Building on Potential
When it comes to the 2010 season, the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team has the depth and versatility to be a threatening challenger. After hitting four Top 10 program team scores a season ago, the squad returns nine letterwinners, including 2009 All-American on floor Rebecca Best and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Taylor Jones.
The team will welcome four fresh faces to the gym in Colleen Dean, Sarah Gillespie, Vanessa Kowis and Lauren Ritter. Because of serious injury sustained their senior years of high school, standout recruits Gillespie and Ritter will be focusing on rehabbing much of the fall with the hopes of making lineup midway through the season.
Despite this unexpected set back, Ohio State head coach Carey Fagan is optimistic that her upperclassmen will be able to fill the voids left by graduated seniors Kiki Holman, Alyssa Meyer and Amanda Surine.
“The seniors, juniors and sophomores have really stepped up this offseason, training through the summer and making progress in the areas that we need to fill,” Fagan, the 2009 NCAA Central Region Coach of the Year, said.
With two returning all-arounders in Best and Jones, sixth-year Ohio State head coach feels confident in their ability to again be remarkably consistent for the Buckeyes on all four events.
The returning sophomore class earned valuable competition experience as rookies and are once again expected to be a solid core for the team.
“With Jones already competing the all-around and Nicole Krauter and Casey Williamson possessing the potential to do the all-around, those three will play a key role on this 2010 team.”
Senior leadership will come from Beth Ann Ballard, Hilary Dow, the team’s Most Inspirational award winner, and Kirsten Perchatsch.
In 2010, the Buckeyes will lean heavily on seniors Ballard and Dow on vault. Both have proved their consistency on the event the past three seasons and will look to end their careers on a high note. Dow, who was voted team captain, posted the squad’s season high in 2009 with a 9.900 scored at the NCAA Central Regional (April 4) in Columbus.
Fellow classmate Perchatsch will vie for a position in the vault lineup for the first time in her Buckeye career after being hampered by injuries early in her career.
“Kristen has been training the all-around well this summer and is healthy so we are hoping to see her compete on all four events in her final season,” Fagan said.
Anchoring the event for Ohio State will be junior Best. The 2009 All-American on floor brings a vault that stood strong at the NCAA championships a season ago. She owned the team’s second-best regional qualifying score on the event with a 9.830 average.
After competing on vault at three meets as a freshman, Krauter of Carmel, Ind., is expected to become a mainstay for the Buckeye vault team after working on her landings this summer.
In addition, Jones, who carried a team-high 9.835 RQS, and Williamson, who ranked third with a 9.790 RQS, will be in the mix on vault while freshman Dean of Toledo, Ohio, also looks to challenge the upperclassmen for a position.
Swing, Swing on the Uneven Bars
Last year, bars was a strong event for the Buckeyes when it came to producing high scores on a consistent basis and the projected 2010 lineup has a lot of familiar faces. Ohio State returns Ballard, Best, Dow, Jones and Williamson to the lineup but has the task of filling in its anchor, a gap left by 2009 graduate Alyssa Meyer. Ballard returns after earning a team-high 9.825 RQS while Best finished ranked third with a 9.800 average.
Perchatsch, a dynamic bar worker from Naperville, Ill., will look to overcome the inconsistency she suffered from in the past and have a standout senior year as the anchor of the bars team.
New to the bar lineup will be Krauter who spent this offseason learning a more difficult dismount while Dean has shown the potential to replace Meyer’s difficulty and consistency.
The Beam Team
The Buckeyes have a great challenge in finding replacements for 2009 seniors Kiki Holman and Amanda Surine on beam. Ohio State, which saw its greatest improvement on beam a season ago, will look deep into its squad to find new leadership on beam, giving its younger student-athletes the opportunity to gain valuable competition experience.
Best will anchor the beam team after posting marks of 9.725 or higher at all 12 Buckeye meets while Jones will provide the steadfast consistency that earned her first-team All-Big Ten honors as a freshman to the event.
Ballard, Dow, Perchatsch and Williamson all worked over the offseason on new skills to increase their difficulty on the event and will factor into the lineup as the season progresses. With Williamson’s upgraded beam dismount, the sophomore from Mansfield, Ohio, will have the difficulty and strength to grow into an all-arounder.
“Casey Williamson was solid last year,” Fagan said. “She is really strong on her three events and we are working with her to strengthen her beam routine so that she can do the all-around for us.”
Newcomer Dean brings a strong beam routine to Ohio State and classmate Kowis will provide good competition to the team in workouts to push the beam workers to be even better.
Ohio State will be without its lead-off competitor from much of 2009 as Krissi Woodward will miss the season because of injury. After turning in a solid rookie season, the Buckeyes will miss her strong and gracefully gymnastics.
“Beam was our most improved event by far in 2009,” Fagan said. “Having some new beam workers and experienced workers was helpfully for us last year. Meredith Yonushouis (Ohio State assistant coach) is great with the girls in helping them mentally prepare for competition. It made a big difference for us.”
Fluid on Floor
Similar to bars, most of the lineup will remain the same with the exception of the loss of Alyssa Meyer. Replacing Meyer in the lineup will not be an easy task but with Best, a 2009 All-American on the event, at the anchor, the Buckeyes our poised to have another successful year on floor.
Ohio State returns its Top 3 ranked gymnasts in Jones with a 9.860 RQS, Williamson a 9.815 average and Best a 9.800. Also returning on floor are Dow and Krauter.
On the radar for floor is Dean who is characterized as “dynamite” on the event by Ohio State assistant coach Bill Lorenz. With a smooth transition into the lineup, Dean could fill the open spot left by Meyer while Kowis also shows great potential on floor.
The Buckeyes will have nine meets, including four at home before hosting the 2010 Big Ten Championships.
Ohio State will welcome Oregon State Jan. 16 to St. John Arena after opening the season on the road at Missouri Jan. 8.
The squad then has a challenging five-meet road stand which includes stops at Pittsburgh Jan. 22 before opening league action at Michigan State Jan. 30. February starts with an Ohio State-Iowa dual in Iowa City, Iowa, and continues with competitions at West Virginia Feb. 13 and Kentucky Feb. 19.
The Buckeyes then host an important conference dual vs. rival Penn State Feb. 27, the first of two co-ed meets with the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team. Penn State, Fagan’s alma mater, finished ninth at the 2009 NCAA Championships and consistently is one of Ohio State’s top challengers year-in and year-out.
March starts out tough as the team travels to face Illinois in Champaign (March 6). The Illini had a breakout 2009, qualifying for the national championships for the first time in program history.
The regular-season ends with co-ed dual vs. Auburn March 13 for senior night. A season ago the Buckeyes deliver the Tigers a loss on their senior night in Alabama in their first meeting with the Southeastern Conference program. Ohio State will look to move the series record to 2-0 and carry the momentum into postseason action.
The Scarlet and Gray are thrilled to bring the conference championships to St. John Arena for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Fagan is thrilled to host the Big Ten Championships March 27 after hosting the NCAA regional championships last year.
“The regional championships was a great dress rehearsal for hosting the 2010 Big Ten Championships in Columbus,” Fagan said. “The conference championships are a big deal so I think it will attract even more attention than the regional championship did a season ago so the atmosphere will be electric.”
The 2010 NCAA Central Regional Championships will be April 9-10 at a location to be determined while the NCAA Championships is scheduled April 23-25. In the three seasons, Ohio State has had at least one student-athlete travel to the national championships as an individual and has produced back-to-back All-Americans in Kaylan Clevinger (2008) and Best in 2009.