2001 Gymnastics Season Preview

Dec. 6, 2000

Last year's Oregon State gymnastics team achieved its goal of getting back to the NCAA Championships for the first time in four years.

This year's team wants to take it one step further.

The 2001 squad - which includes three All-Americans from the 2000 team - is working hard to see to it that the Beavers advance not just to the NCAA Championships but to the Super Six.

Coach Tanya Chaplin knows the experience her team had at nationals a year ago has already made a difference in what she's seen from her team this fall.

'Last year's success and national experience has made a tremendous impact on this year's team,' Chaplin said. 'They know what it takes to get to nationals, and they know that the hard work pays off.'

The Beavers return 12 members from last year's squad, including All-Americans Lara Degenhardt, Tanya Ricioli and Katrina Severin. Because there are only two freshmen on this year's squad, Chaplin is expecting that OSU's experience will play a key role in OSU's success this year.

'We only have two freshmen, so we have a lot of experience returning and that has made a big impact in preseason. They came in, knew what they wanted and knew what they had to do,' Chaplin said. 'They've worked really, really hard, from the communication between the team members and the coaches to their work ethic in the gym. In every aspect, they're working hard to move forward and get into that Super Six.'

The Beavers have spent much of the preseason upgrading their routines, increasing their difficulty and cleaning up the little things that can make a big difference.

'This year's team has really been kicking it in gear, and as long as we continue to stay healthy, the fans are going to see a big improvement right from the start,' Chaplin said

In addition to seeing a big improvement in the team, fans will notice another difference this year.

The rules for the vault competition have changed, and now each gymnast is allowed only one vault. In the past, each gymnast was allowed two vaults, with the highest score of the two counting. That could change the way teams approach the event.

'I think people will be a little more conservative with the vault they choose to perform. With the old system, you could perform one vault that you do 90 percent of the time and make it. On your second vault, you could maybe take a little more of risk and perform a vault that's more difficult,' said assistant coach Michael Chaplin, who coaches OSU's vault team. 'Now with just one vault, they'll be less likely to do that and just compete that vault they're going to make 90 percent of the time.'

Even with the change, the Beavers should be strong on the event. There should be three to five gymnasts performing vaults that are worth a 10.0.

Degenhardt and Severin will lead the vaulters once again. The duo combined for eight scores of 9.90 or better on the event last year. Both gymnasts are learning new vaults, and Chaplin expects them to have another strong campaign as seniors.

Also returning on vault are Ricioli, Annie Campbell and Jerra Lopez, all consistent performers on the event last year. Freshman Lindsay Nelson is also a strong candidate for a spot in the vault lineup, while Elizabeth Jillson has been training on vault this year and could make the lineup after being limited to bars as a rookie while rehabbing from a knee injury.

The Beavers also have six of their top seven bar performers returning from last season, and the team has worked hard to increase difficulty on the event.

'All of the gymnasts are trying to upgrade their routines from last year. We've seen some really good things so far on the event,' said bars coach Dick Foxal. 'The athletes are stronger and I'm seeing much better execution of the skills. There's going to be quite a battle there, and that's good for the event because they're going to work that much harder trying to make the lineup.'

Leading the way on bars will be Stephanie Bychowski, Lopez and Jillson. Bychowski and Jillson both posted scores above 9.90 several times last year, and Lopez was voted the team's most consistent gymnast on the event a year ago.

Also back is Ricioli, who was unable to compete on the event for the last two-thirds of the season because of a thumb injury. However, in the five meets she competed on bars, she won the event twice.

Campbell also returns after competing on bars in every meet last year, while Degenhardt, who took Ricioli's spot in the lineup, is also back. In addition, Nelson also has a strong chance of making the bar lineup. A total of 11 gymnasts are working on bars.

Beam should also be a strong event for the Beavers.

Severin, a second team All-American on the event a year ago, is one of several strong returnees on a beam team that looks to have another solid year. The Beavers also return Campbell, who took second at Pac-10s last year, and Ricioli, who took third at regionals last season. Bychowski also captured individual titles on beam in 2000.

Joining those four athletes in the hunt for spots in the beam lineup are Nelson and fellow freshman Elaine Yoder, as well as Lopez, Marissa Bruch and Megan Suratt.

'To give you one person who's going to stand out on beam would be very difficult todo, as it was last year. I think we had five or six people win beam at different times last year, and that's what I foresee happening again this year,' said Tanya Chaplin. 'We have a lot of strong athletes returning. It's great to see the competitiveness and aggressiveness so early on that event.'

The battle for spots in the floor lineup will be tough as well. OSU returns its entire floor lineup from a year ago - including second team All-Americans in Degenhardt and Ricioli. Also back are Severin, Lopez, Campbell and Bruch.

The gymnasts have upgraded difficulty to their routines, and a total of 12 gymnasts are working on floor routines, meaning the competition to earn a spot in the lineup will be stiff.

'We have a tremendous amount of depth on floor. They're stronger than ever, and they've increased difficulty on tumbling passes and in leaps and dance,' Chaplin said. 'Having an experienced floor team makes a difference. It should be a fun event to watch.'

The Beavers open the season with two tough road meets against two teams that advanced to the Super Six a year ago. OSU kicks the year off at Michigan on January 12 and then competes at Nebraska on January 14. OSU's home opener is January 19 against Arizona State.

'We're going to be challenged right away at the beginning of the season,' Chaplin said. 'We're going against two teams that were in the Super Six at the 2000 nationals. We do have to take it one competition at a time, and we learned that last year.'

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