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COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 21 Ohio State women’s gymnastics team opens its 2009 season Friday as the Buckeyes take on No. 12 Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., at 8 p.m. Ohio State returns eight letterwinners from last year and welcomes five freshmen to the 2009 roster. The squad looks for its fourth-consecutive trip to the NCAA regionals.

This will be the first meeting between the Buckeyes and Razorbacks. Both squads rank among the Top 25 in the preseason coaches’ poll as Ohio State ranks No. 21 and Arkansas No. 12. Fans can follow their favorite Buckeyes with live scoring and video at http://www.arkansasrazorbacks.com/liveStats/liveStats.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=6100.

COACH FAGAN ON THE MEET
“We are looking forward to traveling to Arkansas and are ready to start the 2009 season,” Carey Fagan, Ohio State head coach, said. “The team has trained very hard this fall and over winter break. We look good on every event. Vault and floor appear to be our strengths after several intrasquads, but we have great depth on bars and beam that will continue to push the line-up on those events. Arkansas is a new program, established in 2003, and has been consistently ranked in the Top 15 since they started. To go into the SEC and compete against a tough team in the first meet of the year will be a great test for our team. We will have a good mix of upperclassmen and freshmen in all of the line-ups and will be looking for consistency in all of our routines and to have clean landings on every event.”

OHIO STATE AT A GLANCE
Back-to-back Top 20 finishes have left the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team hungry for more. The Buckeyes have annually raised their standards under fifth-year head coach, Fagan, and their continued upward climb in 2009 will be no exception.

Fagan led Ohio State to its third-consecutive NCAA regional appearance in 2008, when the squad posted a solid third-place finish. This finish served as Ohio State’s best regional finish since 2000. Fagan has guided the Buckeyes up 20 national spots in just three seasons, going from No. 38 in 2005 to No. 18 in 2008. Fifth-year assistant coach Bill Lorenz returns and will be joined by first-year assistant Meredith Hoover, a former All-Big Ten gymnast at Penn State.
 
The duo of senior Alyssa Meyer and junior Hillary Dow were selected as co-captains for the 2009 year. They will bring experience and consistency to the Ohio State line-up, while working to guide the five Buckeye freshmen in a positive direction. Meyer returns after serving as a tri-captain in 2008 where she finished with a 9.770 RQS on floor and a 9.740 RQS on bars and was one of the squad’s most consistent competitors. Dow followed ranked second for the Buckeyes in the all-around with a 38.360 RQS and ranked third for the Buckeyes on beam.

Sophomore Rebecca Best returns this season with expectations to lead the squad to the NCAA Championships, where she traveled as one of six alternates from around the nation in the all-around last season. Best led the Buckeyes in the all-around as a freshman with an average of 39.075 and on vault with a 9.835 regional qualifying score. She also ranked second for the Buckeyes in 2008 on bars, beam and floor.

Alongside Meyer, seniors Amanda Surine and Kiki Holman return to bring experience to the 2009 squad. Holman will be looked to for her strength and solid performance on beam. She has led the Buckeyes on beam the past two seasons, finishing with a 9.765 RQS in 2008. Holman will also be looked to make a strong impact for the Buckeyes on bars and vault. Surine returns this season after an injury kept her out of competition for a majority of the 2008 season. After a strong 2007 season on beam and vault, she is expected to make an impact once again on both events in 2009.
 
Juniors Beth Ann Ballard and Kristen Perchatsch showed continued strength and improvement throughout last year. Ballard made an immediate impact on the squad on both bars and vault and earned the title Most Improved by her teammates. She ranked second for Ohio State on vault with a 9.805 RQS. Perchatsch posted a season-high 9.825 on bars and a 9.800 on beam and is expected to return as a top performer on both events for the Buckeyes. Sophomore Jessica Staton competed in nine of 11 meets during her freshman campaign, posting a season-best 9.775 on vault and 9.675 on beam at the Big Ten Championships.

Five freshmen join the Buckeye roster and are expected to make an instant impact on the team. Casey Williamson, from Mansfield, Ohio, qualified for the 2007 Junior Olympic Level 10 National Team where she tied for 19th in the all-around. Nichole Krauter, a native of Carmel, Ind., placed 11th in the all-around at the 2007 regional meet and tied for eighth in the all-around at the 2006 regionals. An Edmond, Okla. native, Taylor Jones won the 2007 Region 3 all-around title and earned the 2007 Shannon Miller Award, given annually to the gymnast of the year in Oklahoma. Krissi Woodward, from Lapel, Ind., is a four-time Junior Olympic national qualifier and was the 2007 Indiana state vault champion. Columbus, Ohio native, Nicole Ciminello, is a third-year Level 10 gymnast from Buckeye Gymnastics in Westerville, Ohio. This season, she finished as the runner-up at the Level 10 Ohio state competition on bars, beam and floor and in the all-around.

A LOOK AT THE LADY RAZORBACKS
Arkansas begins its seventh season of collegiate gymnastics. The program is under the direction of co-head coaches Mark and Ren Cook. The Razorbacks return seven gymnasts and welcome four newcomers for the 2009 season. In 2008, Arkansas made its second team appearance at the NCAA Championships. The squad finished No. 10 at the NCAA meet, while having its first two All-Americans and the program’s first event finalist. This will be the first meeting for the two squads.

BUCKEYES ON BIG TEN NETWORK
Ohio State welcomes the Big Ten Network to St. John Arena twice, while having four total meets aired on the network. The Buckeyes’ quad-meet against Michigan State, Illinois and Missouri in St. John Arena Jan. 31 will be tape delayed on Big Ten Network at 2 p.m. Feb. 7. Fans can watch Ohio State as they host Iowa Feb. 7 in a delayed airing one week later at 7 p.m. Feb. 14. The meet at Penn State with Alabama March 1 will be aired on Big Ten Network at noon March 8. The Big Ten Championships hosted by Illinois at 3 p.m. March 21. will be shown live by Big Ten Network.

UP NEXT
The Buckeyes return home January 17 for their home-opener against Maryland in St. John Arena. The squad will return to the road Jan. 24 in a dual meet against Illinois-Chicago.
 

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