MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –The No. 25-ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team broke the 196.0 score barrier for the first time this season and earned three wins with a 196.3 performance this afternoon in front of 1,417 fans inside the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers (4-2, 1-1) earned their first Big 12 Conference victory of the season, as No. 7-ranked Denver (8-2, 0-1) finished second with a 195.9 mark. Towson (3-4, 0-1 EAGL) scored 194.775 and finished in third place, and Temple (4-6) placed fourth with a 193.625 mark.
Today’s win against the Pioneers is WVU’s first versus a top-10 opponent in five years, with the last a 195.675-195.125 home victory over No. 8 Arkansas on March 10, 2012.
“This was just an incredible meet,” Mountaineer coach Jason Butts said. “I was really happy with the way this team came out in warmups today – we had a ton of energy, and we carried that with us all day. Once again, we didn’t let a top-ranked team in our gym have any effect on us. We took down a top-10 team in front of our home crowd, and that should serve as a huge confidence boost for this squad. I told the gymnasts at the end of the meet that they need to start believing in themselves. The coaches know we’re a top-10 team; now, the gymnasts need to believe it, too.
“We did our job, and I think we’re building momentum. It was so good to hear ‘Country Roads’ today inside the Coliseum. We came together as a cohesive unit, and it showed.”
The Mountaineers’ team total ranks No. 18 in the program record book and is the squad’s best mark since scoring 196.8 in wins over Ohio State and Bowling Green on March 6, 2015.
WVU set or matched season highs on all four events today, winning vault (49.25), bars (49.175) and floor (49.2), and finishing in third place on balance beam (48.675).
The squad jumped out to an early advantage in the first rotation, as four scores of 9.8 or better pushed WVU to a season-high 49.25 on vault. The mark is the team’s top total on the event since earning the same score against New Hampshire, Towson and Michigan at the WVU Coliseum on Feb. 24, 2013.
“The vaults are there, and we have the depth on this event to make it work,” Butts said. “I challenged the team to be more aggressive in its training this week and trying to stick in Cary Gym. We had to fix that before we got to the meet, and I think we did. We were aggressive, and it paid off today.”
Sophomore Kirah Koshinski and junior Zaakira Muhammad tied for second place with matching 9.9 marks. The score is the second 9.9+ vault mark of the year for Koshinski and matches Muhammad’s career high. Koshinski now ranks seventh in program history with seven career vault scores of 9.9 or better. Freshman Chloe Cluchey finished fourth overall with a career-best 9.875, and junior Robyn Bernard followed in eighth place with a season-best 9.8. Additionally, freshman Julia Merwin matched her career-high of 9.775, good enough for 10th place, and senior Alexa Goldberg added a season-high mark of 9.725.
Denver’s Maddie Karr scored 9.925 in the fourth rotation and finished first overall.
WVU pushed its two-event total to 98.425 with a season-high 49.175 showing on bars.
Two Mountaineers tied for the event win with season-high scores, as Goldberg and sophomore Tiara Wright tallied 9.875s, a mark also matched by Denver’s Sam Ogden and Julia Ross. Muhammad finished fifth overall with a season-high 9.85, and Bernard placed third on the team, eighth overall, with a career-high 9.825. The score was Bernard’s first career bars mark of 9.8 or better. Cluchey and junior Jordan Gillette chipped in scores of 9.75 and 9.725, respectively.
“Again, we were aggressive in training this week on our handstands and landings, and that showed during our bars rotation,” Butts added. “We removed the stress from our routines, and we were able to focus on cleaning up the little details.”
The Mountaineers maintained their advantage after three events, scoring 48.675 on balance beam and extending their three-event total to 147.1.
“We still have bobbles on beam, and I think we need to compete with more confidence,” Butts said. “Easily, we gave away a few tenths on this event today. I think if we get those tenths back, we’re pushing a 197.0 score.”
Gillette finished first on the team, fourth overall, with a 9.85 score, her best mark since opening the season with a career-high 9.9 in a win at Maryland on January 8. Sophomore Carly Galpin finished sixth and matched her season high with a 9.825 total, and Koshinski finished in eighth place with her second career-high 9.8 mark of the year. Wright equaled her season high with a 9.725.
The Pioneers’ Ross won the event with a 9.925 score.
WVU clinched its three wins scoring a season-high 49.2 on floor for the second straight week. Today’s floor score was fueled by four marks of 9.825 or better, including a winning 9.9 score from Koshinski. Merwin and Muhammad tied for third place with 9.85s, a career best for Merwin and a season high for Muhammad. Bernard tallied a career-high 9.825 and finished in sixth place, while Gillette placed seventh overall with a season-high 9.775. Freshman Kassidy Cumber added a score of 9.725.
“Floor is another event we can continue to clean up,” Butts concluded. “We had some high points, but we can still land our tumbling better. We’ll focus on that this week in the gym.”
Ross finished first in the all-around with a 39.4 score.
The Mountaineers return to the road next week for the first of three straight contests away from Morgantown and will compete in a “Beauty & the Beast” meet at Kent State on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 2 p.m.