Nov. 27, 2006

At a Glance
Coming off a strong, building year, the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team looks to bid for a top spot in the Big Ten and compete in the NCAA tournament for the second-consecutive year. With a crew of eight upperclassmen to lead the way, followed by three knowledgeable sophomores and four talent-filled freshmen, the recipe for success is already beginning to boil.

The squad will be led by third-year head coach Carey Fagan, who feels the team is ready and comfortable with the transitions she has brought to the program. Ohio State improved in the 2005-06 season with a fifth place finish at the Big Ten Championships and a trip to the NCAA Central Region Championships, the first appearance since 2003. Along with these accomplishments the Buckeyes final national ranking has risen over the past three years. Following the 2004 season Ohio State was No. 42 improving in 2005 to the No. 38 spot. This past season the squad checked in at No. 27 in the nation.

“My first year as head coach was a major transition year,” Fagan said. “Our goal this year is Top 18 seed for regionals. Last year we were 27th, but I feel this is an attainable goal for us.”

Fagan plans to take part in two intersquad events in the preseason to build the team for the upcoming season. The idea of the meets is to begin the regular season with higher scores than in the past.

“We had a slow start last season,” Fagan said. “I want to start off where we finished last season and not take several meets to get up there. We need to work on building a good regional qualifying score. With only four home meets, two of those scores will likely count towards our RQS.”

A key factor for the squad this year is junior co-captain Maalika Moore-Thomas, who is the only member of the team with more than two years of competition. She returns from last year as the top all-arounder for the squad with an average score of 38.466 while competing in the event in every meet but one. She posted a team individual season best on three events, including a 9.900 on vault, a 9.825 on beam and a 39.175 in the all-around. “Maalika has great competitive experience,” Fagan said. “I’m expecting the younger girls and even her classmates to learn from her. Her focus as a competitor is amazing and I see her as our top all-arounder again. We have some very talented freshmen who are pushing the team to fight for those six spots in our lineup.”

Moore-Thomas’ performances led to a first-team All-Big Ten honor. She was OSU’s top-competitor on vault with a 9.758 average and was the top beam performer for the Buckeyes. She ranked second for the Buckeyes on floor with a 9.688 average and on bars with a 9.78 average.

Veteran Leadership
Ohio State’s senior class consists of Brittany Livingston and Elizabeth Alberg. Livingston was chosen as co-captain for the squad because of the encouragement she sends the girls in the gym and the leadership during meet nights. She is looking to improve this season after a back injury kept her from competing for nearly her entire sophomore and junior seasons. Livingston was only able to compete on bars once last season.

“Brittany has been struggling from her injury,” Fagan said. “We are going to look to her for her leadership. She knows what this program is about and is committed to helping the younger girls. Brittany has the potential to compete in our bar line-up for her senior year and will be looking to finish her career on a high note after suffering injuries during her sophomore and junior seasons.”

Due to a preseason injury, Alberg is sitting out to recover, but hopes to return to help the team on vault. Last season she scored a season best 9.750. She has specialized on vault in her collegiate career and has improved to become an important aspect in the lineup.

“Liz is a very dynamic vaulter and has steadily improved during her time at Ohio State,” Fagan said. “We will be looking for Elizabeth to return to our vault line-up early in the season.”

Aside from Moore-Thomas the Buckeyes have an impressive junior lineup to help lead the way. Kaylan Clevinger will be looked at as an all-arounder for the Buckeyes after competing in the all-around for the first time in the Big Ten Championships last year. Clevinger had a strong sophomore season improving as each meet went by and earning the team’s Most Improved Award. She was a top performer on vault with a 9.628 average and a solid competitor on floor with an average of 9.625, competing in the event in each meet.

Megan Flood, a vault and bars specialist, looks to help the Buckeyes in these areas after she led off the line-up consistently each weekend last season. Fagan also plans to look to Flood to be part of the mix on bars. Another junior, Helina Manesis is under a medical red shirt for the season after making big strides on the vault last season.

Jessica Rosette will likely see action in the all-around for the Buckeyes with her top events as bars and beam. She was out last season because to injury.

“Jessica was off last season with an injury but came back as an all-arounder,” Fagan said. “She is on fire and has worked really hard this summer. It is obvious she wants to make a difference this year.”

Karley Walek is back to contribute on her strongest two events, vault and floor. Because of a chronic ankle problem Walek is not 100-percent, but looks to regain her spot in the lineups.

Sophomores for the Buckeyes include Kiki Holman, who did not compete her freshman season due to injury, and Alyssa Meyer. Meyer could likely contribute in the all-around this season and has learned a new vault that could have a major impact on the OSU vault squad. Amanda Surine has the potential to compete in every event this season after being a steady contributor on vault and beam as a freshman.

“Kiki is back in the gym training and will help the team immediately, especially on vault,” Fagan said. “We are so excited to have her back in the gym. Alyssa was a remarkable freshman last year, being one of our most consistent performers. Amanda has made huge improvements during the preseason and will likely factor into the all-around.”

Fresh Faces
Four freshmen from around the country are looking to impact the Buckeyes this season, with three of the four having Junior Olympic experience. Kristen Perchatsch, from Naperville, Ill., and Hillary Dow, from Yorktown, Va., are positioned to be competing in the all-around event.

“Both of these two are coming in at high levels they just need to be able to transition to competing every weekend,” Fagan said. “Kristen is a very dynamic kid that goes out competing with a flare. You just have to watch her and she will have an impact on every event. Hillary is steady and consistent. You know what to expect from her and she is in the top half of the line-up in every event.”

Brittany McMahon comes to the squad from Windham, N.H., and is particularly strong on vault. Beth Ann Ballard, from Kingwood, Texas, grew up training with her mother, an All-American gymnast, and father. Ballard is coming off an injury but will likely see action on bars and beam this season and as an all-arounder in seasons to come.

The Buckeyes averaged a 48.26 on vault in the 2005-06 season but look to increase that score in the upcoming season. The squad has raised its start values on vault in order to improve scores. Last season they posted their best score of 48.575 against Penn State.

Moore-Thomas will again lead the squad on vault. Last year she was the top performer on the event with a 9.805 regional qualifying average. She also posted the team individual season best of 9.900 Feb. 25 in Columbus.

Clevinger looks to help the team after holding a 9.628 average last year. Meyer, who has developed a new vault, plans to contribute to the lineup. The Buckeyes will seek fresh talent from Perchatsch, Dow and Holman.

Uneven Bars
Last season the Buckeyes posted a 48.43 regional qualifying average on bars, which they look to hoist up with a mix of experience and new talent.

The squad lost their number one performer from last year, Kaylan Schlect, but will look to Meyer and the freshmen to fill the void. Meyer was ranked second last year with an average score of 9.74. In addition, Moore-Thomas, Rosette, Dow, Clevinger, and Perchatsch will all contribute on bars.

“The freshmen will play a major role for us on bars,” Fagan said. “Perchatsch has emerged as one of the best and most consistent in the preseason.”

The squad peaked last season with a score of 48.875 on Feb. 18 in Denver.

Balance Beam
The Buckeyes posted a regional qualifying average of 48.42 in the 2005-06 season and look to improve on this event with two of their top three performers back. The Buckeyes had a top score of 48.950 last season March 11 at Minnesota.

Last season, Moore-Thomas ranked first for the squad posting the individual season best of 9.825 and held a RQS average of 9.795, which ranked No11 (tie) regionally. Meyer is also back in the lineup for this year after being third for the Buckeyes last season. Meyer held an average of 9.740 with a season best of 9.800.

Clevinger looks to impact the line up this year after a season best of 9.75 last season. Rosette, Dow, Perchatsch also join the OSU beam rotation.

Floor Exercise
The Buckeyes will look to Moore-Thomas as the top gymnast this year on floor after losing Brittany Brown, who led the squad last season on the event. Moore-Thomas ranked second last season for the squad with an RQS average of 9.805, which was a tied ranked No. 20 regionally.

Floor was the Buckeyes’ top event last season with a regional qualifying average of 48.735. They posted a 49.075 on floor Feb. 25, in Columbus, which was the squad’s top team score of any event.

Clevinger and Meyer add experience to the floor lineup after they both competed on floor in every meet last season. Clevinger finished with a 9.745 regional qualifying average while Meyer finished with a 9.705 average.

Rosette, Perchatsch and Dow add additional depth to the floor lineup.

The Program
Fagan will be assisted by Bill Lorenz, who is in his third year at Ohio State, and Jay Campbell who is a new addition to the staff this year.

Campbell coached at Springfield (Mass.) College from 2003-05 and at the University of Rhode Island in 2005-06. He has been in the coaching profession since 1997 and is a 1998 University of Alabama graduate.

“I am excited about adding Jay to the staff,” Fagan said. “He will bring fresh ideas and an excitement that is contagious. Bill and I had the opportunity to work with Jay this summer at our camp here at Ohio State, so we have seen Jay’s coaching style and know he will be a tremendous asset to the program. The work he has done with the bars squad this preseason has been outstanding. The team is looking awesome and bars will likely see the largest improvement from last season.”

Ohio State begins its season Dec. 3 with the OSU Mixed Pairs Championships, a co-ed intrasquad exhibition meet. The regular season begins at home Jan. 13 against Ball State.