COLUMBUS, Ohio – When the Big Ten Conference started sponsoring a women’s gymnastics championship in 1982, Ohio State was quick to make its mark among conference competition.
The Buckeyes won five consecutive conference championships – 1983, ’84, ’85, ’86 and ’87 – and 14 individual titles in the first six years of the championship’s existence.
Ohio State earned gold in four of five events in its first Big Ten championship victory in 1983 to win the meet with a final score of 178.00. The first Buckeyes to win individual titles were Tracy Rinker and Sue Filardi, with Rinker earning the balance beam, uneven bars and all-around title while Filardi won the vault title.
The team defended its title in ’84 in front of a home crowd in Columbus, this time earning a score of 180.90 to defeat second-place Minnesota by 3.35 points. That season, Ohio State won three individuals titles. Rinker repeated on the balance beam to become the second back-to-back event champion in conference championship history, Mary Olsen won the all-around and Patti Monaghan took the beam title.
The Buckeyes won four more individual titles to earn their 1985 championship, this time led by Olsen. She defended her all-around championship and won the balance beam and uneven bars crowns along the way. Olsen was joined by teammate Nina Dziem, who earned gold on vault. The team finished with an overall score of 180.85.
In 1986, Ohio State won its fourth straight title with a team score of 181.80. Olsen won an individual title for the third consecutive season as she successfully defended her 1986 uneven bars championship. Her win also made Ohio State the first Big Ten program to win four straight titles on a single apparatus. Julie Somers won her first of three career Big Ten vault titles this season to help secure another conference trophy.
Ohio State completed its conference championship run with its fifth in 1987. The team earned its best overall score to date at the Big Ten championship meet with a final score of 184.35. Somers again won gold on vault and Olsen, Monaghan, Somers, Patty Black and Diane Cunningham earned All-Big Ten honors for the Buckeyes.
At the helm of the Ohio State program during its title run was head coach Larry Cox, who coached the Buckeyes from 1979 to 2004. His five Big Ten championships rank second in most Big Ten titles by a coach. Rinker and Olsen are still tied for second in Big Ten Championship history with three individual titles in a single season.