A daily countdown has been kept on a wall at the Gladys Valley Gymnastics Center.

Members of the Oregon State gymnastics team have been able to watch day after day of the season go by from the start through the NCAA Championships.

For the six seniors — Erika Aufiero, Taylor Ricci, Madeline Gardiner, Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, Megan Jimenez and Kaytianna McMillan— it's been a countdown to their final meet together.

"It's just crazy to see it go from 100 days down to double-digits and all the way down to the single digits," Aufiero said.

When the Beavers compete at nationals in St. Louis University's Chaifetz Arena this weekend, it will mark the end of the college gymnastics careers for the group.

Individually, the seniors have had high points throughout their time at OSU.

Aufiero was a first team all-American on bars in 2015. Gardiner was a first team all-American on beam and as an all-rounder in 2014 and a first team all-American on beam in 2015. McMillan was a regular-season first team all-American on bars in 2016.

Injuries, however, too often kept the gymnasts from competing together as a complete group. Aufiero returned for a fifth year this season after she was sidelined last year with a knee injury sustained the week before the first meet.

McMillan competed last season while recovering from a hurt knee and has fought nagging injuries through her college career, as has Jimenez and most of the others.

This season, the seniors have been in good health and have been able to get out on the competition floor at the same time.

"This senior class has had a lot of adversity. A lot of individual adversity," OSU coach Tanya Chaplin said. "And they've been able to all come together and really get to a place where they're healthy enough in all areas that they can compete together."

The result has been a second-place showing at the Pac-12 Championships, a string of four meets of 197.125 or more with a high of 197.475 in a win against Illinois-Chicago.

Gardiner was a regular-season first team all-American on beam, McMillan was second team on floor and all-around and Aufiero was second team on bars.

"We've all seen each other go through struggles, whether it's been injuries or personal struggles or struggles within the gym or outside the gym. So having all of that kind of pushed aside this last year and having us all competing all together for this last season of ours has really been that driving force," Ricci said. "This is a year where we're like, it's not for me, it's not for my individual success or anything like that, but's for us six seniors and what we've put in the last four or five years."

The Beavers also qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2015 and what will be OSU's second appearance since 2012.

It nearly went haywire. The Beavers had a few mistakes in the regional and escaped Champaign, Illinois with a 196.150, barely holding on to second.

"There was a huge relief right after we found out we made it," Aufiero said. "We just looked at each other and we were like, we're not ready to be done. It's true. We're not ready. We came back and we set out our plan (which) was to make it all the way. That's just kind of what we've been set on and to realize that it was almost taken from us, it was just a huge relief."

Like most seniors, this bunch has taken on leadership roles for the Beavers.

With a large group of freshman on the roster, it's been beneficial for the team to have six seniors.

McMillan said they all have different personalities and perspectives that mesh together well, which has helped in leadership.

"I definitely think that this group of seniors is unlike any other I've seen before. I think we all have so much individual differences to bring to one that we have a unique experience that we can share with the rest of the team," McMillan said.

"I definitely think that because we are working together so well, having a big group has been helpful, especially with the number of freshmen we have, being able to spread out and lead that way has definitely been helpful."

Gardiner said she has been honored to compete alongside the seniors through the years.

She said they have been a source of motivation.

"They're so dedicated to what they do. They love it, they come in here every day with a fire, whether they've had a hard time outside, whether they're having personal issues. They leave that all at the door," Gardiner said. "And they are so inspirational and I'm so blessed to be with them.

"They've been through so much and as a group we've all been through so much. Watching them stay positive through their struggles and really fight to the end of everything makes this senior year so sweet. We have been through it all and now we're finally all getting our time to get out there and shine and be together, which is important to us."


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