MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University gymnastics team opened its Big 12 Conference season tonight in record-setting fashion, scoring a season-best 196.05 and finishing second in its home-season opener at the WVU Coliseum in front of 1,881 fans.
The 10-best crowd in WVU’s 40-year history watched the Mountaineers (4-4, 0-1 Big 12) hit 23-of-24 routines for the second straight week. The team’s total tied for the 19th-best mark in program history, and tonight’s score was the quickest WVU has reached the 196.0+ point total since 2004.
“Our crowd was absolutely amazing tonight and definitely helped us reach this major plateau,” says second-year coach Jason Butts. “The energy was great, and I was proud to show Mountaineer nation fun, exciting and quality gymnastics. The WVU athletic department did a great job of getting the word out to the Morgantown community, and I really hope our fans walked away believing that we are a national-contending team.”
No. 2-ranked Oklahoma (10-0, 1-0 Big 12) finished first with a season-best 197.375 score.
“It feels really good to get our first Big 12 competition under our belt,” explains Butts. “OU is a really exciting team – we may have just watched the 2013 National Champions compete on our floor. I think our team stepped up to the competition; they wanted to prove they could be competitive in their new conference home. We’ve officially landed in the conference. To go in to the Big 12 like this – wow.”
Western Michigan (4-3, 1-1 MAC) finished third with a 192.475 showing, while William & Mary (1-5) scored 192.225 and placed fourth.
OU’s Brie Olson finished first with a 39.575 score, while teammate Taylor Spears scored 39.475 and placed second. Mountaineer senior Kaylyn Millick
scored a career-best 39.4 and finished third. WVU junior Hope Sloanhoffer
scored a season-high 39.3 and placed fifth.
“Kaylyn and Hope were rocks for this team tonight,” says Butts. “They stepped up for us and had great scores on every event. The team definitely followed their example tonight. I also thought our seniors really excelled in leading us, too – their energy and encouragement was crucial to our focus throughout the meet.”
The Mountaineers came out of the gate hot, as four gymnasts scored career or season highs and powered the team to a 49.0 score, its second-best mark of the year. OU earned 49.15 for an early lead it would never relinquish.
Freshman Jaida Lawrence
paced the team for the second straight week, scoring a career-best 9.9 and tying for first place; the Rocky Hill, Conn., native has hit for a career high each meet this season. Senior Alaska Richardson
anchored the lineup with a 9.825 mark, tying her season high and finishing fifth overall, while Millick and Sloanhoffer each tallied a season-best 9.8 and tied for seventh.
The Mountaineers kept the momentum going in the second rotation, hitting six-for-six routines on bars and scoring a season-best 48.775.
Millick paced the bars unit with a fourth place, 9.825 score; the mark, a season best for the Washington, Pa., native, was the first 9.8 or better scored by a Mountaineer on bars this season. Sloanhoffer finished second on the team, eighth overall, with a season-high 9.775, while freshman Gina Costa
scored 9.75 in her Mountaineer debut.
“The freshman really hit for us tonight,” adds Butts. “Their contributions were rock solid, and that’s a testament to their focus.”
WVU put together one of its best beam rotations in recent history, as the squad went five-for-six and tallied a season-high 49.05; the score is the Mountaineers best on beam since scoring 49.05 in their 2011 season opener at the Cancun Classic.
Millick highlighted the Mountaineers’ lineup with a career-best 9.875, the meet’s third-best score and good enough for fourth place. Sloanhoffer opened the lineup and tied classmate Amanda Carpenter
for seventh place with a 9.825 score; the mark is a career high for Carpenter and a season best for Sloanhoffer. Also of note, Richardson scored 9.775 in her career beam debut, while sophomore Beth Deal
saw her first action of the season and anchored the lineup with a 9.75.
The Mountaineers closed the meet on floor with a season-best 49.225 score, their highest mark on the apparatus since earning 49.25 at the 2011 East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championship.
Sloanhoffer, Millick and Richardson anchored the lineup with career-best 9.9 showings, tying for third place overall. Freshman Melissa Idell
opened the lineup with a career-best 9.8, good enough for 10th place, while Lawrence and senior Chelsea Goldschrafe
each scored 9.725.
With the loss, WVU drops to 1-6 all-time against OU. The Mountaineers improve to 3-0 and 15-0 against WMU and W&M, respectively.
The Mountaineers return to the Coliseum next weekend on Sunday, Feb. 10, and play host to Iowa State at 3 p.m. The meet marks the return of “Beauty and the Beast,” and all tickets are available for one dollar each courtesy of United Bank.