MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In an evenly matched meet that saw both teams sweep one event, the Gold team’s dominant showing on the uneven bars proved to be the difference, as the squad earned a 9-7 victory today at the West Virginia University gymnastics team’s Gold-Blue intrasquad at the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers divided into two teams, and four gymnasts from each squad competed head-to-head on each event. Three celebrity judges – 37-year Mountaineer coach Linda Burdette-Good, former gymnast Alaska Richardson and WVU men’s basketball assistant to the head coach Billy Hahn –declared a winner from each pairing and awarded one point to the victor.
“Overall, I was really happy with our team’s performance today,” says third-year Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “I think any mistake we made is an easy fix. We weren’t as focused as we should be, which is why we hold this meet. The routines were all there today, and we need to settle our vault lineup a little bit, but the other three lineups looked great. I’m confident we can settle everything out in Cary Gym this month.”
Each team earned two points on vault. Gold jumped out to the early lead, with junior Dayah Haley
and freshman Nicolette Swoboda
scoring the wins for the team. Blue came charging back, as sophomore Jaida Lawrence
competed the biggest vault of the day and unanimously earned the point. Junior Beth Deal
followed and evened the score.
“I thought Jaida and (senior) Hope (Sloanhoffer) were the standouts on vault,” says Butts. “They both had big vaults, and I think they would have been huge scores in a meet. Our freshmen (Swoboda and Alexa Goldberg
) also did well, which was awesome to see. That event can be scary in a big arena like the Coliseum, so I was happy to see them compete solid vaults.”
Lawrence opened the bars rotation with a win for Blue, but the Gold team swept the final three competitions and earned a 5-3 lead. Swoboda, sophomore Lindsey Litten
and Sloanhoffer scored the points for Blue.
“Hope and Alexa competed against each other on bars, and both put forth a good routine,” explains Butts. “Overall, I am extremely happy with that whole lineup – we hit seven out of eight great routines, and that is a huge improvement from last year.”
The Gold team swept the beam competitions in the third rotation. Haley opened the rotation with a win, and sophomore Melissa Idell
followed with her own victory. In the rotation’s tightest competition, Swoboda narrowly defeated junior Lia Salzano
. Sloanhoffer anchored with a win.
“Despite a few miscues, I thought beam looked great,” says Butts. “Our mistakes weren’t because of lack of ability. Competing in the Coliseum can be intimidating, so I’m glad those mistakes happened today. We have four weeks to train and fix those. Nicolette did an amazing job on beam, and I also though (senior) Erica (Smith) and Dayah were strong, too.”
The Blue team stormed back in the fourth rotation and swept the floor battles. Salzano debuted her floor routine and opened the rotation with a win, and Lawrence followed with a crowd-pleasing performance. Freshman Mackenzie Myers
and Goldberg closed the rotation with victories.
“Floor was a lot of fun today. I don’t remember it being this fun at a previous Gold-Blue intrasquad,” says Butts. “It was good to see the team show off its routines in front of a crowd. I think Alexa displayed the best tumbling today, and Jaida definitely engaged the crowd with a fun routine. I also thought Mackenzie did a phenomenal job. Floor was a question mark going into this meet, but I think we’ll be good this year and I’m excited about this lineup.”
The Mountaineers will continue preseason training at Cary Gym for the next month. The team officially opens the 2014 season at Kentucky, with Penn State and Ball State, on Jan. 10, at 7 p.m., at Memorial Coliseum, in Lexington, Ky.