January 5, 1999
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s gymnastics team will travel to Alabama to meet the Crimson Tide in a dual meet Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. The meet will be produced for television broadcast throughout the Tuscaloosa area.
Ohio State is under the direction of 20-year head man Larry Cox. A 1977 graduate of Arizona State, Cox will bring a 200-95-2 career mark into this weekend. Alabama is coached by Sarah Patterson, who is in the midst of her 21st season at UA. She’ll bring a 262-54-3 career mark into this weekend.
SCANNING THE POLLS
Ohio State is ranked No. 20 in the preseason National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches’ poll. Alabama is ranked No. 5. The Crimson Tide is one of two preseason top 10 tens OSU will face this season (No. 6 Arizona State is the other). Over the course of this season, OSU will face seven teams that are currently ranked among the nation’s top 25 (Michigan State, West Virginia, Penn State, Illinois, Arizona State, and Alabama).
The complete poll can be found later in this press release.
Much like Ohio State, the University of Alabama has established a remarkable trend of success in women’s collegiate gymnastics. The Crimson Tide has captured three NCAA Championships in the last 11 years. Alabama finished third in the national finals last season with a team score of 196.300. The Tide is led by a pair of returning All-Americans. Senior Gwen Spidle was a second-team All-American in both 1997 (floor exercise) and 1998 (vault). Sophomore Dara Stewart was also a second-team All-American last season (uneven bars).
“Alabama is a tough place to win a meet. They are rankednow at fifth in the pre-season, and they finished third at last years Nationals. It will be a good place for our team to gain some experience, and prove the Buckeyes worth to an SEC school. We will see some of the same judges at the National Championships and possibly the NCAA Regional, so it is imperative, that we make a statement inTuscaloosa.” MORE FROM COACH COX
“You never know what a first meet of the year will present to your team, however, I feel we can field a consistent and competitive team early. We still have a long way to go, but it’s a long season at this point so we are preparing appropriately for it.
“I would estimate that there will be approximately 7,000 fans and a lot of noise. This is something that will prepare our team for the future. Alabama deserves a lot of respect from their accomplishments, as well as the type of team they are fielding this year. They are very well put together and very well coached. We’re really looking forward to opening the season down there.”
LAST YEAR’S OPENER
In last season’s opener, a home meet against arch-rival Michigan, the Buckeyes fell 190.650-109.150. Susan Eckman (uneven bars), Elizabeth Jensen (balance beam, and Lindsey Vagedes (floor exercise) all captured first-place finishes for the Buckeyes.
Big Ten Champion Lindsey Vagedes was recently featured on the Big Ten website as the conference’s Web Athlete of the Week. Check out the full article on Vagades and her extraordinary debut season at Ohio State on the official website of OSU Athletics (www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com).
The 1999 women’s gymnastics team has a unique mix that has been absent in past years. From the freshman to the senior class, each gymnast possesses a special talent that will ultimately bring OSU its number one goal; a spot as one of the top 10 teams in the nation.
Head coach Larry Cox, in his 20th year, is excited about the combination of talent that his team brings into the gym.
“They know how to compete,” said Cox. “Their consistency and leadership in the gym will bring a lot of depth in each event.”
THE PERFECT BLEND
With a combination of skilled veterans and dynamic freshmen, Ohio State will compete against some of the top teams in the country. Their season opens at Alabama, who is ranked third nationally. Along with other Big Ten gymnastics giants Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota, the Buckeyes will hope to prove early in the season that they can handle anything that comes their way.
Seniors Susan Eckman, Mindi Farmer and Jennifer Zwilling have continuously worked to increase their agility and technique.
“Susan is working on a new vault and bar routine,” said Cox. “By the time a gymnast reaches her senior year, she’s perfecting her routine, not reinventing the wheel.”
Farmer, who sat out some events with a injured foot, will also be back to dazzle the crowd with her stylish floor exercise and uneven bars routines.
“Mindi is focused on personal goals as well as team goals,” said Cox. “She wants to sharpen her talent and excel as well as push the team towards the same goal.”
Zwilling will specialize on the vault as well as the bars.
“Jennifer is stronger and much more competitive,” said Cox. “Her full potential should explode this season.”
Lacey Hudson, Lizzie Jensen, Jill McMillon, Gina Paoloemilio and Becky Wolfe make up a talented junior class. Their abilities to perform with grace and ease will enhance team performance and leadership.
McMillon posted a career high 9.70 on the floor exercise last year and a 9.75 on the vault.
Sophomores Lindsey Vagedes, Cynthia Molnar, Susan Kinkaid and Maggie Childers return with a more seasoned approach to collegiate gymnastics.
BUCKEYES RETURN ONE BIG TEN CHAMPION
Last year, Vagedes captured the Big Ten vault title and has returned to defend her position and post high scores in the all-around competition. With one year of collegiate competition under her belt, Vagedes has the drive and focus to compete at a more intense level than last year.
“A year of experience has made a difference in her routines,” said Cox. “She is ready to come back and focus on her talent.”
The freshman class seems to impress anyone who watches them in practice. Their talent and demeanor have made their teammates step back and watch in amazement.
“The freshmen are real competitors,” said Cox. “I’m impressed with their talent. It’s hard to say who will be a standout, because they’re neck and neck with each other.”
Following is the NACGC pre-season poll, with Ohio State’1999 opponents listed in bold: No. School Pts. 1. Georgia 942 2. Florida 873 3. UCLA 824 4. Utah 820 5. Alabama 816 6. Arizona State 743 7. Michigan 742 8. Washington 638 9. LSU 600 10. Stanford 587 11. N ebraska 457 12. BYU 435 13. Penn State 435 14. West Virginia 387 15. Oregon State 372 16. Arizona 357 17. North Carolina State 305 18. Minnesota 253 19. Boise State 214 20. OHIO STATE 200 21. Iowa State 183 22. Kentucky 163 23. Utah State 162 24. Michigan State 152 25. Illinois 80
A PERMANENT HOME – ST. JOHN ARENA
To top off Cox’s enthusiasm for his team this year, is the fact that women’s gymnastics has a place to call home. St. John Arena will house both the men’s and women’s meets. The larger space brings larger crowds and more support to one of the most watched sports in America.
St. John Arena’s capacity of 13,276 makes it one of the largest on-campus gymnastics home facilities in the country.
OSU GYMNASTICS HIGHLIGHTS
Ten gymnasts have combined for 31 total individual Big Ten titles. Lindsey Vagedes became the latest in a long line of OSU greats when she won the vault crown at last year’s conference championship meet.
Donna Silber won 10 titles from 1978-81 and Mary Olsen claimed five crowns between 1981 and 1986.
OSU won the Big Ten team championship five consecutive years from 1983-87.
Ohio State has appeared in a national championship event eight times. The Buckeyes made the AIAW tournament in 1981 and 1982 and represented the Big Ten at the NCAA tournament in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990.
OSU boasts three All-Americans – Kathy Temple in the all-around in 1982, Tracy Rinker in the uneven and parallel bars in 1983 and Julie Somers in the vault in 1987.
— OSU —