OKLAHOMA CITY –
The West Virginia University gymnastics team tallied three career-best scores in a fourth place, 193.525 showing at the Perfect 10 Challenge tonight at the Cox Convention Center and Arena.
No. 1-ranked Oklahoma finished first with a 197.2 score, while No. 5 Alabama scored 197.1 and placed second. No. 7 Michigan scored 196.2 and placed third.
“I felt like we were rewarded for our performances on some events tonight, and on other events we weren’t at all,” says third-year Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “Absolutely, on the road, this was our best performance of the season. Minus having to count a fall on beam, I would take this performance all the way to the NCAA Regional Championships. I am so proud of this team tonight for its energy. They came into a loud, partisan environment and kept up their energy, despite some disappointing scores.
“I told the team in the locker room after the meet that tonight felt like the 2012 EAGL Championship. We were missing this energy this year; we’ve been missing this fight. We need to keep this up throughout the year.”
The Mountaineers (5-7, 0-2 Big 12) had strong individual performances tonight, with junior Beth Deal
leading the way with a career best, winning 9.95 beam mark. The score is the second-best beam mark in program history, and the Parkersburg, W.Va., native is the first gymnast to earn the mark on the apparatus since senior Hope Sloanhoffer
tallied the score against Arkansas at the WVU Coliseum on March 10, 2012.
Sloanhoffer tallied 39.1 and finished fourth against some of the nation’s top gymnasts, while freshman Nicolette Swoboda
scored 38.5 and finished fifth. The Crimson Tide’s Diandra Milliner won the all-around with a 39.525 score.
WVU was strongest in its second rotation, as the squad scored a season-best 49.15 on vault. The total is the team’s highest score on any event this year.
The Mountaineers’ vault rotation was nothing short of exciting, highlighted by career-best scores from sophomore Jaida Lawrence
and senior Erica Smith
. Lawrence tallied 9.925, the 36th-best mark in program history, and finished fourth overall. Smith, in only her second career vault appearance, scored 9.9 in the lineup’s second position and finished sixth. Sloanhoffer matched her season-best score of 9.875 and finished ninth, while senior Bethany Yurko
anchored the rotation with a season-high 9.75.
“Vault was awe-inspiring,” says Butts. “We’ve filled in our trouble spots in that lineup, and we need to keep it up.”
WVU opened the meet with six clean routines on floor and scored 48.2. Sloanhoffer and junior Dayah Haley
paced the squad with 9.725s, while Swoboda opened the rotation with a 9.6.
The Mountaineers pushed their three-event score to 145.3 following a 47.95 showing on bars, despite hitting six-of-six routines. Sloanhoffer and sophomore Alexa Goldberg
anchored the rotation with matching 9.625s, while Haley opened the lineup with a 9.6 in her first bars appearance of the season.
WVU finished the meet with a 48.225 showing on beam. Sloanhoffer preceded Deal’s career-best routine with a fifth place, 9.875 showing; the mark is a season high for the Cornwall, N.Y., native. Swoboda competed in the lineup’s second position and followed a fall with a 9.725, her second-best score of the season. Additionally, senior Amanda Carpenter
hit for a 9.65.
With the losses, WVU drops to 1-8 against OU, 0-5 to UA and 4-18 to UM.
The Mountaineers return to the WVU Coliseum next Sunday, March 2, for their home regular-season finale against No. 23 Ohio State, at 3 p.m. Sunday is a “Dollar Day,” with all tickets, hot dogs, popcorn and Coca-Colas available for $1 each. Additionally, it is a “Gold Rush,” and all fans are encouraged to wear gold that day. Finally, WVU will honor its four seniors – Sloanhoffer, Carpenter, Smith and Yurko – following the competition.