Feb. 12, 2003

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COLUMBUS, Ohio-On the heels of four-consecutive wins and a Top 25 ranking, the No. 24 Ohio State women’s gymnastics team (4-2, 2-1) will play host to the Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-1) in a coed meet at 7 p.m. Friday at St John Arena before traveling to Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. Sunday for a meeting with the Panthers. The Buckeyes are 5-4 all-time against the Huskers and 12-3 all-time against the Panthers.

Following their win over Ball State, the Buckeyes moved up to No. 24 in the latest national rankings released by GymInfo. Ohio State has posted an average score of 194.200 and a season-high score of 195.875. Other Big Ten teams in the Top 25 include Michigan (11), Iowa (17), Penn State (19) and Minnesota (22).

The Buckeyes are ranked No. 6 in the latest GymInfo Central Region Poll.

The first 500 fans through the doors on Friday, will receive a special Valentine’s Day gift. There will be an autograph session with the gymnasts after the Nebraska meet and after the All-Ohio Championships March 8. Both meets are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

In addition to the free gifts the Buckeyes will be handing out on Valentine’s Day, members of the 2002 National Championship football team will be on hand one hour before the meet Friday to sign autographs. Tight end R.J. Coleman, linebacker A.J. Hawk, and offensive lineman Rob Sims are among those scheduled to attend. QUOTE FROM COACH COX
“Nebraska is a very good team and we will need to turn things up a notch in order to rise up to the challenge. I do think the team is ready for the challenge and practice is going very well this week. They have a two fold challenge this week with a meet on Friday at home then traveling to Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon meet. A championship team needs to be able to handle that kind of schedule.”

The 10-1 Nebraska Cornhuskers are off to one of their best starts in school history. The No. 5 Cornhuskers, whose only loss came by the hands on then No. 2 ranked Georgia in the Super Six Challenge, are currently enjoying a nine meet winning streak.

Coming off a 196.275-195.275 win against No. 20 Iowa State Friday, the Cornhuskers have had solid performances by their upperclassmen led by seniors A.J. Lamb, Jess Wertz and junior Richelle Simpson. Simpson has been a huge contributer in Nebraska’s success. This year against Oklahoma, Simpson ran away with the all-around title and became the first Husker to score perfect 10s on two separate events in the same meet. Simpson tallied an all-around score of 39.525 with perfect scores on beam and floor. Both scores were school and Devaney Center records.

The Cornhuskers vault team is one of the best in the nation ranked No. 2 behind UCLA. This season Nebraska has posted a total of four perfect 10.00’s on vault.

Dan Kendig is in his 10th season as the head coach at Nebraska. Over the past six seasons, Nebraska is one of only four programs to qualify for five or more NCAA Super Six Finals (also Alabama, Georgia and UCLA). The Huskers have earned NCAA Championship berths in seven of the past eight years. Under Kendig, 18 NU gymnasts have combined to earn 48 All-America honors since 1995. Kendig’s teams have compiled a 223-78-1 record (.740), including a 50-5 (.909) record in duals. He has earned national, regional or conference coach-of-the-year honors in seven of the past nine seasons.

The Buckeyes fell to the Huskers in the last meeting between the two schools, 197.150-193.600, at the Masters Classic in Lincoln Neb. Feb. 24, 2002. The Buckeyes were led by Elizabeth Meaney with a second-place finish in the floor exercise. Meaney, Ohio State’s top finisher, had a score of 9.900 in the event. Amanda Allen, Tiffanie Janke and Jill Tucker all tied for third in the floor exercise with scores of 9.875. Janke also tied for eighth on the balance beam with a score of 9.825.

The Pittsburgh Panthers are off to a 3-5 start with a 1-2 mark in the Big East. After placing third in a quad-meet against Ball State, West Virginia and Kent State, the Panthers rebounded with a victory over Missouri in which they posted their second best team score in school history. Following loses to New Hampshire and Penn State, the Panthers have put together a two meet winning streak after placing first in a tri-meet with Rutgers and Cornell.

Junior Diandra O’Connor has been leading the way for the Panthers this season. She has posted scores of 9.850 on bars, 9.900 on beam and 39.175 in the all-around all individual season and team bests. O’Connor’s average score in the all-around is 38.785. Alyse Zeffiro has been solid for the Panthers with team-high scores on vault (9.825) and beam (9.900).

The Buckeyes fell to the Panthers last season at St. John Arena 194.05-193.20 in a triangular meet with Kent State.

With Ohio State’s 4-2 overall record, the Buckeyes have already surpassed their total number of victories last year when they went an uncharacteristic 3-15.

Part of the Buckeyes’ success is due to the consistent performance by freshman Jill Weber. In Weber’s first six collegiate meets, she has put up outstanding scores which includes scoring team and personal season bests on vault (9.975), uneven bars (9.875) and the all-around (39.275). The only meet Weber has failed to place first in at least one event was against then-No. 6 ranked Michigan on Jan. 11.

Senior Rickee Wirtzberger found a way to leave her mark in Ohio State history Saturday against Ball State after she posted a career-high perfect 10 on floor exercise which also set the Buckeyes school record. The previous floor exercise record of 9.950 has been tied numerous times with the latest being by senior Sarah Spring and sophomore Laura Sommerville, who last tied the record in 2002. Ohio State is currently ranked No. 16 in the nation on floor with an average score of 49.525.

Freshman Shelby Warner has also opened eyes as of late. The Fenton, Mich. native has scored a 9.900 twice already in her young career on floor exercise.

In other events, the Buckeyes are nationally ranked No. 30 on vault with an average score of 48.530, No. 37 in uneven bars with an average score of 48.205 and No. 28 on beam with an average score of 48.410.

Following the Buckeyes showdown with No. 5 Nebraska, Ohio State will be on the road for three-consecutive away meets.

The Buckeyes road trip will begin Sunday, Feb. 16 in Pittsburgh, Pa. when the take on the Pittsburgh Panthers. Ohio State will remain in Pennsylvania to take on No. 19 Penn State on Feb. 22. The Buckeyes then travel to Logan, Utah to take on No. 27 Utah State Friday, Feb. 28. The Buckeyes return home March 8 to host the All-Ohio Championships.

Following the All-Ohio Championships, the Buckeyes final regular season meets will be at No. 18 Kent State March 14 and No. 27 Utah State March 22 in St. John Arena.

After Ohio State’s competitive regular season is over, the Buckeyes will head to Champaign, Ill. for the Big Ten Championships March 29.

The NCAA Regional meet will be held April 12 with a site to be determined. The NCAA Championships will be held in Lincoln, Neb. April 24-26.

Wirtzberger scored a career-high perfect 10 on floor exercise leading the No. 25 Buckeyes to a 195.500-192.875 win over Ball State (8-7) Saturday in St. John Arena. Wirtzberger’s performance broke Sarah Spring’s previous record of 9.950, which was set in 2002. Ohio State’s victory over the Cardinals was its fourth-consecutive.

Weber set a personal-best score of 9.975 on vault as the Buckeyes outscored the Cardinals 48.925-47.525 in the event. Junior Tiffanie Janke also had a career-best performance on vault with a 9.900. In addition to Wirtzberger’s record-setting performance on floor exercise, Weber and sophomore Elizabeth Meaney both posted career-high marks of 9.925. Janke led the way for the Buckeyes on beam with a personal-high score of 9.925. Meaney also contributed a score of 9.825 and freshman Kaylin Schlecht posted a personal-best 9.350. The Buckeyes fell to the Cardinals in the uneven bars, 48.475-48.500, which was the only event Ohio State lost tonight. Despite losing the event, Schlecht recorded a career-best 9.850, along with freshman Shelby Warner (Fenton, Mich.) who posted a career-mark of 9.825.

Carey Fagan, a native of North Canton, Ohio, was added to the women’s gymnastics coaching staff in early December. Fagan graduated from Penn State in 1998 where she was a four-year member of the gymnastics team. While at Penn State, Fagan was a three-year letterwinner, serving as captain her senior year in 1998. Fagan was a member of the NCAA Northeast regional championship team from 1995-1998 and competed at the NCAA championships in 1995, 96 and 98. In high school, she was a member of the 1993 Region Five Level 9 National Team and was a U.S. Championship qualifier in 1991.

Information on the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team and the 35 other Buckeye sports is available online at the official website of the Ohio State Athletic Department,

The Buckeyes hit the road to face the Pittsburgh Panthers Sunday, Feb. 16. The meet is slated the begin at 2 p.m. Ohio State then takes on No. 19 Penn State at 7 p.m. in State College, Pa. Saturday, Feb. 22.