The West Virginia University gymnastics team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships with a 195.950-195.325 victory over Penn State on Thursday afternoon, at the WVU Coliseum, in Morgantown.
As the winner of the first round, the Mountaineers join No. 4 Michigan, No. 13 UCLA and Kent State for the evening session of the second round on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. WVU will compete in Olympic Order: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.
“This has been a very up and down year with the team, but they showed up today and did exactly what they needed to do,” Mountaineer coach Jason Butts said. “They were thrilled when they heard the news about advancing to the next round. Honestly, that’s all we have to do. We have to show up tomorrow and do the same thing.
“We could have scored even higher. We didn’t do a great job on our landings, and our vault rotation could have been better. We also can fix some things on beam. You just never know what is going to happen, so we are going to have the same focus going into tomorrow, but now, we have some added confidence. We are going to go in there confident, and hopefully, take down a team ranked higher than us. That is the exciting part, and we are going to roll with it.”
The Mountaineers (3-7, 0-6 Big 12) earned a 48.925-48.550 win on beam, as well as a 49.350-48.875 victory on floor. The Nittany Lions (3-12, 2-7 Big Ten) captured a 48.775-48.700 win on vault and a 49.125-48.975 victory on bars. Of note, WVU has recorded a 49.0+ performance on floor in nine of the last 10 meets, tallying a season best in Thursday’s rotation.
Individually, four WVU gymnasts earned eight podium finishes in today’s meet.
Freshman Kiana Lewis landed on the podium a trio of times, tying for first overall on vault and beam and placing third on floor. The Hampton, Virginia, native tallied 9.8 marks on vault and beam and matched her career-high score of 9.875 on floor. She now has nine podium finishes on the year and five event wins.
Junior Kendra Combs and freshman Chloe Asper each registered a 9.8 mark on beam, as the duo earned a share of the event title with Lewis. Sophomore Abbie Pierson also scored a 9.8 on vault and tied for first overall.
Additionally, Combs and Pierson paced the floor lineup with matching 9.9s in a tie for first. Combs matched her personal-best mark for the fourth time this season, while Pierson matched her season high for the second consecutive meet.
The Mountaineers opened the meet on bars, tallying a 48.975. Junior Rachel Hornung, sophomores Emily Holmes-Hackerd and Kianna Yancey and Combs tied for fourth with matching 9.8s. Of note, Yancey’s mark matched her season high in the event. Junior Esperanza Abarca added a 9.775 and tied for ninth, while sophomore Kayla Yancey chipped in a 9.7 and placed 11th.
Kianna Yancey followed Lewis and Pierson in a tie for fifth on vault with a 9.75 total. Hornung posted a 9.7 and tied for eighth, while senior Michelle Waldron and Kayla Yancey rounded out the Mountaineers’ lineup with matching 9.65s.
All six gymnasts scored 9.8 or higher in the third rotation, as WVU notched a season-best 49.350 mark on floor. Holmes-Hackerd earned a 9.85 and tied for fourth, followed by senior McKenna Linnen in a tie for sixth with a 9.825. Kianna Yancey scored a 9.8 and tied for ninth.
Holmes-Hackerd also tied for fourth on beam, WVU’s final rotation, with a 9.775 total. Pierson added a 9.75 and tied for sixth. Hornung had an unfortunate fall in her series and earned a 9.075.
“Tomorrow may hurt a little bit, but we have to dig deeper,” Butts said. “That’s what champions do. That’s what winners do. Regardless of what the outcome is, we want to walk away knowing that we gave it everything we have. It’s tough to compete two days in a row, but we earned the right to be there tomorrow night. We earned that tonight, but we also earned it all season long, and we are going to get in there and get the job done.”
Of note, Friday’s competition gets underway at 1 p.m., featuring No. 5 Cal, No. 12 BYU, Ohio State and Towson. The top two teams from each session on Friday will advance to the regional final, which will be held on Saturday, April 3, at 7 p.m.
The top two teams from Saturday’s meet and the top all-around competitor (who is not on an advancing team) will receive an automatic berth to the National Championships, as will the top event specialist at each regional site who is not a part of an advancing team. Results from Friday’s competitions will be used to determine individual qualifiers.
Competition will be streamed live on ESPN3. Direct links to the video stream and live stats can be found on the gymnastics schedule page at WVUsports.com.
Fans can purchase tickets by visiting WVUGAME.com, calling 1-800-WVU-GAME or at the Mountaineer Ticket Office, located at the Gold Gate of the WVU Coliseum. Tickets are $10 each on Friday and $12 each on Saturday. A limited number of WVU students will be admitted for free with a valid Student I.D. for sessions that feature the WVU gymnastics team. The ticket office, as well as the Gold Gate, opens an hour before competition.
All tickets are reserved in blocks, ranging from one to six seats, and socially distanced. When purchasing tickets, the system will allocate the best seats available based on the quantity selected.