Nov. 24, 2003

After a 2003 season that featured a 10-4 record and a fifth place finish at both the NCAA Regional Championships and Big Ten Championships, along with the return of 11 letterwinners, the Buckeyes have high expectations for the 2004 campaign.

“We entered last season with a three-year success plan,” Larry Cox, who is entering his 25th season as head coach, said. “Our goals over three years were to gain a Top-16 ranking, a Top-2 rank in our region and a Top-2 rank in the Big Ten. We completed two of those three last year. Our goal now is to continue on the right track, continue to get better and go back to the NCAA championships.”

Despite the loss of five letterwinners, the Buckeyes return 11 veterans, who will provide Ohio State with valuable depth and experience.

Senior Tiffanie Janke and sophomore Jill Weber, both First Team All-Big Ten selections last season, will anchor the team this season. Both Janke and Weber tied a school record with a perfect 10 on vault last season.

“Tiffanie Janke, along with Jill Weber, will be the focus this season,” Cox said. “Tiffanie was our top scorer in eight of our 14 meets.”

“I am looking for big things from sophomore Jill Weber this year, as well,” Cox said. “As a freshman she tied a school record on vault at the All-Ohio Championships with a perfect 10. She gave us a strong floor exercise performance in 11 of our 14 meets.”

In addition, fellow classmates Bethany Groskopf, Jenni Lymanstall, who did not compete last season, and Megan Porter will be strong contributors to the squad this year.

“Megan Porter and Bethany Groskopf gave us strong performances last season,” Cox said. “Porter competed on beam in 11 of our 14 meets last season and scored no lower than a 9.1 each time. She has become more and more confident with herself since her freshmen year.

“Jenni Lymanstall will look to bounce back after an injury-plagued sophomore and junior season,” Cox said. “She was our most consistent performer on balance beam in her freshman season.”

According to Cox, the seniors will play a huge role in making this team successful.

“Our seniors will provide the leadership we need to make it back to the NCAA championships,” Cox said. “They have improved year after year. They are probably one of the most competitive groups of seniors I have coached.”

Cox expects big things from his juniors, as well.

“Our juniors, though a small class, are hungry to help the squad get back to where it was last season,” Cox said. “They are continually pushing each other to get better. I expect them to be a major support system for this team.

“Elizabeth Meaney, who competed on balance beam in every meet last year, scored a 9.8 or better in 12 of our last 13 meets,” Cox said.

At last season’s team awards banquet, Meaney walked away with the Most Inspirational, Most Dedicated and Coaches’ awards.

In addition to Meaney, Shelley Harris will also be a strong competitor for the Buckeyes.

“Shelley posted a 9.75 or better in four of our last five meets and competed on uneven bars in every meet.”

Perhaps the most talented class for the Buckeyes is the sophomore class, which made up half of the competing team last season. The class is led by Jill Weber, who received the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year Award last year. Weber is joined by Leah Boccaccio, Kaylin Schlecht, Emily Sineway, who was the team’s Most Improved Gymnast, and Shelby Warner.

“Our sophomores made an immediate impact last year as freshmen,” Cox said. “Shelby Warner competed in the all-around in all but one meet last year. She scored a 9.75 or better on uneven bars in every regular season meet. Kaylin Schlecht is another performer who competed in the all-around who improved as the season went on. Leah Boccaccio will also look to contribute this year.”

Three freshmen will join the Buckeyes talented roster this season, with each having the ability to make an immediate impact.

Elizabeth Ahlberg, a native of San Antonio, Texas, was a three-time regional qualifier and a 2003 Junior Olympic National qualifier. At the 2003 Houston National Invintational, Ahlberg took first place in the all-around competition.

Christina McDaniel, of Sunbury, Ohio, was a Junior Olympic Region Five qualifier from 1996-03. She won the 2003 state balance beam title, took third in the all-around competition and placed second on vault. In the 2002 state competition she placed second in all three events.

Brittany Livingston, from Lisle, Ill., is a six-time Junior Olympic Qualifier and captured the state vault title in 2003 along with helping her team to three Illinois team state championships. In 2002 Livingston was named to the Region Five All-Star Team, which competed in France, there she finished fifth on the balance beam.

“Our incoming freshman class gives us depth,” Cox said. “That is one of the things we need, (especially) depth on bars and vaulting. We got that through recruiting. Their skill level is very comparable to what we have, which is good, so we are going to have depth through every event.”

Ohio State will have many tests to pass this year with meets against some of the nations’ most premier squads. The Buckeyes’ schedule includes meets with Nebraska, Louisiana State and North Carolina State, all of which were ranked in the Top-25 at last seasons’ end.

Ohio State will begin its 2004 campaign home against Kentucky, Jan. 4, and against Maryland and Pittsburgh, Jan. 10. The Buckeyes will then travel to Morgantown W.Va., Jan. 18, for a meet against North Carolina State and West Virginia.

The Buckeyes return to Columbus for a meet against Illinois, Jan. 31, before traveling to Bowling Green for the annual All-Ohio Championships, Feb. 8.

Following the All-Ohio Championships, the Buckeyes travel to Omaha, Neb., Feb. 15, and then return home for their final meet, Feb. 21, against Penn State.

Ohio State wraps up its 2004 season with three road meets against Michigan State, Louisiana State and Eastern Michigan.

“We have a very difficult schedule again this year,” Cox said. “But with our talent and leadership I know we will handle ourselves well and get back into the national scene.”

Prior to the 2003 season the Buckeyes moved from Larkins Hall to the new Steelwood Athletic Complex. The complex, which is home to the men’s and women’s gymnastics, fencing and wrestling squads, features its own administrative offices, training rooms, locker rooms and three private gyms for gymnastics, fencing and wrestling.