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Sophomore Madison Merriam
Feb. 26, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 10 Penn State women's gymnastics team posted a 196.325 to earn the win against No. 17 Ohio State Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes scored a 195.900.
"It was one of the most exciting gymnastics meets that I've been part of in a long time," said head coach Jeff Thompson. "It came down to the final performer on both sides and it's not coincidental that our word for the day was `fight.' We had talked in the locker room about women with breast cancer fighting with their lives, with some winning the fight and some losing, as well as what it's like to be the family of those individuals. We wanted to put today's event into perspective that although it's a gymnastics meet and we want to win, it's also just a gymnastics meet. The last five girls on floor all really grabbed hold of the rope and each fought until the very end to get us the win."
Penn State sophomore Sharaya Musser (Colorado Springs, Colo.) won the all-around with a combined score of 39.550. Ohio State's Melanie Shaffer was second with a 39.350. Benscko finished with a 39.325, while Merriam posted a 38.500. Musser also earned the Ann Carr Award as the meet's Most Inspirational Gymnast.
Penn State and Ohio State came out nearly even in the first rotation with the Nittany Lions holding only a slight advantage before the teams switched events. Led by crowd-pleasing Musser, who scored a meet-best 9.875 on the vault, the Nittany Lions posted a 48.700 to Ohio State's 48.675 on the uneven bars.
The Nittany Lions really hit their stride on the uneven bars, which has been the strongest scoring event for Penn State most of the season. The top five scorers on the uneven bars were all Nittany Lions, including a 9.925 for Musser, which tied her career high and marks her high for the season. Three other Nittany Lions posted above a 9.800 in the event including 9.850 from junior Whitney Bencsko (Pompton Plains, N.J.), a 9.850 from junior Alex Stine (Philadelphia, Pa.), which ties her career high, and a 9.800 from junior Natalie Ettl (Waukesha, Wis.). Penn State took the 97.900-97.625 lead in the third rotation, where they would compete on the beam and the Buckeyes would take to the floor exercise.
Musser, who ranks first nationally on the beam, paced the Nittany Lions with a 9.925. Benscko and junior Daryl Konsevick (Rutherford, N.J.) added a 9.850 and a 9.825, which helped the team to a 49.375. Penn State took the 146.950-146.775 advantage into the final rotation.
Penn State looked to finish the Buckeyes off with a strong showing on the floor exercise, and did just that. Highlighted by two career highs for the Nittany Lions, Penn State held command of the meet and never looked back. Sophomore Madison Merriam (Gaithersburg, Md.) hit her routine, scoring a career high and meet high 9.925, while Bencsko and Konesvick both earned 9.900. Konsevick's mark was a career high for the junior. Nittany Lions occupied the top three slots in the event, leading Penn State to a season-high score on the floor of 49.375, besting its previous season-high of 49.100 at Maryland a week ago.
The Nittany Lions strong performance on the day clinched the victory over the Buckeyes, 196.325-95.900. The meet marked the second-straight that Penn State scored over 196.000 as a team after posting a season-high 196.600 last weekend.
The Nittany Lions will host NC State and Maryland on March 4 in the home finale, which begins at 7 p.m. Penn State will honor two seniors, Danielle Hover (Hamburg, N.Y.) and Heather McElwee (Ponte Verde, Fla.).
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