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Dec. 15, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the third annual Big Ten preseason gymnastics poll, league coaches voted the Penn State women's gymnastics team to finish third in the standings in 2012. Two members of the Nittany Lion squad were also selected to a 16-member Gymnasts for Watch list.
Nebraska was picked as the favorite to win the Big Ten in 2012 and Michigan was slotted to finish second. Following Penn State are Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota with Michigan State rounding out the poll.
"This will be an exciting year with Nebraska joining the conference at No. 1." said head coach Jeff Thompson. "We are looking forward to getting started. Last year, we were picked third and finished second and would love to do the same thing or better this season. If we stay healthy, we think we can give Nebraska and Michigan a run for their money. We think this is going to be a great year for us and a very exciting season."
Penn State closed out last season with a second-place performance at the Big Ten Championships, followed by a third-place finish at the NCAA Regionals. Junior Sharaya Musser (Colorado Springs, Colo.) represented the Nittany Lions as an all-around competitor at the 2011 NCAA Championships. She and classmate Madison Merriam (Gaithersburg, Md.) have been named Big Ten Gymnasts to Watch for the second straight season.
"Sharaya and Maddie will be our top performers throughout the season," said Thompson. "We think they both will have a shot at the Big Ten All-Around title."
Musser is the defending Big Ten All-Around and Vault Champion and a First Team All-Big Ten honoree. She was a four-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Week in 2011 and was a Honda Award nominee. Merriam was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team last season and was also an Academic All-Big Ten selection. S
The Penn State women's gymnastics team, which debuted at No. 13 in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, hosts four meets in Rec Hall in 2012. The Nittany Lions open the 2012 slate in a tri-meet at West Virginia with Maryland on Jan. 8, before traveling to New Hampshire on Jan. 14. The Lions welcome Michigan State, Cornell and Alabama to Rec Hall on Jan. 21 for their home opener.