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No. 4 men’s and women’s gymnastics programs partner for Mixed Pairs Exhibition

COLUMBUS, Ohio In their annual season opener, the Ohio State men’s and women’s gymnastics team will prepare for the 2008 season with the Mixed Pairs Exhibition slated for 2 p.m. Sunday in St. John Arena. Featuring pairs or trios of both male and female gymnasts, the partners will be competing to capture the Mixed Pairs crown.

SETTING THE STAGE
With 12 competing from the men’s side and nine from the women’s, groups of two or three gymnasts have been selected for the Sunday exhibition with sophomore Kevin Brown and redshirt freshman Michael Bell performing intermission routines. At the event, the groups will compete on three events. 

GRAB YOUR PARTNER
The pairing breakdown:
Beth Ann Ballard with DJ Bucher
Kaylan Clevinger with Eddie Hay
Alyssa Meyer with Shachar Tal
Jessica Rosette with Brandon Wynn
Rebecca Best with Pejman Ebrahimi, Andy Saurber
Hillary Dow with Justin Myers
Kiki Holman with David Ortiz, Steven Spencer
Jessica Staton with Jake Bateman
Maalika Moore-Thomas with Jimmy Wickham, Tony Duong

A NOTE FROM FAGAN
“The Mixed Pairs event is always one of our favorite preseason events,” Carey Fagan, Ohio State women’s gymnastics head coach, said. “It is a great opportunity for the men’s and women’s teams to compete together as we prepare for our seasons. The team is looking great and they are anxious to compete in St. John Arena this weekend. This will be a great chance for some of our younger team members to step up in a competitive situation and solidify some spots in our lineup. Both teams are very competitive and it is always great to see the pairs compete in a head-to-head format.”

AVERY ON THE COMPETITION
“As always we want to remain healthy through this exhibition so we are fresh for the season,” Miles Avery, Ohio State men’s gymnastics head coach, said. “This exhibition will be a great indicator for us as to what who will fill our lineup. The guys know this and we as coaches look forward to see how our athletes respond to the pressure of competing in front of judges and fans.”

BLAST FROM THE PAST
Last year, the exhibition was contested under a different format which split the student-athletes into teams of eight men and five women who competed head-to-head on the same event, with the higher score earning one point for their team. Three gymnasts from both the men’s and women’s team represented their co-ed team on each event.

The winning team was Scarlet, 19-16, in St. John Arena behind the leadership of then-seniors Kristopher Kline and Nicholaus Searcy, then-juniors Maalika Moore-Thomas and Jimmy Wickham and then-sophomore Alyssa Meyer.

Moore-Thomas took secured wins on vault and floor while Meyer won bars tied for first on beam. On the men’s side, Kline outscored his teammates on pommel horse, Wickham took first vault and Searcy won on parallel bars.

For the Gray, then-freshman Tai Lee won two events for the men, including rings and high bar, while sophomore Eddie Hay won floor. For the women of Team Gray, junior Kaylan Clevinger posted a 9.70 on beam to tie Meyer.

BUCKEYES IN THE RANKINGS
The men’s program was voted fourth in the College Gymnastics Association’s (CGA) annual preseason coaches’ poll, the association announced Oct. 22. Stanford tops the poll with eight first-place tallies after finishing third at the NCAA championships last season. Penn State, the reigning NCAA Champions, holds the No. 2 ranking while Oklahoma rounds out the Top 3.

Ohio State, which has collected three-consecutive Big Ten championships, follows only conference rival Penn State in the CGA preseason standings while all six Big Ten squads are represented in the nation’s Top 10. Michigan follows the Buckeyes ranked sixth while Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa follow in seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.

BACK IN 2008
The women’s team returns senior tri-captains Kaylan Clevinger and Maalika Moore-Thomas and junior tri-captain Alyssa Meyer. The senior duo was All-Big Ten and the Top 2 Buckeye all-arounders from last year. Meyer comes back for her third season as one of the most consistent performers from the 2007 squad. Clevinger returns with expectations to take the squad to the NCAA championships, where she competed as an event specialist last year after she tied for first on bars with a 9.90 at the NCAA central region championships.
 
Senior Jessica Rosette and juniors Kiki Holman and Amanda Surine add additional experience and skill to the Buckeye roster. Three sophomores, Hillary Dow, Beth Ann Ballard and Kristin Perchatsch look to step into the rotation for the Buckeyes after coming off injuries their freshman year as each have potential to compete in the all-around.

On the competition floor, the men’s team will count on its three All-America seniors to carry on the program’s tradition of excellence in 2008. In all, DJ Bucher, Pejman Ebrahimi and Jimmy Wickham have combined to garner a total of nine national laurels in their first three seasons, including Ebrahimi’s national vault title in 2007.

Yet the trio composes just half of the veteran Buckeye core. Along with classmates Tony Duong and David Ortiz and junior Big Ten honorees Jake Bateman and Eddie Hay, the upper classmen will be the backbone of the Ohio State squad. Also returning for the Buckeyes are well experienced sophomores. Big Ten all-conference team selection Tai Lee, Justin Myers and Shachar Tal will again bring solid routines to the lineup. Looking to support the Buckeyes on pommel horse this season will be junior Andy Saurber and redshirt freshman Michael Bell.

ROUNDING UP THE ROOKIES
Two freshmen join the Buckeye squad for the 2007-08 season, both of which will be strong contenders in the all-around. Rebecca Best, from Williamstown, N.J., and Jessica Staton, a native of Fishers, Ind., will look to make an immediate impact on the squad. Best won the Level 10 all-around title at the 2007 Junior Olympic National Championships, which claims the unofficial title of the nation’s top recruit for the 2007-08 collegiate season. Staton placed fifth in the all-around at the 2006 Region V Championships.

Joining the men’s squad in 2008 are 2007-08 U.S. Junior National Team member Sean Regan and 2006 Region VII all-around title holder Brandon Wynn. Avery also added walk-on Adam Zysk to the squad in the fall. Regan, a native of Libertyville, Ill., and Wynn, a native of Voorhees, N.J., both come to Ohio State with extensive competition experience at the national level. Zysk of Cordova, Tenn., will look to make a name for himself as a Buckeye after nabbing the 2007 Tennessee State all-around title.

COACHES’ CORNER
In three seasons as head coach, Carey Fagan has led Ohio State from a No. 38 final ranking in 2005, up to No. 27 in 2006 and into the Top 20 at No. 19 last season. Fagan, the 2007 Big Ten Coach of the Year, guided the squad to a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten championships last year and its second-consecutive NCAA Regionals appearance. Fagan, now in her fourth season, has mentored five Buckeyes to All-Big Ten honors, including three-time All-Big Ten pick Elizabeth Meaney (2003-05).

With a decade of experience as head coach of the Ohio State men’s gymnastics program, Miles Avery has directed the Buckeyes to three-consecutive Big Ten championships crowns and their first CGA National Academic Team title in 2007.

Avery, the 2007 Big Ten and Central Region Coach of the Year, is joined by 2007 Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year Doug Stibel and two-time world championDmitri Bilozertchev. In October, Bilozertchev was named assistant coach of the 2007 Junior Pan American team by USA Gymnastics and helped coach the team to a gold medal at the championships in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov. 24. Bilozertchev’s son Alexy, a 2008-09 Buckeye recruit and member of the Junior Pan Am team, turned in solid routines in the win for the U.S. while earning silver on parallel bars.

UP NEXT
The women’s team will open its regular season at Maryland at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at Comcast Center Gymnasium. The Buckeyes lead the series 6-0. The squad last defeated the Terrapins 192.850-190.850 Feb. 11, 2007, at Pittsburgh.

In 2008, the men’s squad will face 10 of the country’s Top 15 teams in regular-season action, opening the season on the road at the Windy City Invitational Jan. 12. In Chicago, the Buckeyes face Big Ten rivals Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota and invite host UIC. At that meet Avery looks to gauge where his team ranks amongst four of the country’s Top 10 teams.