Women's Gymnastics Look to Bring it Back at NCAA Regionals
April 5, 2012
By Laura Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
The Penn State women's gymnastics team can attest to this. After closing the regular season with a winning record and placing sixth in the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions head to Raleigh, N.C., this weekend for the NCAA Regionals.
"There are definitely a lot of emotions because we know that this is it," said junior Madison Merriam. "This could be our last meet if we don't do what we need to do and go in there to Raleigh and do our job. But at the same time we have to put that feeling aside and just tell ourselves it's just another meet in order to get the job done."
Penn State has worked hard all season to find the right balance in every routine. With two meets left in the regular season, the gymnasts came close, hitting all 24 of their routines against the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Maryland.
"Watching them come together has been exciting because you see all of their hard work throughout the season coming together," said associate coach Rachelle Thompson. "All year it has been a slow and steady progress for us. The last two weeks in the regular season they hit all 24 routines. That's been a slow and steady thing for us because that was the first two meets out of all twelve that we've hit all of our routines."
Now, with the success of the regular season behind them, the women look on to their next challenge, the NCAA Regionals. After failing to qualify for nationals by only .075 in last year's regional finals, Penn State is all focus going in to the weekend.
For the team, this weekend culminates to one thing: Bring it Back.
"Moving forward this year, there's a constant reminder every time we say `bring it back'," said Thompson. "It's not just about winning and it's not just about a championship, it's about a daily attitude and mentality of bringing into this gym what we want to see happen and remembering how we felt at regionals last year. We want to bring that feeling back to the gym so we never lose a meet by .075 again."
With two weeks to prepare for regionals following the Big Ten tournament, the women have brought that attitude and mentality to the gym during every practice. They know that to carry on a Penn State tradition, hard work and dedication is a necessity.
"The team mindset going into practice is on fixing the little details," said Merriam. "We're coming in to the gym and trying to make those changes so we can keep advancing in the future. If we can make those changes and get bigger scores, we have the opportunity to move on to nationals."
With a season spent competing against top teams such as Alabama, Ohio State and NC State, Penn State knows what to expect from the challenge that awaits it in Raleigh.
"I think competing with those big teams helps us," said senior Alex Stine. "We know how much we have to push ourselves every day in the gym to get to that level. It has definitely helped us."
And this experience will help the team as the Nittany Lions compete against Ohio State, NC State and the University of North Carolina for a second time this season while also facing the top team in the nation, the University of Florida.
"Looking on to the regional meet, we're all really excited," said Stine. "We always talk about the greater the challenge, the harder you have to work and raise your expectations. We're ready to go down there and show the gymnastics community how hard we've been training. We're ready to bring it back."