2004 Gymnastics Season Outlook
Dec. 17, 2003
Close just won't cut it for the Oregon State gymnastics team this year.
OSU found out the hard way just how much the tiniest of steps or the smallest of wobbles can cost.
For the 2003 Beavers, the price they paid was missing out on a trip to nationals.OSU had beaten three teams ranked in the top six during the regular season and headed into NCAA Regional competition poised to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the fourth year in a row.
The Beavers didn't count a fall at regionals, but they received costly deductions as a result of a few steps and wobbles here and there. In the end, OSU missed out on the trip to nationals by .025 - the narrowest possible margin in gymnastics.
Now for some good news.
Coach Tanya Chaplin said the 2004 team members are using last year's disappointment to push themselves even harder to make sure they don't repeat what happened last year.
'Each day, we come in wondering, 'What's this program doing? What's that program doing?' They know that if they decide to slack off one day, another program could potentially step up and move ahead of us,' Chaplin said. 'When you don't go to nationals because you missed it by .025, it's more prevalent. It pushes them harder each day and makes them help each other out to work hard for this.'
The season opens January 9 in Alabama at the Super Six Challenge, a six-team competition that features three teams who qualified for last year's NCAA Championships. It's a chance for the Beavers to show early on that they have the talent to be in the national spotlight, and OSU is up for the challenge.
'They want to be ready. They want to be competitive with everyone from the very beginning. We want to be able to contend for a title. To do that, we have to work our tails off, because everyone else is working hard too,' Chaplin said.
Now for some more good news.
The Beavers return 21 of their 24 routines from regionals, and they also regain the services of All-Pacific-10 all-arounder Annie Campbell, who missed all of last season while recovering from an Achilles injury. OSU also gains freshman Chelsea Plourde, a former elite gymnast who could make an immediate impact on all four events.
And because of the depth, the gymnasts know how hard it could be to earn spots in the lineup. Only five all-arounders in OSU history have scored a 39.500 or higher, and three of them - Campbell, Lindsay Nelson and Tanya Ricioli-Hebron - are seniors on this year's team.
There's no doubt they're working hard to maintain that success in their final season, but there's no guarantee they - or anyone, for that matter - will compete as all-arounders this year.
'It's going to vary from meet to meet. We're going to put our best six up, because you cannot rest on any competition. You have to make sure that you are competitive not only with the team you're competing against on the floor, but also against the rest of the nation for that week,' Chaplin said. 'There's going to be a fight to make every lineup, and that's a good thing. It just pushes all the athletes to make their routines better, and it brings out the best in them.'
While the depth has benefited the athletes by increasing the competition forlineup spots, its necessity goes way beyond that.
'That depth is necessary. Obviously we would love to have that depth throughout the season, but you never know what's going to happen,' Chaplin said. 'You don't know what injuries can plague a team. Those are unknowns, and every single person on this team has to be ready to do their job.'
OSU discovered just how true Chaplin's words were on September 20, when the team learned that junior Meghan Jones had suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit by a car in Corvallis. Jones was a regular in the vault and bars lineups as a walk-on last year and had been awarded a scholarship for this season, but instead of spending the fall months working out with her teammates, she spent nearly a month in the hospital before returning to her hometown of Medford for additional therapy.
The loss, as expected, was a difficult one for the team, but Chaplin said it's pushed the team even closer together and has provided additional inspiration for the upcoming season.
'What they've gone through and experienced with a losing a teammate - at least in the gym - has bonded them closer together. They value each other for their friendship, and they value each other for who they are,' Chaplin said. 'That respect is going to make them work harder because the commitment means more when you've experienced something like that. Not that it shouldn't always, but it's just magnified what they mean to each other.'
A sign reading 'Meg-nificent' hangs in the gym, with each teammate adding words to describe Meghan around the edges of the sign. Even though she is not in the gym working out, she is still a driving force on the team, and the Beavers look forward to the day Meghan is able to rejoin them in Corvallis.
Oregon State expects to be just as strong on vault as it was a year ago, when it ranked among the top 15 nationally on the event. The Beavers had six gymnasts who competed a 10.0-valued vault last season, and five of them return this year (Meghan Jones, who competed a yurchenko full, is the only loss from the 2003 lineup).
'I'm impressed with where they're at right now. They're throwing more 10.0 vaults right now than they did last season. Our goal is to start off having six athletes competing 10.0 vaults at the Super Six Challenge,' Chaplin said. 'We have about eight 10.0 vaults as of right now, and we have a couple others who are continuing to work on upgrading. We want to continue to improve our depth on this event.'
Lindsay Nelson led the Beaver vault time last year when she averaged 9.854, including four scores of 9.90 or better. Nelson competed a yurchenko half off layout front last year, the same vault Daylee Ingalls regularly competed last year as well.
OSU also returns three gymnasts who competed handspring pike half vaults last year. Angela Morales and Thï¿½rï¿½se Videan each scored a 9.90 at least once last season, and Tanya Ricioli also competed the front pike half last season, although she has trained only yurchenko vaults this fall.
Heather Justus competed a handspring pike front, valued at a 9.90, as a sophomore in 2003, but she has upgraded to the pike half this year.
Along with those six, four others also are training 10.0 vaults. After missing last season to injury, Annie Campbell is back doing yurchenko half off layout fronts, which she'd scored as high as 9.925 on in 2002. Freshman Chelsea Plourde does that same vault, and she also could compete a yurchenko full, valued at a 10.0 as well.
From top to bottom, this year's bar team could be the strongest assistant coach Dick Foxal has seen in his 17 years at Oregon State.
'I've been impressed by how hard everyone is working and pushing each other to be ready for a successful start in January,' Foxal said. 'We now have eight gymnasts dismounting with 'E' dismounts, and three will be throwing a double layout full twist, one of the most difficult dismounts.'
The Beavers return four of the six gymnasts who helped the team set a school record with a 49.525 at last year's Pacific-10 Championships. Chrissy Lamun and Thï¿½rï¿½se Videan scored career-highs of 9.90 at the Pac-10 meet, and Lindsay Nelson scored a 9.90 to place third at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships. Also back from the record-setting team is Tanya Ricioli-Hebron, who scored 9.90 or higher three times last year.
Heidi Goehring will look to crack the lineup full-time this season after limited competition last year, although she had a career-high 9.875 against Utah to help the Beavers set a school record before breaking it again at the Pac-10 meet.
As difficult as it might be to figure out the lineups on vault and bars, Chaplin could have an even tougher time determining the beam lineup since the Beavers have enough depth to fill two full lineups on the event. Twelve of the 15 gymnasts are working on beam this season, including all six from last year's lineup.
'Everyone one has upgraded, and we have quite a bit of depth on beam,' Chaplin said. 'Hopefully that depth will allow us to interchange athletes and keep everyone fresh and healthy for the end of the season.'
Tanya Ricioli-Hebron ranked among the nation's best last season, when she hit every routine and scored a 9.90 or better five times. Elaine Yoder had four scores of 9.90 or better last season, and Chrissy Lamun and Lindsay Nelson also scored 9.90 marks on beam.
Angela Morales was one of the team's most consistent beam performers a year ago. After falling in the season opener, she hit every routine the rest of the season and scored as high as 9.85. Daylee Ingalls also turned in solid marks, with a top score of 9.85 last year.
But those six will be challenged by the rest of the team. Annie Campbell scored a 9.925 three times in 2002 and is back after missing last year. Heidi Goehring is also a strong contender for a lineup spot this year after performing several exhibitions last year, when she scored as high as 9.90 on one exhibition. Chelsea Plourde also will make an impact on the event, and Thï¿½rï¿½se Videan, Christa Piazza and Michelle Dickinson are vying for spots as well.
The Beavers boast an All-American, an NCAA Regional champion and a Pacific-10 champion on this event.
The best part? They're three different people, clearly demonstrating just how deep and talented the Beaver floor team could be in 2004.
Chrissy Lamun scored a perfect 10 to win a Pac-10 championship last year. Annie Campbell scored a 9.975 to win the NCAA West Regional floor title in 2002. Tanya Ricioli-Hebron earned second team All-American honors in 2000.
The Beavers return all six of their floor competitors - including Lamun and Ricioli-Hebron - from last year, but the lineup won't necessarily be the same as last year now that Campbell is back in the mix and training the same tumbling she did in 2002.
The others have upgraded their own tumbling knowing how difficult it could be to make the lineup. Lindsay Nelson, Angela Morales and Heather Justus have all been working on double layouts, and Thï¿½rï¿½se Videan also returns from last year's lineup.
'Floor should be an exciting event this year. With new floor routines and new tumbling to showcase, the athletes have been pushing each other on this event. Annie is back to full strength performing all of the tumbling she was doing before her injury,' Chaplin said.
Other athletes who will vie for a spot in the lineup are Chelsea Plourde, Heidi Goehring, Elaine Yoder, Daylee Ingalls, Christa Piazza and Michelle Dickinson. All have been very consistent in preseason practice.
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