The West Virginia University gymnastics team scored 195.650 and finished third on Friday evening in the second of two second-round meets at the NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships, inside the WVU Coliseum.
“I want to say thank you to all the fans that were able to come out yesterday and today,” Mountaineer coach Jason Butts said. “I also want to say thank you to our entire athletic department for running a first-class event.”
No. 4-ranked Michigan finished first with a 197.650 mark, and No. 13 UCLA placed second with a 197.050 total. The Wolverines and Bruins will advance to meet No. 5 Cal and Ohio State in the NCAA Morgantown Regional Final tomorrow night at 7 p.m. ET.
Kent State finished fourth tonight with a 194.300 score.
“I really couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Butts said. “We ended up counting a fall on beam, but that’s ok. We knew coming into this that advancing out of tonight was going to be a tall order, especially with UCLA and Michigan ranked higher than us in this session. We finished third, and we beat Kent State, who is ranked higher than us. We beat Penn State yesterday, who also is ranked higher than us.
“It’s been one of those seasons full of ups and downs, with COVID-19 and a little bit of everything. This team has been so resilient. They have preserved through so much unknown, and we ended tonight about as best as I could have expected. There were so many bright moments, and I’m most thrilled with the fact that we laid a great foundation for next year.”
WVU finished second on floor exercise (49.450) and third on vault (48.725), uneven bars (49.100) and balance beam (48.375).
Junior Rachel Hornung was the lone Mountaineer to earn a spot on the podium, as she posted a matching season-high score of 9.85 on beam to tie for third overall.
The Mountaineers sat in fourth place after one rotation, as WVU opened the meet with a 48.725 on vault. Sophomore Kianna Yancey and freshman Kiana Lewis tied for 11th place with 9.8s, followed by Hornung in 20th with a mark of 9.725. Sophomores Abbie Pierson and Kayla Yancey added scores of 9.7, while senior Michelle Waldron rounded out the Mountaineers in the event standings with a 9.675.
Five WVU gymnasts scored a 9.8 or higher on bars, as the squad finished the second rotation with a season-high total of 49.100. Sophomore Emily Holmes-Hackerd and Kianna Yancey paced the Mountaineer lineup with matching 9.85s and tied for 11th overall. Holmes-Hackerd’s mark matched her personal best, while Kianna Yancey scored a season high in the event. Junior Esperanza Abarca, Kayla Yancey and Hornung tallied 9.8 totals and finished in a three-way tie for 16th, while junior Kendra Combs added a score of 9.775. Of note, Kayla Yancey also notched a season-high total on bars.
“Bars has been a pretty consistent event this year,” Butts said. “The scores weren’t exactly where we wanted them to be in the beginning, but they just kept coming in the gym. Their confidence kept getting better and better. Through a higher confidence level, they were able to fix some of the little things. They turned that event into one that was just fun. Almost one that we knew we were going to hit. It may not have the best scoring potential like a floor or beam, but they pulled it together, and put up some great routines. We had athletes that didn’t even get to compete this year still pushing from behind, and it all gelled together. That’s not an easy event.”
The Mountaineers registered a 48.375 mark on beam, counting one fall in the event. Freshman Chloe Asper and Lewis followed Hornung in the beam lineup with a 9.775 and tied for 12th. Holmes-Hackerd chipped in a 9.75 total and tied for 15th. Pierson and Combs each had unfortunate falls in their series, scoring 9.225 and 8.975, respectively.
The Mountaineers bounced back in their final rotation, as all six gymnasts tallied a 9.825 or higher on floor, capping the meet with a season-high score of 49.450. WVU has recorded a 49.0+ performance on floor in 10 of the last 11 meets, notching a season best for the second night in a row. Four Mountaineers – Holmes-Hackerd, Lewis, Combs and Pierson – paced West Virginia’s lineup with matching 9.9 marks. Of note, Holmes-Hackerd and Lewis registered a career high in the event, while Combs matched her personal best, and Pierson matched her season high. Kianna Yancey tied for 13th with a matching season-high total of 9.85. Senior McKenna Linnen also chipped in a 9.825 to round out the Mountaineers in the event standings.
“West Virginia has always had a great reputation on floor,” Butts said. “That was one of our big focuses, and Zaakira Muhammad coming back has been a huge part of that. I cannot say how proud I am of her to come back to her alma mater and coach with such confidence and instill so much confidence into that lineup. It’s going to be really exciting next year.”
Today was the final collegiate competition for a pair of Mountaineers: Linnen and Waldron.
“We learned last year that an offseason is not necessarily a good thing for a gymnast,” Butts said. “They get a week off and then next year starts in about seven or eight days from now. We already have goals. It makes it a lot easier to end the season like this one is ending and get ready for next year. Mountaineer gymnasts never rest. I expect big things from them, and we are already talking about what we can do different for next year.”