regional and Big Ten Championships in Rec Hall, eight Penn State all-time top-10 performances, five Academic All-Big Ten, five Big Ten weekly award winners, four NACGC/W Scholastic All-Americans, three All-Big Ten honorees and one All-American highlighted the successful campaign.
Kassidy Stauder capped one of the most remarkable seasons in Penn State history with regular-season All-America honors on the balance beam. It was the first honor of her career and came on the heels of being named first team All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Championship. Stauder won 16 individual titles, including three all-around, six balance beam and seven uneven bar crowns in 2014.
Sidney Sanabria-Robles and Krystal Welsh were named second team All-Big Ten, while freshman Emma Sibson posted two of the top-10 vaults in school history during her rookie campaign and was a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week award winner.
As a team, Penn State finished the season ranked No. 12 nationally and owned a 20-3 regular season record, including a third place finish in the Big Ten regular season standings. For the fourth straight year, the women’s gymnastics program was awarded the Penn State Team Community Service Award for their work in the community during the 2013-14 academic year.
On the coaching front, Thompson guided the Lions to the first 20-win regular season in school history and became just the third head coach in NCAA history to lead two different programs to the NCAA Championships. He joined K.J. Kindler (Iowa State & Oklahoma) and Judi Avener-Markell (Penn State & Florida).
The 2013 season concluded with senior Sharaya Musser earning regular-season All-America honors on balance beam and in the all-around and also All-America honors on balance beam and in the all-around at the NCAA Championships to push her career total to eight All-America certificates. The Lions were ranked as high as No. 14 in the national rankings and ended the season at No. 15 with a National Qualifying Score of 392.375.
Musser was also a first team All-Big Ten selection, Big Ten All-Championship Team pick and joined Lindsay Musgrove on the Big Ten Distinguished Scholars ledger. Madison Merriam was a first team All-Big Ten selection, as well.
Five gymnasts earned Academic All-Big Ten accolades for their work in the classroom, including Alex Witt, along with Merriam, Musgrove, Musser and Stauder. In 2013, the team was awarded the Penn State Team Community Service Award for the third straight year.
In 2012, Thompson and his staff helped Musser earn the distinction of Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, marking the seventh time in program history a Nittany Lion was bestowed the award. Musser’s award marked the third time in a four year span that a Penn State gymnast won the Big Ten Gymnast of the Year award. Additionally, Musser advanced to the NCAA Championships where she was named an All-American on floor exercise and balance beam. Thompson also produced six Academic All-Big Ten selections and two NACGC/W scholar athletes. Also in 2012, the team was awarded the Penn State Team Community Service Award for the second straight year.
A two-time SEC Coach of the Year, Thompson joined the Penn State family in 2010 after 11 successful years at Auburn University. In his first season at the helm of the Nittany Lion program, Thompson guided the Nittany Lions to a second place finish at the 2011 Big Ten Championships, with Natalie Ettl and Musser earning individual event titles on uneven bars and in the all-around, respectively. Penn State earned a berth to the NCAA Regional Championships as the No. 2 seed and narrowly missed advancing to the NCAA Championships.
Three Nittany Lions were selected to the 2011 All-Big Ten team, and Musser, a Honda Award nominee, advanced to the NCAA National Championships to represent Penn State. Outside the gym, the Nittany Lions excelled in the classroom and community. Five gymnasts earned Academic All-Big Ten laurels and the team was awarded the Penn State Team Community Service Award.
In 11 years as the head of the Auburn University women’s gymnastics program, Thompson was named both the SEC Coach of the Year and NCAA Regional Head Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2008.
The Tigers qualified for NCAA Regionals under Thompson for the first time in 2003 and advanced to the NCAA Championship that same year. Auburn’s women’s gymnastics team continued to improve each year and qualified for the NCAA Regionals for eight consecutive years. In 2005, Auburn hosted the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships.
With the exception of the University of Alabama, Thompson’s teams posted victories over every SEC team during his tenure. In his final season in 2010, Thompson led Auburn to upset victories over No. 8 Arkansas, No. 12 Kentucky and finally defeated 10-time National Champion and five-time defending SEC Champion Georgia for the first time in program history.
Thompson and his wife, Rachelle, helped produced four NCAA All-Americans, four All-SEC selections, three SEC Gymnast of the Year winners and one SEC Freshman of the Year during their time at Auburn. They coached nine NCAA Championship individual qualifiers and four NCAA Regional Event Champions.
Their gymnasts also excelled in the classroom and in the community in their 11 years with the program. There were three SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year winners, three CoSIDA Academic All-District members, 41 NACGC/W Academic All-Americans and 53 SEC Academic Honor Roll selections.
Prior to arriving at Auburn, Thompson was the assistant coach at Louisiana State University from 1994-99 and was the Junior Olympic Program Director at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy in Fairfield, Ohio from 1993-94. Thompson also held assistant coaching positions at two Big Ten institutions, Illinois and Wisconsin, as well as serving as a graduate assistant coach at Kentucky.
Thompson earned a bachelor of arts in education with an emphasis in Physical Education from Kentucky in 1985. He went on to receive a Master of Science in Biomechanics in 1995.
A native of Highland Heights, Ky., Jeff is married to the former Rachelle Fruge, who is the associate head coach for the Nittany Lions, and they have two sons, Parker and Griffin.